E.E. Ward Moving and Storage, recognized by the U.S. Department of Commerce as the oldest continuously operating Black-owned business in the United States, was founded in 1881 by William Ward and his father, John T. Ward. The company’s beginning included two helpers, a team of horses, and a wagon.
William Ward was a former foreman and supervisor of Union Transfer and Storage Company of Columbus, Ohio. John T. Ward was an underground railroad conductor who, prior to the Civil War, helped enslaved individuals escape to freedom through various networks and safehouses in and around Columbus, Ohio. John T. Ward worked with the Slavery Resistant Church, developed by James Preston Poindexter, which helped “runaways” or fugitive slaves.
Soon after the Civil War began, John Ward received government contracts to haul munitions, supplies, and equipment for the U.S. Army. In 1881 John T. Ward, with the assistance of his son William Ward, utilized some of the freight wagons that carried supplies during the Civil War to establish E.E. Ward Moving and Storage in Columbus.
The company evolved over time, responding to changing economic and social conditions. It was first called the Ward Transfer Line at its founding in 1881. It was later called Ward Storage and Transfer Company. By 1899 it adopted its current name, E.E. Ward Transfer and Storage Company, after John T. Ward’s grandson Edgar Earl took over the business. Despite the name changes, the company continued its commitment to reflect the mission of its founders, to provide quality services at fair prices. Throughout the late 19th century and into the early 20th century, Ward’s family members were both owners and employees of the company.
By 1910 the company no longer used horse-powered vehicles as it expanded its clientele from families moving their furniture and household items to serving the needs of Columbus-area businesses and factories. It continued its tradition of family ownership, however. Eldon Ward, William’s grandson and John’s great-grandson was the last direct descendant of the founders to own the company after he joined in 1945. By the early 21st century, Brian A. Brooks, the godson of Eldon Ward, and Otto Beatty III, the son of Congresswoman Joyce Beatty, who represents Ohio’s Third Congressional District, were owners of the company. Beatty stepped down as company president in 2015.
E.E. Ward Moving and Storage is now a nationally recognized leader in the transportation and relocation industry. The company specializes in commercial, employee, and household relocation, as well as warehousing and customized logistics. It has earned numerous honors for exceptional service and historical achievement, including the Super Service Award from Angie’s List (2002); MBE Supplier of the Year Award (2010 and 2017); Ohio Minority Supplier Development Council); Torch Award for Ethics, (2012) from the Better Business Bureau of Central Ohio, North American Van Lines Driver of the Year (2015); Corporate Caring Human Services Award (2016) from Columbus Business First); Outstanding Diverse Organization Award (2017) from Columbus Business First); Moving and Storage Agent of the Year Service Excellence Award (2017) from the American Moving and Storage Association); and the North American Van Lines Power of Blue Team of the Year (2019).