Ward Street namesake a pioneer in retail and real estate

If someone pioneers a city, he probably deserve a street named in his honor.

That’s why Ward Drive, formerly Beverly Drive, was renamed for longtime Henderson resident Milton Eugene Ward in 1958.

“(Ward) was known as a pioneer in Henderson as he helped develop what was considered Pittman,” said Mark Hall-Patton, Clark County Museum administrator.

Born in 1888, Ward traveled west from Morenci, Mich., to Southern California, where he lived for 10 years before moving to Las Vegas in 1918.

He owned and operated the Mesquite Grocery on First and Fremont streets, where the Golden Nugget now stands, and later ran two additional grocery stores.

“When the Great Depression hit, (Ward) provided credit to people who couldn’t afford to purchase food,” Hall-Patton said. “Then he eventually went bankrupt and couldn’t run the store, so he ran for Clark County sheriff.”

An article written after Ward’s death said two of the men on his staff were volunteer firefighters authorized to leave the moment the alarm sounded.

“Ward was not far behind as they took off, and newcomers to the community often were startled to be left in the store with only a woman cashier.”

Ward sold the Mesquite Grocery when he became sheriff in 1936, according to Michael Green, a College of Southern Nevada history professor.

“He was elected by the grand total of 36 votes out of 6,240 cast,” Green said. “Gene Ward was a Republican and received 3,138 votes, and Bill Mott was a Democrat and received 3,102 votes.

“Coincidentally, it was a presidential election year, and Ward was one of the few Republicans in the valley that won an election that year.”

After serving a two-year term, Ward was re-elected for a four-year term in 1938.

“Ward was sheriff during World War II when the FBI sent an agent out to Las Vegas to monitor the Japanese,” Hall-Patton said. “Because he worked with the Japanese farmers as a store owner, (Ward) introduced the agent to Bill Tomiyasu and told them Bill was a good guy and wouldn’t cause any trouble.”

While serving as sheriff, Ward purchased a large amount of land in Pittman, an area off Warm Springs Road and Boulder Highway. He built homes in a subdivision called the Ward Addition and rented and sold lots to residents for as little as $5.

According to an obituary, “In his real estate sales, he was willing to wait for payments when a buyer had hard luck, priding himself on the fact that he never foreclosed a mortgage.”

As a member of the Elks lodge, Ward founded the Helldorado Beauty Parade. He was also a member of the Fraternal Order of Eagles and the Henderson Chamber of Commerce and served as police commissioner.

Ward owned the Midway Casino in Pittman and hosted city meetings and recreational activities in its hall.

In 1964, Ward died at the St. Rose Dominican Hospitals Rose de Lima campus, 102 W. Lake Mead Parkway, at age 76.

His obituary described him as “a man always willing to go an extra mile to help a friend; who contributed to every good cause; who always gave more than his share for civic improvement projects; and who … had time to get out and work for community betterment.”

Contact Henderson View reporter Caitlyn Belcher at cbelcher@viewnews.com or 702-383-0403.