John Ware (1845?-1905)

John Ware with family
Public domain image

John Ware was born a slave in South Carolina circa 1845.  When the Civil War ended, he decided to exercise his freedom by moving west.  Ware settled in Texas and got a job with a rancher who raised horses.  In 1879 Ware rode north on a cattle drive to Montana and remained in the area.  Three years later he relocated across the Canadian border to Alberta, and in 1884 he filed on a 160-acre homestead west of Calgary.  Ware raised a few cattle and supplemented his income by working as a hired hand for nearby ranchers, specializing in handling horses.

In 1892 Ware married Mildred Lewis, the daughter of one of the few black couples to move from eastern Canada to Alberta during the frontier era.  They eventually had six children but, ironically, no grandchildren.  In 1900 they sold their ranch and bought another in eastern Alberta near the town of Brooks.  The Wares were never economically prominent but they were well known and liked by their mostly Caucasian neighbors.

Mildred Ware died of pneumonia in early 1905 before reaching her thirty-fifth birthday.  Her husband, who was about sixty, died a few months later, on September 12, 1905, when the horse he was riding stepped into a hole, threw him, and landed on top of him.  Both of their funerals were attended by many of their white friends who respected them as good neighbors on the rugged Canadian frontier.  Years later, the citizens of Alberta honored John Ware, who never learned to read or write, by naming a junior high school in Calgary after him.