Introducing 2010 Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame Inductee… Joseph Cobell (1828 - 1890)
Joseph Cobell was a fur trader, hunter, trapper, mountain man, miner, civilian scout for the army, stockraiser, and farmer. Joe Cobell was described sometimes as being “more Indian than White” and he could speak the Piegan language.
The following is a brief history of his life:
He was born in Bardonecchia, Italy in 1828. He emigrated to America in 1848 and began in the employment of The American Fur Company in 1852 and subsequently was employed by the Campbell & Co.
In 1858 he married the sister of Piegan Chief Little Dog. She passed away in 1865. He then went to Silver City where he took up mining and raising cattle. In 1866 he took his 2nd wife, sister to Mountain Chief (last chief of the Blackfoot). The number of children between these two unions was 18. In 1867 he took up a ranch on Rock Creek where he built a stage station on the Old Helena and Benton Road. In 1870, Joe Cobell became a scout for one of the expeditions of the military. In 1871 he went to Deep Creek to take up ranching.
In 1874 he settled in the Shonkin area and became a farmer and stock raiser. This ranch had the reputation of being “one of the finestranches in the territory”. He had “the distinction of being one of the very first to grow such crops as onions and potatoes in this part of Montana, as well as grain. The fact that garden produce and other crops would grow in this section was a matter of some amazement to old time residents.” It was noted in the Helena Independent that “Joe Cobell, a Shonkin farmer, raised 3,036 bushels of oats” the season in 1882. Joe Cobell held the first water right in the Shonkin valley.
In 1888, Joe Cobell sold his Shonkin Ranch and moved to Cut Bank Creek on the Blackfeet Reservation. He built an irrigation ditch there that is still being used today. There is a place called Cobelle Coulee near Cut Bank Creek on the Reservation that I can only speculate was named after Joe Cobell.
Joe Cobell died January 19, 1890 in Fort Benton and is buried at the Riverside Cemetery. He was an honorable and upright man, respected by all his neighbors.