John Ware


John Ware was born into slavery in South Carolina but, by the end of the 19th century, was one of the most well known and respected ranchers in Western Canada. When ranchers got together to discuss what was best for the ranching industry, arguments were often settled by one rancher saying, "What would John do?".

Following the American Civil War, Ware drifted to Texas where he learned the basics of ranch work and horsemanship. It soon became apparent that he was born to be in the saddle and, in 1882, he hired on to a cattle drive and helped bring 3000 head of cattle from the US to what would eventually become the Bar U Ranch in Southern Alberta. When the drive was over, the manager of the ranch was told that he would be a fool if he didnít offer John Ware a job. Ware worked at the Quorn and Bar U Ranches and by 1890 he had his own spread: the "Four Nines".

John Ware was legendary not only for his skill as a horseman and rancher, but for his strength and sense of humour as well. Ware had all but given up on finding a wife in Alberta. There were not many other black people in the area and the attitudes towards inter-racial marriages were less tolerant so, when the Lewis family moved into the area, and it was rumoured that they had a daughter of marriageable age, John borrowed a wagon and travelled to visit the new arrivals.

Ware took the family for a ride in the country but, as luck would have it, a storm blue up and the team was struck by lightning. None of the passengers of the wagon were injured, but the horses were both dead. Ware simply shook his head and said, "Now Iím going to have to break in a new team!" and proceeded to drag the wagon back to the Lewisí farm by himself.

Ranching is dangerous work, even for an expert horseman. One day, John and his son Robert were working their herd when Johnís horse stepped in a hole and fell: John was killed instantly.

Return to Union Cemetery index