1888 – 1967
Sam Ward’s lineage, like that of many people around Beech Mountain, dates back to the area’s early European settlers who arrived in the latter part of the 18th century. He was highly regarded as a master carpenter, and built or helped to build many homes in Watauga County. Additionally, Sam and his wife Effie raised tobacco, kept an extensive garden, and raised livestock to keep their family of seven fed and happy. According to his granddaughter, former Boone Mayor Loretta Guy Clawson, Sam also raised the materials he used in building toys and banjos.
Beginning in the 1950s, Sam expanded his toymaking hobby into a business, building wooden toys for Jack Guy and consigning toys for other merchants near his home. At the height of his production, Sam built an estimated 2,000 toys in a year. From whimmydiddles to bullroarers, toys that he had previously made only for his children and grandchildren found their way into the hands of children all over the country.
To his grandchildren, Sam was a gentle and loving presence, entertaining them with Jack Tales, toys, and music. In the wider community, he served as justice of the peace, marrying dozens of Watauga County couples, and was a deacon at Beech Valley Baptist Church.
– TJ Smith