The data for this biography was acquired from various sources, including A Disposition to Be Rich by Geoffrey C. Ward, great-grandson of Ferdinand De Wilton Ward, Jr.
Ferdinand De Wilton Ward, Jr. was born in Genesco, New York on November 21, 1851. His parents, Jane Shaw Ward and Rev. Ferdinand De Wilton Ward, worked for 10 years as Christian missionaries in Madura and Madras, South India. They returned to the U.S. because of his father’s ill health. Rev. Ward became pastor of Central Presbyterian Church in Genesco from 1848 to 1868. During the Civil War, he was a chaplain for the 104th New York Infantry.
At the age of 22, Ferdinand Jr. took a clerk’s job in Manhattan. It was a start, but he was ambitious. In 1880 with the support of James D. Fish, he opened an investment firm with Ulysses S. Grant, Jr., who invested $100,000. Two years later, he married Ella, daughter of a prominent New York family. A year later, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant joined Grant and Ward, investing the same amount as his son.
Ward’s financial scheme, similar to later schemes of Charles Ponzi and Bernie Madoff, relied on new investors because dividends weren’t paid from company profits but from acquiring new investors. These investors were lured into the scheme by fraudulent reports, falsified audits and the exploitation of clients’ prominent names. When the scheme collapsed, Fish and Ward were incarcerated in Sing Sing Prison after their conviction.
Ward returned to Genesco and lived in the parsonage for 10 years. His first wife died and he married again. Neighbors helped him find work, and he was hired as assistant county clerk. He also did carpentry and furniture repairs.
To be continued…
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