Calgary writer creates work about legendary black cowboy John Ware

Growing up in Calgary's tiny black community, writer and author Cheryl Foggo was obsessed with cowboys. She knew the name of John Ware, a well-known figure in the history of Alberta ranching. However, it was not until her brother visited the Glenbow Museum in Calgary that she learned he was a black man.

That childhood experience has inspired a life-long curiosity in Foggo about Ware and other pioneers of the black community in Alberta.
Now, she is putting that research to use in a multi-media production called Re-imagining John Ware: The True West, Black and Free. The piece, which may become a stage play, was recently premiered in Calgary to mark Black History Month.

Ware looms large in the small field of black history in Alberta. Ware was a giant of a man, a cowboy who played an important role in the early days of the ranching industry in Alberta. Ware was born into slavery in the southern United States in 1845. He came to Alberta in 1882 on a massive cattle drive and decided to make his home in the province.

Ware is remembered and celebrated in his adopted land. This month, Canada Post issued a commemorative John Ware stamp. There is a junior high school in Calgary named after John Ware; there is a Mount Ware in the Rockies and a Ware Creek near his old ranch.

Re-imagining the man behind the myth

Most of the stories about Ware have to do with his prodigious strength and horsemanship and his livestock skills.

He has emerged as a bit of a Paul Bunyan-like figure in the story of the Canadian west.

Foggo wanted to tell the story of the man behind the myth.

To do so, she decided it was important to tell the story of John’s family, especially his relationship with his wife Mildred who came to Alberta from Ontario with her family in 1892.

“I’m very interested in a woman who hated horses, and hated cows and hated the isolation,” says Foggo, “but who loved this man so much that she was willing to make it her life.”

Foggo says Ware was a beloved figure in Alberta at the time. However, while Alberta offered a more welcoming environment than Ware's native American south, Alberta was not free of racism. She says Ware worked hard to earn the respect of his peers and his employers.

That love and respect were evident at John Ware's funeral in 1905.

Ware died in a ranching accident - his horse stumbled in a badger hole and rolled over him. There was an outpouring of affection for Ware and his accomplishments. His funeral was the largest the new city of Calgary had ever seen.

John and Mildred Ware had five children. Unfortunately, none of them had offspring, so the Ware line in Alberta has come to an end.

Foggo hopes that the re-imagined life of John Ware and his family will keep the legacy alive. She believes it would be an ideal project to mount on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Calgary Stampede.

The city’s annual celebration of Cowboy and western culture marks its centennial this coming July.

Vous devez avoir la dernière version de Flash Player installée.


Author Cheryl Foggo (right) with actors Janelle Cooper and Jesse Lipscombe

View gallery »

Songwriter Miranda Martini and actor Jesse Lipscombe

View gallery »

Left to right: author Cheryl Foggo, actor Jesse Lipscombe, actor Janelle Cooper at a staged reading

View gallery »


Please comment on this article

Note: By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that Radio Canada International has the right to reproduce, broadcast, and publicize comments, in whole or in part, in any manner whatsoever. Please note that Radio Canada International does not endorse any of the views posted. Your comments will be pre-moderated and published if they meet RCI's Netiquette. Netiquette

Answer *
First name *
Last name *
Email *
City *
Visual confirmation *
Fields with * are mandatory.


Arts-Culture #41 (Sun Apr 07, 2013) Alberta illustrator Karon Argue


Karon Argue lives in High River, in the western prairie province of Alberta. She says she’s been drawing ever since she can remember, and as a graphic artist and illustrator,  always has...

Arts-Culture #35 (Sun Feb 24, 2013) Auctioneering. All Around Champion Doug Johnson


This week we look at a well-established tradition in North America.  While it is a business, it has both an artistic aspect to it and a bit of culture and tradition too…indeed ...

Politics Today February 17, 2013

  On this edition of “Politics Today”, Gilda Salomone focuses on Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird’s 10-day visit to Latin America. This is the first-ever visit to...

Politics Today February 10, 2013

  On this edition of "Politics Today" RCI's Wojtek Gwiazda focussed on questions about the Crown succession bill, and some issues in Canada's upper chamber the Senate. He dealt with some...

Arts-Culture #29- Canadian documentary: Serving the Royals


In this edition we hear from Montreal-based filmmaker John Curtin. He has just produced his third documentary on the Royal Family.  Following on his previous work "After Elizabeth" and "Chasing...

Politics Today September 23, 2012

  On this edition of "Politics Today" RCI's Wojtek Gwiazda talks about the first days of Canada's parliament after the summer break. The government and opposition parties strategies are already...

Politics Today July 1, 2012

On this first edition of "Politics Today" RCI's Wojtek Gwiazda looks at the end of the Parliamentary Session in Ottawa and the passing of the government's "Omnibus Bill", and gets some insights from...

John Tuzo Wilson, the scientist who set the continents adrift


In an encore presentation of this Little Known Canadian Facts segment, columnist Victor Nerenberg introduces John Tuzo Wilson, the scientist who finally explained how and why the Earth’s...

Alberta’s evolution from wheat-grower to oil-giant


The oil-rich province of Alberta has become Canada's economic powerhouse in the past 15 years. The Link’s Calgary correspondent Frank Rackow joins Marc Montgomery to discuss the changes he has...

Frank’s playlist - Oscar Peterson, Joni Mitchell, Michel Rivard, Glenn Gould, Bruce Cockburn, Stan Rogers


For the final installment of his playlist, broadcaster and musician Frank Rackow features six essential Canadian tracks from musical greats Oscar Peterson, Joni Mitchell, Michel Rivard, Glenn Gould,...

All columns



Our daily pick of some of the best stories on The Link.

*RCI is not responsible for any external content