John Ware, Alberta’s most famous cowboy, will be commemorated on a new Canadian stamp. The stamp will be issued by Canada Post on February 1, 2012, to honour Black History Month (February).
John Ware defied stereotypes and rose to folk hero status in Alberta. His remarkable story begins in South Carolina where he was born into slavery. Following the U.S. Civil War, he traveled to Texas where he became a skilled cowboy and worked with the great cattle drives on the Chisholm and Oregon Trails. On one of these drives, John Ware ended up working at the Bar U Ranch, famous in Canada’s ranching history. He won the respect of his peers when he single-handedly saved a herd of Bar U cattle from the ravages of a fierce winter storm. In time, his extraordinary strength and skill with livestock earned him the monicker Alberta’s most famous cowboy. By the late 1890s, John Ware and his young family had moved to what is now the Canadian Badlands. Their ranch, which was located in the Duchess area near Dinosaur Park, had three hundred head of cattle. Ironically, John Ware was killed in 1905 when his horse fell into a badger hole. His funeral in Calgary was one of the largest ever attended in the city.
Besides the new Canada Post stamp, John Ware’s legacy lives on in the Canadian Badlands, and in Alberta. His cabin was eventually relocated to Dinosaur Provincial Park, a World UNESCO Heritage Site, better known for its dinosaur fossils. The cabin, which has been restored, is open to park visitors during the summer months.
Besides the cabin, a local coulee, a creek, and a 4H club bear John Ware’s name. The Brooks & District Museum displays Ware memorabilia and his saddle and spurs are on display at Calgary’s Glenbow Museum. A junior high school and college are also named in his honour. John Ware is buried in a cemetery overlooking the Calgary Stampede grounds.