John Ware, Black Alberta cowboy and rancher, named person of national historical significance

Ware's contributions commemorated at Bar U Ranch where he first drove cattle to Alberta

Group of Millarville and Priddis ranchers, Alberta. Left to right, back row: Arthur, M. Woolings; George Peet; Addison Hone. Left to right, front row: Bill Mosley; John Ware; 'Pi' Hone; Harry Mosley. na-156-10 PHOTO COURTESY UNIVERSITY OF CALGARY / VIA PARKS CANADA

One hundred forty years ago, John Ware came to the District of Alberta on a trail crew driving thousands of cattle to a site today known as the Bar U Ranch.

Today, Ware, a successful Black cowboy who built a ranching career despite racism in a predominantly white business, was named a person of national historic significance by the Government of Canada.

Minister Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, made the announcement Monday. There was a ceremony unveiling a plaque at the Bar U Ranch National Historic Site southwest of Calgary.

“I am pleased to commemorate the national historic significance of John Ware, who embodies the resilience and strength of Black Canadians,” said Guilbeault.

“Commemoration is about recognizing the many diverse aspects of our history. The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring Canadians have the opportunity to learn about the full scope of our history.”

Ware was a superb horseman who rose to manage thousands of cattle before starting his own ranch in southern Alberta. After marrying his wife, Mildred Lewis, in 1892, Ware ranched on Sheep Creek.  In 1902, he established a new Ranch on the Red Deer River near Duchess, northeast of Brooks.  

He and Mildred had five children. 

In 1905, Mildred died from typhoid and pneumonia. John died that year after his horse stumbled into a badger hole, according to the Government of Canada background information.

Ware life documented by Calgary filmmaker

John Ware Reclaimed by Calgary filmmaker Cheryl Foggo digs into Ware’s past. It tells a deeper story about Ware’s history in Alberta.

The documentary had its world premiere at the 2020 Calgary International Film Festival.

“Recognizing John Ware as a person of national historic significance illuminates him and his beautiful family,” said Foggo.

“It makes his accomplishments in agriculture and his skills as a horseman visible to all who will read this plaque, while honouring the complexity of his life and situation. It also simply acknowledges that he was here. We were and are here.”

Foggo was one of Ware’s nominators for Ware’s person of national significance.

To date, more than 2,200 designations have been made across Canada.

The federal government said the designations help Canadians connect with their past.

The John Ware plaque erected at the Bar U Ranch southwest of Calgary. GOVERNMENT OF CANADA

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