John Ware – February 2002 for CBC Syndication, National Radio News

In Culture, Education, Media Writing, Writing (all kinds) on July 26, 2016 at 3:00 AM

John Ware stands out in the cowboy history of Alberta. He was born into slavery in the American south around 1845. He spent his youth picking cotton in South Carolina.

When he left the plantation of his birth, he worked for many years rounding-up horses in Texas. His fame grew with his equestrian talents. After that, he headed north to Alberta.

John arrived in Alberta in 1882. He started working for a ranch there. The rancher was hesitant to hire him at first. As a pioneer, John was a man of action rather than words. He commanded the respect of his fellow cowboys – a difficult thing for a black man in those days.

Ten years after John settled in Alberta, he married. By 1900, John and his wife had 5 children. His wife did the bookkeeping for the ranch and taught the children how to read and write.

He was a strong man. One day, John was taking his family for a ride in a horse-drawn buggy. The horses were struck by lightening, causing John to unhitch the team and pull the buggy back to his farm himself.

He moved from the Calgary area to the banks of the Red Deer River in 1902. They bought several hundred acres of land and built a cabin with spruce logs on the riverbank.

But trouble soon followed. The river flooded and the Ware family almost lost their lives, as their home was swept away by water. John saved what logs he could and rebuilt the cabin on higher ground overlooking the stream. That stream is now called Ware Creek.

The family was not in their new home for long. In the spring of 1905, John’s wife died of pneumonia. In September of the same year, John was killed while riding a horse that tripped and crushed him, breaking his neck.

The influence John had on his community was shown by the fact his funeral was the largest in the young city’s history. His children went to live with their grandparents.

The Ware’s Rosebud log house is now in Dinosaur Park as a tribute to one of Alberta’s pioneer families.

I’m Donna Kakonge

Extro: To find out more about John Ware and the history of blacks in Canada, check out Canada’s Digital Collection at and the Galileo Educational Network at

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