Though Little Joe was well liked, he never visited the saloons and no one ever saw him drink. Eventually Joe tired of raising chickens and cows, and began sheep herding instead. A solitary job, Joe spent almost three years alone tending his sheep.
When Joe's only friend took off with his money, Joe went to work on cattle ranches. After a number of years, Joe saved enough for his own small ranch. He eventually learned to shoot and was an excellent rider. He even performed briefly in a Wild West show.
While driving his cattle to winter pastures, Joe fell ill. A neighboring rancher took him in, but Joe eventually succumbed to pneumonia. While preparing his body to be buried, the townsfolk were shocked to discover that Joe was actually a girl!
The local sheriff started digging around. Joe was quite successful by then, and the sheriff wanted to find an heir.
The sheriff discovered two possible explanations, There was a Johanne from Buffalo, New York, who ran away from home after mistreatment from her stepfather. The family produced letters and pictures.
A second explanation was discovered when neighbors dug through Joe's belongings. They discovered letters from Joe's sister. Piecing together the puzzle, it appeared that Joe was a former debutante who became pregnant out of wedlock. Unable to care for her child, Joe left him with her younger sister and headed west.
Joe's son graduated from law school, and by all accounts, had a successful life never knowing his mother was actually his aunt.
Some of you may recognize the story from the movie and remake, "The Ballad of Little Joe", a film 'inspired' by Joe's story.
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Rock-solid and reliable, confirmed bachelor Caleb McCoy thought nothing could rattle him—until he discovers he needs to pose as Anna Bishop's intended groom. After saving her life, his honorable code bid Caleb watch over the innocent beauty. And a pretend engagement is the only way to protect her from further harm.
Raised by a single mother and suffragist, Anna doesn't think much of marriage—and she certainly doesn't plan to try it herself. But playing Caleb's blushing bride-to-be makes her rethink her independent ways, because their make-believe romance is becoming far too real
Prairie Courtships: Romance on the range