Following the George Zimmerman verdict my thoughts turned to considerable ponders of the differences between the United States and Canada .Slap you in the face points like gun legislation, healthcare, employment standards or education have been beaten to death. I searched my mind for just the right angle to approach the subject from a different perspective. The name John Ware kept floating to the surface; not one to discount a gut feeling, John Ware stands as my attempt to clear rather muddy ideological waters.
John Ware was born a slave on the cotton plantations of South Carolina. A free man after the civil war he made his way to Texas, finding work as a ranch hand. In 1882 he was part of a cattle drive moving 3000 cattle across the border to the North West Cattle Co. Bar U Ranch outside Calgary Alberta. Ware decided to stay in Canada; in 1884 he found work at Quorn Ranch, and put in charge of raising horses destined for the English market. The legend of John Ware was born.
In 1885 Ware took part in a massive cattle round-up from Fort Macleod to the Montana border. An article in the Macleod Gazette wrote “not only one of the best natured and most obliging fellows in the country, but he is one of the shrewdest cow men, and the man considered pretty lucky who has him to look after his interests. The horse is not running the prairie which John cannot ride”
Hard work and saving every penny allowed Ware to register his own cattle brand; by 1890 he had his own ranch. Two years later he married Mildred Lewis.Their first home was wiped out in the flood of 1902, they resettled with their five children near Brooks, Alberta. In 1905 Mildred died of Pneumonia, the next fall Ware died when thrown from his horse after it tripped in a Badger hole.
Held in Calgary, the funeral of John Ware was the largest in history up to that point. The minister is quoted as saying – “John Ware was a man with beautiful skin. Every human skin is as beautiful as the person who wears it. To know John Ware was to know a gentleman – one of Gods gentlemen”
Ask yourself, in what corner of 1905 America would a black cowboy have received this tribute?
John Ware stamp issued by Canada Post in 2012