Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor

WARE, JOHN (1845-1905)

John Ware and family (blackpast.org)

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By 1885, only three years after migrating to the foothills southwest of Calgary, Alberta, former slave and experienced cowboy John Ware had earned a reputation as the "best rough-rider in the North-West." Despite being nicknamed "Nigger John," contemporary accounts suggest that over time the color of his skin had less influence on how people perceived him than did his renowned strength, riding skills, and gentlemanly demeanor.

Born in South Carolina in 1845, John Ware was freed from slavery at the end of the Civil War. By the late 1870s he had gained valuable experience in Texas as a cowhand and herdsman. In 1882, at the end of a long and arduous cattle drive from Montana to southwestern Alberta, Ware decided to stay in the area when he learned that employment opportunities with the large cattle companies were plentiful for experienced cowboys. By 1890 Ware was able to purchase his own ranch in the foothills, and in 1900 he moved with his wife and children to his second and last ranch, situated along the Red Deer River, east of Brooks, Alberta. John Ware died as a result of a riding accident on September 11, 1905.

John Ware's personality and reputation as a successful horseman and rancher accorded him much respect and admiration during his twenty-three years in the region. After his death a creek, a coulee, a mountain, and eventually a folk song were given his name.

Dawn Nickel University of Alberta

Winks, Robin W. The Blacks in Canada. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1997.

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