Calgary·PODCAST

From the life of a slave to a living legend: How John Ware left his indelible mark on Alberta

Heroes, Hustlers and Horsemen is a podcast series from CBC Calgary about real people who lived in southern Alberta around the time of confederation and a few decades beyond. These are the whisky-soaked, down and dusty, gun-slinging kinds of stories they leave out in school.

Respect wasn't easy to come by, but this cowboy earned it — and then some

John Ware was freed as a slave at age 20 and made his way to Alberta in search of a new life. (Glenbow Archives)

This podcast originally aired in 2017. Enjoy it again, or for the first time, in celebration Black History Month. 

For more ways to celebrate, check out our list of events, books and more.

They say there wasn't a horse John Ware couldn't ride.

They say he could walk across an entire pen of cattle on the backs of the steers.

They even say he discovered an oil field one day — by flicking a match over his shoulder.

Yes, the tall tales abound. But the real story is even better.

Or at least, more human.

John Ware didn't talk much about his past but it's believed he was born on a cotton plantation in South Carolina, the second-youngest of 11 children.

 

Growing up, the life of a slave was all he knew.

But his world changed in 1865, when slavery was abolished. At age 20, he found himself a free man.

Ware headed west, in search of a new life — one he built, against all odds, in Alberta.

Starting as a cowhand, he won the respect of his peers through his grit, determination and unmatched skill.

Before long, he had started a family and bought a ranch of his own.

And he never looked back.

The story of a former American slave who became a legendary cowboy and rancher in southern Alberta. 22:11

This is Episode 4 of Heroes, Hustlers and Horsemen, a five-part podcast series from CBC Calgary about real people who lived in southern Alberta around the time of confederation and a few decades beyond. 

The stories aren't of the Heritage Minute variety. These are the whisky-soaked, down and dusty, gun-slinging kinds of stories they leave out in school.

We'll meet rogues and rebels, bold visionaries with big blind spots, the notorious and the opportunistic, the people who gave rein to their ambitions and passions and those who chose to buck the herd.

 

 

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