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John Ware

John Ware with his dog. The photo was taken at Millarville Ranch, 1891. Few figures stand out in the rich ranching history of early Alberta like John Ware. Born into slavery in the American South, Ware spent much of his youth picking cotton on a plantation in South Carolina. When he left the plantation as a young man, he spent several years working the round-up in Texas before heading north to Alberta, rising to fame thanks to his exceptional equestrian talents. John Ware was a true pioneer, establishing his reputation in a frontier society with deeds rather than words. His skills in the saddle, straightforward honesty, and hard work earned him the respect of fellow cattlemen at a time when acceptance of racial minorities in Alberta was not widespread.

John and Mildred Ware, taken at the time of their marriage at Millarville, Alberta on February 29, 1892. John arrived in Alberta on a cattle drive from Idaho in 1882. In 1892 he married a local girl by the name of Mildred Lewis. By 1900 the couple had five children and, although he had worked for both the Bar U and Quorn Ranches, Ware moved his family from the Calgary area to a spot along the Red Deer River in 1902. There he purchased several hundred acres and built a cabin of spruce logs right on the riverbank.

Life on the frontier prairies was not to be without hardship. Shortly after the cabin was built, the river flooded and his home was swept away. Salvaging what logs he could, John re-constructed the cabin on higher ground overlooking a stream, now called Ware Creek. But the family did not occupy the new site for long. In the spring of 1905, Mildred died of pneumonia. In September of the same year John himself was killed when his horse tripped and crushed its fallen rider. It was testimony to Ware's stature in the community that his funeral, held in Calgary, was the largest in that young city's history. Afterwards, the children left to live with their grandparents and the property was sold in an estate sale.

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            For more on the history of settlement in Alberta, visit Peel’s Prairie Provinces.