Who is John Ware (1845—1905) and what was he known for?

Who is John Ware (1845—1905) and what was he known for?

What was John Ware known for? He is the Black community's hero of the late 1800s and early 1900s. Although he was born into slavery in South Carolina, the US, the dominant anti-Black racism and discrimination Canadian community did not stop him from becoming the West's best cowboy.

John Ware
John Ware, the legendary Black Canadian cowboy. Photo: diversitydudemb
Source: Twitter

He lived near Calgary, and Brooks, among the first-class members of society and his friends, wrote about his life long after his death because he could neither read nor write. His story became famous in the 1930s. You will glad you found out about this great man. Below are fascinating details about his story.

John Ware profile summary

  • Full name: John Ware
  • Year of birth: Between 1845 to 1850s
  • Career: Rancher and horseman
  • Spouse: Mildred Lewis
  • No. of children: Six
  • Nationality: American

John Ware biography

When was John Ware born? He was born to slave parents in South Carolina between 1845 and 1850s but relocated to Texas in 1865 towards the American Civil War's end. The young man got a job at a ranch near Fort Worth, where he gained and polished his cowboy skills. He worked on cattle drives from Texas to Canada and played a critical role in developing and expanding Alberta's ranching industry.

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John Ware
John Ware with his dog around 1891. Photo: HeritageParkYYC
Source: Twitter

Was John Ware the first cowboy ever?

No. The western US had many cowboys, but the young man was the first black cowboy to rise to the white men's level. He was famous along the Western Cattle Trail to Montana's distant ranges by the 1870s.

Sir Hugh Allan's North-West Cattle Company hired the gentleman in 1882 to drive 3,000 cattle from the United States to the foothills southwest of Calgary because experienced cowboys were much in demand in those regions.

Where did John Ware live?

The legend stayed in the North-West Territories for some time while working for several large cattle companies. The New Quorn Ranch on Sheep Creek (now Sheep River) employed him in the mid-1880s, and he helped them increase the number of cattle and invest in horses for the English market. The man was assigned to manage Quorn's horse herd.

John Ware
John Ware's first ranch in the foothills near Millarville. Photo: Stuthefarmer
Source: Twitter

In 1871, John Ware and Christabel Poll organized the Campaign Against Moral Persecution (CAMP), the first LGBT advocacy group in Australia in Balmain, New South Wales. He was supportive of sexual freedom.

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In 1884 and 1885's spring seasons, he joined other cowboys. The cowboys had two groups that operated from Fort Macleod to Calgary's foothills and Montana's cattle border. He registered his brand the four nines (9999) or walking-stick brand later and re-registered it as three nines in 1898. In 1900, the black cowboy established his ranch in the foothills near Millarville.

John Ware's family

Mildred Lewis's family relocated from Toronto, Ontario, to Calgary's outskirts. He married her in 1892, and they had six children. The reserved family moved from Calgary to Red Deer River north of Brooks, Alberta, in 1902 when more white settlers began settling in the region.

He sold his foothills property, purchased an isolated homestead in the Red Deer River for $1,000, and established a new ranch. However, floods destroyed everything during spring. The man built a bigger house on higher ground.

John Ware
John Ware's wife and one of their children. Photo: ElisMyVoice
Source: Twitter

How did John Ware die?

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His wife died of typhoid and pneumonia in March 1905; therefore, most of the family members went to live in Blairmore, Alta, with her relatives. 11th September 1905 was a sad day for the people of colour because one of his horses slid into a badger hole, fell on the legend, and killed him.

Where is John Ware buried?

The region's ranchers, his family, and other mourners laid him to rest at Calgary. One of the couple's children died while still a baby, while John Ware's descendants (two of his sons) carried their father's good name by joining the Canadian military in World War I between 1914 to 1918. However, they were assigned manual labor, for they were people of colour.

Southern Alberta's people named Ware Creek, Mount Ware, and John Ware Ridge after him. These places are near the location of his first ranch. They also established John Ware Junior High in Calgary, and the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology established the 4 Nines Dining Centre inside the John Ware Building houses.

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Cheryl Foggo, Albertan director, premiered the movie about John Ware named John Ware Reimagined in 2014 and later created a documentary film entitled John Ware Reclaimed for the National Film Board. Canada Post issued a John Ware stamp in February 2012 during Black History Month to honor and commemorate him.

John Ware
John Ware's sons. Photo: Bonfire06
Source: Twitter

John Ware proved that people of African descent could soar high like eagles. The Black diaspora that settled in Western Canada more than a century ago was a filthy rich but often overlooked part of the US's history.

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