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The title of the longest-running Black-owned company in the U.S. goes to E.E. Ward Moving & Storage, based in Columbus, Ohio. The roots of the multi-million dollar company were established during the U.S. Civil War and it remains one of the Arch City’s most-reliable companies.

John T. Ward, a Richmond, Va. native, moved to Ohio in 1836 and married Catherine Ross. The couple owned a farm which became a stop along the Underground Railroad. Ward would hide escaped slaves to help them achieve freedom. Ward began learning the trade of hauling goods in 1859 eventually securing government contracts to ship items.

Ward was joined by his son, William S. Ward, a mover for an already established company. The father and son joined forces to create the Ward Transfer Lines in 1881. The operation was truly family-owned, with the elder and younger Ward using horses and the help of other family members to move goods for their customers.

In 2001, the last member of the family to have ownership of the company, Eldon Ward, was set to retire and sold the company to childhood friends Brian Brooks and Otto Beatty. Brooks, who is now the company’s president and co-owner, is Ward’s godson.

In the past 14 years, Brooks and Beatty have turned around the company’s fortunes and have evolved E.E. Ward Moving & Storage into one of the top-rated businesses in the state of Ohio.

(Photo: E.E. Ward Moving and Storage)

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