Joe left home at a young age and worked as a cowboy on the cattle drives between Texas and Kansas. He had only had two years of schooling when he left home and was 21 years old when he got the equivalent of an eighth grade education. He was a self-taught man and had a very bright, active and inquiring mind and could read, write and express himself very well. He had auburn hair and blue-green eyes and was 6' tall until a fall from an apple tree broke both legs. His legs did not heal properly and after that he was bow-legged and it also affected his walk a bit. He had a beautiful tenor voice and sang a solo in church just a few weeks before his death at age 85. He learned to read music by the old shaped note method and had a song book with the shaped notes that he sang from every evening after his bible study.
While living in Kansas in early 1893 he heard of the opening of the Cherokee Strip in Oklahoma where people wanting their own land could participate in the "great land run of 1893" and if they were lucky, they would be able to stake a claim on 160 acres. He came to Oklahoma, along with Simon and Ellen (Cutter) Irey and stayed with his brother-in-law, Orville Cutter, who had secured his land in Logan County around 1889. He was elated when he got his claim and immediately set about building a dugout where he and Sarah could live until he could get a proper frame house built. He was devastated by the loss of Sarah in 1905.
He farmed, raising wheat and other grains and large plentiful gardens. For awhile he raised broom corn and made brooms to sell. With the advent of the automobile, he was also a car dealer, working from his farm home, for awhile. He donated the northeast corner of his land so a school house could be built there. It was called Diamond School but everyone called it the "Crackerbox".
It was at church that he met his second wife, Dora May Piper. She said the first thing that impressed her was his devotion to his two little girls. He was struck by her dark brown sparkling eyes and dark hair, 21 inch wiast and shyness. He was 43 when he married Dora, age 21, and they were to have 9 children, Dora's parents were John Piper and Josephine "Josie" Wollam and she was of german descent (see the Piper Genealogy.) Her mother died in childbirth when Dora was 8 years old. John then married Alice Roberts, who raised the 6 children.
Joe and Dora were active in the Douglas Christian Union church and after they moved to Douglas they never missed Sunday morning sunday school, church service, Sunday evening service and prayer meeting on Wednesday nights. He had a wonderful sense of humor and loved to play practical jokes on his family and friends. He was an avid Democrat and loved to "discuss" politics with his father-in-law, John Piper, who was only one year older than Joe and a staunch Republican. He was a hard worker and worked long days to support his large family.
In September, 1928, they moved to a dairy farm near Covington. After nine months they moved near Hayward and ran a dairy there for a year. Then they moved to Covington where he ran a small grocery store specializing in his home butchered meat. The depression was on by this time and times were very hard. He never refused credit to anyone in need of groceries to feed their families knowing it was unlikely they would ever be able to pay. After his mother-in-law, Alice Piper, died in December, 1932, they moved to Douglas to make their home with John Piper. He immediately set about buying all the vacant lots in Douglas for back taxes, then he proceeded to clear them and plant them all in fruit and vegetables. The cellar was always full for the winter with all kinds of home grown and home canned meat, vegetables and fruit and the smoke-house was full of cured beef and pork. He raised cattle, pigs, chickens, planted an orchard, and sold milk to townspeople.
He used horses to work the ground and there was a large barn, granary, pig pen, coal shed, kindling shed, garage, and of course the outhouse, behind their house on the large lot. He had a pasture at the edge of town for the cows and horses. His horses, Dan and Fanny, eventually died at a ripe old edge, and Dora thought that now he wouldn't work so hard. Much to her dismay he bought a pair of mules and kept on working as hard as ever.
Sundays were always a big day in their home and some times all six leaves were used in the table and they still needed two sittings to handle all the children and grandchildren that had come to visit. All of their social activites had to do with the school, church, community and family.
Joe did not have a child until he was 40 and then raised 10 children. The last one, Betty Jo, was born when he was nearly 67 years old. One of his prayers was that he remain healthy and able to work until she became of age. He died at the home in Douglas at the age of 85, when she was 18. I never knew him to spend one day in bed but in 1947 the barn and all of the outbuildings burned and he seemed to lose the twinkle in his eye. Soon after that he became ill and lived for only 2 weeks.
With his family gathered around his bedside his last words were "I see the light" with a look of wonderment on his face. He was a devoted family man and was respected and loved by many people. After Joe's death Dora lived in the home, with the exception of a year in Oklahoma City with her daughter and a time spent in a nursing home after she broke a hip. Her daughter, Lula, moved to Douglas to live with Dora so she could be in her own home. She died there in 1970 after a lengthy illness with her daughters at her side. She welcomed death because, after many years, she was "going to be with Joe". Joe and Dora were god-fearing, loving people and it is with gratitude and pride that I call them Mom and Dad.