John Ware was a Canadian cowboy who played a key role in developing southern Alberta’s
ranching industry. Renowned as an excellent horseman, and a man of great strength, good nature
and courage, he was one of the first Black people to live in Alberta and among the first ranchers
to settle there. He arrived in Alberta in 1882. as part of a trail crew driving 3,000 cattle to the site
that became known as the Bar U Ranch. He ranched in the region for the rest of his life.
To say Ware was legendary is not an over-statement. Legends abound about his ranching skills
and his strength of character. They say he could stop a steer and wrestle it to the ground, walk
upon the backs of cattle, lift small cows and control whole herds of horses. As a farmer, he was
highly skilled and resourceful, developing new agriculture techniques, such as crop irrigation.
Born into slavery in the southeastern United States, Ware became a free man at age 20, in 1865,
when slavery was abolished in the United States. After coming to Alberta, Ware established his
own ranch in 1887, in the foothills near Millarville. By 1902, Ware, his wife and family had
settled on a new ranch along the Red Deer River north of Brooks, growing their herd to 1,000
cattle. Sadly, their life on that ranch was cut short: in 1905, Ware’s wife died of pneumonia, and
later that same year, Ware himself died when his horse fell on him. Ranchers and others from
miles around attended Ware’s funeral, after which the Ware children lived with their maternal

It is also sad to note that Ware and his family faced significant levels of racism. For example,
people used racist language when referring to the family. A ridge near Ware’s ranch was named
using the N-word, but finally, in 1970, it was changed to John Ware Ridge.
Today, several other places in Alberta were named explicitly after John Ware, including
Mount Ware, Ware Creek, and in Calgary, John Ware Junior High School and the John Ware
Building at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology.
In 2012, Canada Post issued a postage stamp in Ware’s honour (featured along with this post). In
2020, the National Film Board (NFB) released filmmaker Cheryl Foggo’s film “John Ware
Reclaimed.” The film was chosen as one of the NFB’s 10 most-viewed films of 2021.
In June 2022, the federal government’s Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada
recognized John Ware as a person of national historic significance. To mark the commemoration,
a plaque was unveiled at the Bar U Ranch National Historic Site, south of Calgary. The
government said Ware embodied the resilience and strength of Black Canadians.
(Sources: CBC News Calgary, Wikipedia, NFB website)