In the late 19th century, Marcellus and Lizzie Ward launched Ward Plumbing in Maine, a company that five generations later, continues to meet the water needs of the local communities. (The earliest known billing records are dated 1896, though the company may have been started earlier.) Working together from their shops in Sebago (incorporated in 1826) and Bailey Island (purported to have been owned by a freed slave, Will Black, in 1742), Marcellus and Lizzie installed plumbing and water systems using windmills to pump the water. Son Harland joined the company as soon as he was able and his son Ellery started work there in the early 1940s. Ellery and William Ward,Sr., father of current owner Charles ‘Charlie’ Ward, took over the company in 1946 after their discharge from the service.
In 1954, William bought out Ellery, who then went to work for William until he retired in 1976. Charlie began his career in the plumbing business in 1978, after finishing technical college for plumbing and heating. He started as a journeyman plumber, and in 1981 became a Master Plumber.for plumbing and heating. He started as a journeyman plumber, and in 1981 became a Master Plumber.
In the early 80s, Charlie became interested in water treatment and started attending different treatment schools. From that point forward, the company focused more on water treatment and water pumping systems. In 2010, a new division was formed, dedicated to water treatment, called Ward Water Inc. “ Over the years, I have seen a growing need in the community,” said Charlie. “Satisfying customer’s needs with quality product and service is definitely the most rewarding aspect of my job.”
Current generation moves forward
As the owner a small company, Charlie does everything from the bookkeeping to actual design and installation of the systems.
His nephew, Nick Calvert, the fifth generation to join the company, is a licensed plumber who works as a subcontractor to do most of the plumbing work. He is also learning the filtration side of the business to possibly take over some day. Water treatment and water pumping systems now make up approximately 85 percent of gross revenues for both branches. “Our service area covers southern and central Maine,” Charlie noted. “We offer both residential and commercial water treatment. We also install water treatment in public and private schools.”
Maine is known for its granite bedrock, but what comes with that includes radon, uranium, radium, and arsenic. The company also installs treatment systems for iron, manganese, hardness, low pH, sulfur and salt water. “Each water treatment is custom designed for a specific application,” said Charlie. “A few of our best selling products are the R.E. Prescott bubble up system for water radon, aeration systems for iron, manganese and sulfur, and the Layne RT arsenic systems.”
As with any business, challenges abound. For Ward Water, whole-house RO systems for salt water can be challenging because of the high level of maintenance they require. Water softeners seem to have the least issues of any treatment systems they install. “Marketing is a huge challenge for a small company and the Internet has proven to be an extremely important tool for us,” said Charlie. “In the future, all social media will be utilized including Facebook. We are currently having our website professionally redone using a local small business. We have one part-time employee dedicated solely to marketing and customer relations.”
“Our five-to-ten-year plan is for the next generation to take over and continue to grow the business,” Charlie said. “We have seen an increased awareness of water quality issues. Everyday there seems to be a new contaminant for people to be concerned with. The challenge, as we see it, is to keep up and apply the right technology to solve these problems.
From windmills pumping water to Facebook promotion of the company, the historical background and cohesive family values of Ward Water point to a bright and successful second century.