John Ware

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Westerns  |  House: Booksie Classic


John Ware

One of Alberta’s Famous Ranchers and Extraordinary Cowboys

EnfwOlsPFWRB3KUCXrFOamrZBnUxDrna3xmCH1x2Photograph: The Globe and Mail, Kelly Cryderman

 


 

 

Since it is Black History Month, and because, John Ware lived in the area in which I live, I thought it might be fun to write a story about him. The first time I heard about him was when I read the book, The Cattleman, about the development of ranching in the Calgary area. 

 

John Ware was born a slave, between 1845–1850 ( it is unknown for sure, records were not always kept). He became a “free man” after the Civil War, and became a cowboy, having none of the skills, but a huge man, who was able to handle and break any horse, because of his strength. 

He worked in many places as a cowboy in Texas, and from Idaho, came with a herd of cattle to Southern Alberta. He loved the land here which is rolling hills backed by the Rocky Mountains. He got a job at the Bar-U ranch, near Longview, taking some of his wages in cattle, because he had plans to have his own ranch eventually. 

 

The ranch hands did rodeo events in their off-time, and he excelled in all the roping, bronc riding and could ride any horse. His daughter Nettie, said he loved people, to talk, to dance and to play tricks. He was afraid of nothing except snakes.

When he arrived, he was the only black man in the area, and sometimes had to fight to be served in a bar in Calgary, or against the government when he was overcharged for his land. 

He was a very jovial, helpful, and an easy person to be around and was respected by his neighbours. But, black settlers were discouraged from coming from Oklahoma, and the window of immigration here was narrow. 

He was one of the first ranchers in the area to develop irrigation systems and was an early adopter of dipping cattle in a parasiticide that prevents mange. He married Mildred who had come to Calgary with her family. They had five children. 

Calgary was small at the time with no mayor and under 500 people. It was only a bunch of tents and clapboard buildings and empty rolling hills. Now there are more than 1 million people. 

 


 


 

T8H9eyItqncbz3bIJLUr-kq4Mja4igLjK0JuLEhcJohn Ware’s Home at Millarvile

 


 

 

They had a ranch in the Millarville area and eventually ended up in Duchess where they built a cabin. It was flooded out and shortly after, John lost his wife to Pneumonia and typhoid, and also one child. John Ware died in 1905 when his horse stepped into a badger hole and fell on him. 

John Ware is remembered and honoured in the writings of Grant MacEwan in 1960, a stamp in 2012. A National Film Board documentary film is being made in Alberta about his life.

………………………………………………………………………………………

Shirley Langton 2020


 


Submitted: June 21, 2020

© Copyright 2021 Shirley M. Langton. All rights reserved.

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