City of Ward
The City of Ward is located in the northwestern portion of Lonoke County and lays 5 miles north of Cabot and 5 miles south of Beebe adjacent to US Hwy 67/167. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Ward’s population was 4,067. See also Metroplan's City of Ward Profile 2010 for additional details. Metroplan's MetroTrends 2018 forecast estimates Ward's population to be 5,311 which is a 30.6% increase from 2010. This represents a 4.6% change from the 2017 estimate. Ward is the second largest city in Lonoke County and the second fastest growing city in Metroplan's area. Click HERE to view city map.
Housing: Ward is primarily a residential community with over 90% of its residents working elsewhere to include almost 50% who work in Pulaski County. Ward has a higher percentage of young home owners, aged 25 to 34 years, than the region or national averages. Almost a quarter of the population that owns a home is age 25 to 34. This is probably because Ward has a larger segment of the population in this age group and housing is more affordable.
Settlement: The area that is now the City of Ward was first settled along the old Southwest Trail, now known as Hwy 67, in the early 1800s along with Austin, Sylvania, and other nearby communities. Ward developed after the Missouri-Pacific Railroad was built and is said to have been named for W. D. and Nancy L. Ward from Tennessee, who first settled the area in 18601. The community of Ward was initially a part of Pulaski County. Lonoke County was formed in 1873. The first post office was established in 1882 within the triangle formed by the railroad, the Old Southwest Trail, and the Des Arc-Fort Smith Public Road. It was not until 1923, however, that Ward officially became a municipality.
Leadership: Ward was incorporated as a town on June 14, 1923. The early government consisted of a town council with no mayor. Richard “Dick” Bayles became the first mayor in 1964 and served till 1987. During his time in office Ward established city services like a new fire department, water and sewage plants, and natural gas service. Larry “Butch” Phillips served as mayor from 1987 to 1998. Art Brooke served as mayor in 1999 to 2018. During his time in office, Ward became a charter member of the Lonoke White Public Water Authority (LWPWA) which will provide clean water to Ward and several other communities for many generations. Mayor Brooke also oversaw the construction of Ward's new $6.2M Wastewater Treatment Plant. This facility will serve Ward for several decades. Charles "Charlie" Gastineau was sworn into office on January 1, 2019 becoming the 4th Mayor of Ward.
Transportation: The railroad was the primary reason that Ward emerged as a community and continues to grow. Ward was first serviced by the railroad in the 1870s and became a prime shipping point for the area’s corn, wheat, cotton, strawberries, and other crops. Ward’s growth around the railroad is evidenced by the fact that the town is bisected by the rail. As the nation transitioned to automobiles in the late 1920s, Hwy 67 (now Hwy 367) became the main highway route from St. Louis, Missouri to Texas. Ward’s downtown grew as a result of the traffic that Hwy 67 brought directly through town. After the highway was widened and moved a mile west of town in the 1960s, business slowed and many closed. Despite the decrease in traffic directly through town and loss of businesses, Ward continues to increase in population at a higher rate than Lonoke County and the Little Rock metropolitan area. The proximity of the highway makes Ward an attractive and affordable community for those that work in nearby cities and the Little Rock Air Force Base in Jacksonville.
Schools: Soon after Ward was settled in the 1860s, a log cabin was built to serve as a church and schoolhouse. By the early 1870s, a two-room school was built, which would serve as the school until 1904 when a two-story building was constructed on Hickory Street for students through the ninth grade. Students that wanted to continue their education beyond ninth grade traveled to nearby towns like Lonoke or Little Rock. After Ward was incorporated, the school was expanded to serve students through twelfth grade. Shortly after the first class graduated, the school burned down in 1930. The school was rebuilt in the same location only to meet the same fate two decades later. In 1950, the Ward high school combined with Cabot high school. After the fire, Ward Elementary School was built in 1959 as the state’s first all-electric-powered school and served grades first through fourth until it closed in 1993. Since then, elementary students attend Ward Central Elementary located at Hwy 319 and Wilson Loop. The old Ward Elementary school building located on Hickory now serves as Ward City Hall and houses city offices and the Ward HeadStart Program. Children living in Ward attend the Cabot Public School System. Please click HERE to view their website. Click HERE to view the Cabot Public School Accountability Reports.
Churches: Churches have also been an important part of the community of Ward and its history. The first community church was built in 1882 along old Hwy 67. This church served several denominations including Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians until 1925 when the First Baptist Church of Ward was built. The community church was later torn down so that a larger building could be built on the same site. Churches continue to be an integral part of the Ward community.
Industry: Businesses followed the path of the Hwy 67 when it came through town. As automobiles became more available and popular, the business district prospered. Ward was home to several general stores, shops, service stations, eating establishments, blacksmith shops, cotton gins, sawmills, lumber yards, a large strawberry processing plant, a movie theater, a skating rink, drug stores, and physician’s offices before Hwy 67 was relocated west of town. When the highway moved, most businesses left Ward because there were not enough people coming through town to support them. Despite the absence of major businesses, the residential population continued to grow because they could access services by car. Currently there are several small businesses in Ward that serve the growing population which include a small industrial park, and some retail and service businesses.