Frank T. Ware

The book, Evidences of Advances among Colored People, appeared in numerous editions after the first printing in 1902. With descriptions of institutions and short biographies, it seeks to prove that African Americans had indeed made progress since the Civil War, despite what some people thought. In the 1904 eleventh edition, the chapter that covers various business people lists two men from Staunton, Virginia. George H. White, a grocer, and Frank T. Ware, the owner of a furniture store. It is worth showing the entire passage on Ware.

The published record of his marriage, written in 1872, lists his wife as Louisa Wayland, his father as William Ware, and his mother as Eliza Ware. We can find Eliza living in Staunton in 1870, an illiterate housekeeper who lived with her four sons. According to the next census, Frank was living with his wife at 130 Frederick Street, with his mother Eliza apparently living next door with her other children, including a son named Willie. In 1896 Frank T. Ware brought a case to court to recover some debts.


According to the book, From Slave to Statesman: The Life of Educator, Editor, and Civil Rights Activist Willis M. Carter of Virginia (2016), African Americans across Virginia mobilized to protest white violence after a series of events in Danville. The response was centered in Staunton, and Willis Carter got involved. One resolution was to appoint a committee of five men to confer with others across the state to consider emigrating out of Virginia. Joining Carter on the committee was Frank T. Ware, who had been a delegate to the 1880 Republican National Convention and had become good friends with Carter. By 1900, Carter lived on Augusta Street, next to Frank and Louisa Ware.

In 1908, Frank Ware took it upon himself to help a fellow veteran who was arrested for refusing to move to the segregated car when the train he was on reached Virginia. Ware even took the seventy-year-old James H. Reed into his home after release.

When Woodrow Wilson came to Staunton in 1912 to celebrate his birthday after being elected president, one of the people he met was Frank T. Ware. A magazine of the time, “The Crisis” says that “during the visit of President-elect Wilson in Staunton, Va., Frank T. Ware, a former colored slave of his parents, greeted him.” One local paper quotes the conversation between the two of them, though it seems doubtful that this is what was really said. A more reserved report from Harrisburg, PA notes that there will be a parade, and, “At the reception to follow the first in line will be a negro, Frank T. Ware, who wheeled Governor Wilson during his babyhood.”

When Woodrow Wilson was born in Staunton in 1856, the Presbyterian church offered his father, their minister, the use of a house, and we know that this included the work of several enslaved people who lived in the manse with the family. Since this was a rental arrangement between the church and a local farmer, it has been difficult for historians to trace the lives of these African-Americans or even to understand the details of how they came to live with the Wilsons. It is also hard to be certain how well the anecdotes of 1912 reflect the situation of fifty-five years earlier, but it appears that the successful Ware spent time with Rev. Wilson’s family when he had been forced to work as an enslaved young man in Staunton many years before.