Goodnight-Loving Trail

Goodnight-Loving Trail

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Charles Goodnight was a Texas Rangers and a scout during the American Civil War. After the war Goodnight decided to become involved in the cattle business. He joined up with Oliver Loving to take cattle from Fort Belknap in Texas to Fort Sumner in New Mexico. This later became known as the Goodnight-Loving Trail. After Oliver Loving was killed by Comanche in 1867, Goodnight continued to organize cattle drives on his own. In 1871 Goodnight joined forces with John Chisum and extended his trial from Alamogordo Creek, New Mexico, to Granada, Colorado.

Why would the Goodnight-Loving Trail or the Great Western trail be used to send cattle to California?

The Goodnight–Loving Trail was a trail used in the cattle drives of the late 1860s for the large-scale movement of Texas Longhorns. It is named after cattlemen Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving. Cattle drives moved large herds of livestock to market, to shipping points, or to find fresh pasturage. The practice was introduced to North America early during European colonization.

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Goodnight-Loving Trail

Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Exploration. In addition, it is included in the Texas 1936 Centennial Markers and Monuments series list. A significant historical year for this entry is 1860.

Location. 31° 42.065′ N, 103° 36.215′ W. Marker is near Mentone, Texas, in Loving County. Marker is on State Highway 302 0.4 miles west of Pecos Street (County Road 300), on the right when traveling west. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Mentone TX 79754, United States of America. Touch for directions.

Other nearby markers. At least 5 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Route of Old Butterfield Stagecoach Road (here, next to this marker) Mentone (approx. half a mile away) Loving County (approx. half a mile away) Mentone Community Church (approx. half a mile away) Oliver Loving, C.S.A. (approx. half a mile away).

Related marker. Click here for another marker that is related to this marker.

Engaging with Cowpoke History

Cowboy throwing lariat, 1898-1905.

Courtesy of Library Congress,

Curious about Cowboys and Cowgirls?

  • What do you think of when you hear the term “cowboy”?
  • One out of every four cowboys was African American. Why do you think this job was appealing to African Americans in the aftermath of the Civil War?


  1. Describe the Black cowboys and cowgirls who worked on the western frontier and the tasks they took on.
  2. Determine the central ideas or information from primary sources such as posters and songs.
  3. Identify aspects of these primary sources that reveal an author’s point of view or purpose.

Cowboy Nat Love. Courtesy Library of Congress,


If your initial definition of a cowboy (also known as a “cowpoke”) is a gun-slinging, rugged fellow on horseback, then you’re not alone! Over the past century, cowboys have taken on a mythic status. When Americans developed a taste for beef in the late 1800s, cattle ranchers hired cowboys to guide the animals to railroad depots. The cattle were then shipped across the country. The concept of the cowboy eventually came to symbolize much more than cattle herding. A romantic hero portrayed in books, movies, and songs, they’ve become a symbol of the American West.

There is a bit more to the history of the cowboy than skilled marksmanship and cattle wrangling. In fact, despite how they are shown in movies and other popular media, many cowboys were Black.

Cattle herding in the western states became a way to escape the racial discrimination of the South. Many Black cowboys and cowgirls, such as Nat Love, Bose Ikard and Mary Fields, were once enslaved. Some, like Love, emancipated themselves and found work herding cattle. Others gained freedom after the Civil War in 1865.

After emancipation, many African American men and women sought a new life out west. They established a number of all-Black towns, including Nicodemus in Kansas. Some of these men and women worked as cowpokes. While not totally free from racial discrimination, many did well in this profession and were respected for their skills. Working as a cowboy or cowgirl was a way to earn decent wages without a great deal of oversight from white employers, and fellow white cowboys were usually friendly with their Black coworkers.

We have more records about the lives of Black cowboys than we do on Black cowgirls. We do know that a lot of women were living in the West when cowboying became popular. Census records indicate that over 800,000 women resided west of the Mississippi River by 1900. Ranchers rarely employed women (white or Black) as cowpokes, but a small number of women worked on cattle ranches. Historical documents such as property deeds also prove that a small number of Black and Latina women owned and managed their own ranches. These women oversaw daily operations and were skilled horse riders and cattle wranglers. A number of women also performed in the wild west shows that were popularized by Buffalo Bill in the 1870s.

The following activities offer opportunities to learn about Black cowpoke and their experiences in the Wild West.

This map depicts the major cattle herding trails from 1866 to 1890. Fort Belknap, TX and Fort Sumner, NM are circled in red with the black arrows indicting the trails the cowboys used.

Photo courtesy National Park Service, Public Domain,

Activity 1:

In the 1860s, white cowboys Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving partnered to herd Texas Longhorns across the state of Texas. Hiring a group of 18 cowboys, including Black cowpoke Bose Ikard, Goodnight and Loving forged a trail from Fort Belknap, Texas to Fort Sumner, New Mexico, two 19th century forts listed in the National Register of Historic Places. This route was eventually named the Goodnight-Loving Trail after the two cowboys.

While the trail is named in honor of Goodnight and Loving, Ikard performed the important work of tracking and wrangling cattle across the several hundred mile trail. Ikard also protected Goodnight's valuables, and he often carried thousands of dollars in cash that he kept safe from bandits and raiding parties.

While cowboying could be profitable, it was also dangerous. Loving was injured when a raiding party attempted to steal their cattle. He later died of infection. Goodnight and Ikard escaped injury, but they continued to endure the hardships of the job. One section of the trail was particularly unpleasant the men had to cross approximately 100 miles of desert relying on whatever food and water they had with them. It’s no wonder Ikard retired after a few years, purchasing his own ranch and raising a family in Parker County, Texas.

Listen to this song about the Goodnight-Loving Trail and make your own judgment about what life was like on the trail. As you listen, consider the perspective of the singer. Who are they and what message are they trying to get across? Feel free to follow along with the lyrics below.

Too old to wrangle or ride on the swing,
You beat the triangle and you curse everything.
If dirt was a kingdom, they you'd be the king.

On the Goodnight Trail, on the Loving Trail,
Our Old Woman's lonesome tonight.
Your French harp blows like the low bawling calf.
It's a wonder the wind don't tear off your skin.
Get in there and blow out the light.

With your snake oil and herbs and your liniments, too,
You can do anything that a doctor can do,
Except find a cure for your own bad plain stew

The campfire's gone out and the coffee's all gone,
The boys are all up and they're raising the dawn.
You're still sitting there, lost in a song.

The campfire's gone out and the coffee's all gone,
The boys are all up and they're raising the dawn.
You're still sitting there, lost in a song.

I know that some day I'll be just the same,
Wearing an apron instead of a name.
There's nothing can change it, there's no one to blame
For the desert's a book writ in lizards and sage,
Easy to look like an old torn out page,
Faded and cracked with the colors of age.

The campfire's gone out and the coffee's all gone,
The boys are all up and they're raising the dawn.
You're still sitting there, lost in a song.

Based on the song, what do you think it was like navigating the Goodnight-Loving Trail?

Does this song align with your initial ideas about cowboys? Why or why not?

Do you think you would choose this job? Why or why not?

Activity 2:

Bill Pickett was one of the most famous African American cowpokes. He learned cowboying as a ranch hand in Texas and eventually used his skills to become a famous performer. He starred in world famous Wild West shows and even performed for British royalty.

Pickett was also the subject of a 1922 silent western film, The Bull-Dogger. Filmmaker Richard Norman was impressed not only with Pickett’s skills, but also with his ability to please the crowds. Inspired by the Black cowboy’s journey to fame, Norman directed a film about the rodeo legend. Named after the rodeo trick Pickett became known for, the film depicts Pickett on horseback, lassoing and wrestling a cow.

The movie poster is depicted in the image to the left. Who do you think is the intended audience?

How is Bill Pickett depicted in the image?

What movies or TV shows do you know about cowboys? How are these cowboys often depicted?

St. Peter's Mission in Montana, 1887.

Public Domain,

Activity 3:

Mary Fields was an adventurous and resilient Black pioneer. Born enslaved in Tennessee in the early 1830s, she gained her freedom after the Civil War and traveled around the southern US. She eventually made her way to a convent (a Catholic religious institution for women) in Toledo, Ohio where she worked for a number of years. In her fifties, Fields left the Ohio convent and moved over 1,600 miles away to St. Peter’s Mission in Montana.

We don’t know a lot about her day-to-day life as Fields did not write a memoir. However, we do know that she moved around a lot! Throughout her life, Fields traveled by boat, train, and stagecoach to different parts of the country. Moving from place to place, she uprooted her life to start anew. She likely could only bring a select few items each time she moved. What items do you think she carried with her? What items would you keep with you? Why?

For this activity, “pack” your own bag of possessions. Remember, you bag is only so big! You can only fit 4 to 6 items. What do you need? What items could you do without? How do you make these decisions? What item is particularly important to you? Why?

Closing Thoughts:

By the 1890s, ranchers began favoring barb-wire fencing to control their cows instead of hiring cowboys. As more and more meat-processing plants were built across the US, cowpokes were no longer needed to drive cattle. As the days of guiding steer across vast tracts of land were ending, a new past time developed: the rodeo. Wild West shows became popular in the late 1880s, and often featured “cowboy tournaments.” Cowboying became a way to entertain audiences. Black and white cowboys and cowgirls showed off their horseback riding and bull wrangling skills. By the early 1900s, cowboying had taken on new meaning. More than a job, it had become a symbol of American individualism and grit.

Making Connections:

Cowboying was one of the more accepting professions in the late 19th century, but it was still not a fully inclusive discipline. Rodeo star Bill Pickett, for example, often faced discrimination despite his skills and fame. Some ranchers and performance venues banned Pickett from performing because of the color of his skin.

Where do we see discrimination in the workplace today?

The passage of civil rights laws in the 1900s has helped protect the rights of people of color, women, and people of different religions and nationalities. Who isn’t included in this list? How might these people be vulnerable to discriminatory employment practices?

Durham, Philip and Everett L. Jones. The Negro Cowboys. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1965.

Garceau-Hagen, Dee. Portraits of Women in the American West. New York: Routledge, 2013.

Hagan, William T. Charles Goodnight: Father of the Texas Panhandle. University of Oklahoma Press: 2012.

Hanes, Billy C. Bill Pickett, Bull-Dogger: The Biography of a Black Cowboy. Norman: University of Oklahoma, 1989.

Hardaway, Roger D. “African American Cowboys on the Western Frontier.” Negro History Bulletin 64, no.1 (January-December 2001): pp.27-32.

Liles, Deborah M. and Cecilia Gutierrez Venable, eds. Texas Women and Ranching: On the Range, at the Rodeo, and in their Communities. College Station: Texas A&M, 2019.

McConnell, Miantae Metcalf. “Mary Fields’s Road to Freedom.” In Black Cowboys in the American West: On the Range, on the Stage, and Behind the Badge. Eds. Bruce A. Glasrud and Michael N. Searles. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma, 2016.

Nodjimbadem, Katie. “The Lesser-Known History of African American Cowboys.” Smithsonian Magazine, Feb 13, 2017.

Tennent, William L. John Jarvie of Brown’s Park. Cultural Resource Series No 7. Salt Lake City: Bureau of Land Management, 1982.

Wagner, Tricia Martineau. African American Women of the Old West. Guilford, CT: Twodot, 2007.

“Deadwood Dick and the Black Cowboys.” The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. (Winter 1998-1999): pp.30-31.

The Tale of the Goodnight-Loving Trail: Branded in the Mind’s Eye

For those who were fans of the world-renowned mini-series “Lonesome Dove” which stemmed from Larry McMurtry’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1985 novel of the same name, many believe it would be an amazing adventure to do a modern-day trail ride (in period costume, with period food…the whole nine yards) on the same path that was blazed by Woodrow Call and Gus McRae. For a select few that choose this as a pass time, the opportunity is real in group rides that are coordinated by special interest groups – historical and otherwise. But for others, the simple process of retracing the trails of olden days are far more difficult considering private land ownership, interstate highways, and the like. That’s why we have historical accounts, and western novels are still considered best-sellers, and western movies are a genre that continues to make a comeback. Infamous passes such as the Goodnight-Loving Trail have left their mark in our historic fabric, branded in the mind’s eye. And, for those that wish they could trace it, modern-day markers continue to lead the way.

In the biography titled “Charles Goodnight: Cowman and Plainsman” by J. Evetts Haley, it was written, “The trace that led from Texas to Fort Sumner is generally known as the Goodnight Trail, while that which Goodnight later blazed directly to Cheyenne is called the Goodnight and Loving Trail, though sometimes the terms are used interchangeably.” As with many of these trails, over the years the route changed, depending on available grass and water, as well as the fact that Goodnight didn’t want to pay a dime per head at the Wootton toll station (Raton Pass) along the Colorado-New Mexico border.

The Goodnight-Loving trail begins in Newcastle, Texas – the history of which stems from Fort Belknap, which stood sentinel on the Brazos River. Kentucky-born Oliver Loving came to Texas in 1843 at the age of 30. He drove cattle to Denver in 1860 and was later commissioned by the Confederacy to drive cattle to Rebel troops on the Mississippi River. It was rumored that the government owed him somewhere between $100,000 and $250,000 at the end of the war. Illinois-born Charles Goodnight was nine when his family moved to Texas in 1845, and by the age of 11, he was working on farms before entering the cattle business as a young man. By 1866, Mescalero Apaches and Navajos were situated at the Bosque Redondo reservation (a place many Native Americans would refer to more as a concentration camp), close in proximity to Fort Sumner in New Mexico Territory. Goodnight thought that with this group was a new market for beef and approached Loving with the idea. The elder of the two warned of the dangers, however, Loving found that with Goodnight undeterred, he would rather go with him than not. On June 6, 1866, they joined forces on a drive that would set out with 18 men and 2,000 Longhorns, approximately 25 miles west of Fort Belknap.

The all-star cast included “One-Armed” Bill Wilson, “Cross-Eyed” Nath Brauner, a black cowboy by the name of Jim Fowler, and a former slave called Bose Ikard among the men. Ikard’s epitaph was scribed by Goodnight himself upon the death of the loyal cowhand in 1929. It read: “Served with me four years on the Goodnight-Loving Trail, never shirked a duty or disobeyed an order, rode with me in many stampedes, participated in three engagements with Comanches, splendid behavior.” Ikard’s grave can actually still be found in Weatherford, Texas, in the Greenwood Cemetery, close to Loving’s grave. This rough-shod group drove their herd along the Overland Route from Belknap into Upton County through Castle Gap, and then on to the Pecos River which they would follow to Fort Sumner. Goodnight had observed that the east side of the Pecos was “…the most desolate country that I had ever explored.”

The driving crew would leave Butterfield’s road and travel north along the river. Pope’s Crossing, situated just south of New Mexico, was Goodnight and Loving’s choice for fording the Pecos. It had previously been used by those rushing for Gold in California as well as Spanish explorers and was named for Captain John Pope, the leader of an 1854 survey crew. The crossing has since disappeared following the 1936 completion of Red Bluff Dam and Reservoir. If you’re following the route today, take U.S. 285 near the Pecos River and travel to Artesia (once the home of Sallie Chisum, niece of cattleman John S. Chisum.) There you’ll find a gas station on First and Main where stands the 2007 sculpture called “Trail Boss” by Vic Payne. It pays tribute to Goodnight and his legacy in the area.

From Artesia, head north to Roswell (yes, that Roswell) and then on to the Fort Sumner Historic Site (located along Route 60), which was also known as the place where Billy the Kid met his end. Goodnight and Loving came here for the fort and reservation, which you can now see preserved at the site as well as the Bosque Redondo Memorial. When they got there, however, government contractors wouldn’t purchase the stock cattle. They paid eight cents per pound for the steers, leaving Goodnight and Loving with seven to eight hundred head of cattle and netted them $12,000. At that point, Goodnight returned to Texas while Loving pushed the cattle on to Denver, Colorado for sale.

The following year, the pair organized a second drive. This time, both the rains and trouble with Indians slowed their journey. Along the Pecos, Loving, together with “One-Armed” Bill Wilson, rode on ahead. Indians attacked and Loving was seriously wounded. He sent Wilson back to the herd (his escape was lauded but still overshadowed by the story of Loving’s final days.) Mexican traders came across Loving and took him to Fort Sumner. On September 25, Oliver Loving died of gangrene. Goodnight drove the cattle north to Trinidad (where the present-day Trinidad History Museum and the A.R. Mitchell Museum of Western Art are great stops) and established a cattle-relay station and ranch approximately 40 miles northeast of the town. In February 1868, Goodnight set out with Loving’s coffin in a wagon, bound for Texas and burial. Haley’s book about Goodnight, he went on to write that it was “…the strangest, and most touching funeral cavalcade in the history of the cow country.”

That same year, Goodnight contracted for cattle to be brought from Cheyenne, Wyoming, making the trail even longer, moving from Pueblo to the South Platte River. Haley went on to write that “…By 1870, the trade along the Goodnight and Loving Trail was well established, and the amount of money handled by its Western bankers was noted as enormous.”

History of Trail Drives in Texas

History of Cowboys and Trail Drives in Early-Day Texas

Origin of the Maverick

In the mid 1850's, a rancher named Maverick built up a sizeable herd of longhorns. During the Civil War days, he allowed his calf crop to go unbranded. As a result, by the end of the war, there were thousands of his cattle without brands roaming the Texas country side. In Maverick's area, folks would say, "there is a Maverick", when refering to an unbranded critter. The term was taken up by others, and in a short time it was in general use throughout the cattle range country in Texas".

Tending a Longhorn Herd near Deanville Texas on a spur of the Chisolm trail

Many other ranchers also neglected their herds because Texas was so isolated from all Confederate states east of the Mississippi River. "Being cut off from the market, the ranchers found themselves with worthless stock. In fact, the value of cattle, in Texas, was so low that a rancher would lose money paying hired help to attend to his herd. Therefore, the ranchers gave very little, if any, attention to their herds. The herds multiplied rapidly and when the war ceased, there were thousands of unbranded cattle over all the range, and no one knew to whom the animals belonged.

Cattle Trailing (1600's)

Cattle trailing began in the U.S. in the seventeenth century, especially in the Carolinas, Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania.

Easterners, were usually on foot using shepherd dogsand were herding small numbers of relatively tame animals.

Texas trail drives during the nineteenth century usually featured horseback mounted riders and mostly longhorn cattle, usually mavericks.

As early as the 1830s, opportunists drove surplus Texas cattle from Stephen F. Austin's colony eastward through treacherous swamp country to New Orleans, where animals fetched twice their Texas market value. After statehood, during the 1840s and 1850s, some cattlemen drove Texas cattle northward over the Shawnee Trail to Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, and Ohio, where they were sold mostly to farmers who fattened them for local slaughter markets.

First Recorded Large Cattle Drive in Texas (1846)

The first recorded large cattle drive occurred in 1846, when Edward Piper drove a herd of approximately 1,000 longhorms from Texas to Ohio. However, outbreaks of "Texas fever" during the mid-1850s caused both Missouri and Kansas legislatures to quarantine their states against "southern cattle."

The gold rush to California created a huge demand for cattle in the 1850's and soon Texans were herding steers westward through rugged mountains and deserts to West Coast mining camps, where animals worth fourteen dollars in Texas marketed for a hundred or more dollars. During the Civil War some Texans drove cattle to New Orleans, where they were sold, but, mostly, animals were left untended at home, where they multiplied.

At the war's end, Texas possessed between three million and six million head of cattle, many of them wild unbranded mavericks worth locally as little as two dollars each. However, the same beasts were potentially far more valuable elsewhere, especially in the North, which had been largely denuded of its livestock by wartime demand and where longhorns commanded forty dollars or more a head.

Major Cattle Drives Began in 1866

At the end of the Civil War, there was little or no money in the South and prices were low so herds simply multiplied and no one was interested in taking them to market. After the end of the Civil War, railroad companies built railroad lines down into Kansas and that placed shipping facilities close enough to our range so it was practical to drive herds to the railroads".

"Following the completion of the railroads extention into Kansas, cattle market centers opened up: the principal market points were Camp Supply, For Dodge and Kansas City.

Early Day Trail Drive Hand

Trail Drivers Shopping at the Deanville Trading Post after the Civil War

Many longhorn cattle drives from Texas to markets in Nebraska and Kansas took place between 1866 and 1900. One such trail known as the Western Trail went through what in now Vernon Texas in 1876. Cattle drivers Millett and Irvin came up through Wilbarger County and crossed a herd near Doans Crossing, so called after the establishment of the Jonathan Doan's trading post nearby.

The Chisholm Trail, which went through Oklahoma, had become so crowed that cattle had great difficulty in finding forage along the way. To avoid this, ranchers scouted and laid out a new trail, the Western Trail, which has also been referred to in the past as the Longhorn Chisholm Trail, the Trail to Kansas and the Fort Griffin and Dodge City Trail.

During the peak of the season many herds where on the trail at the same time, sometimes only a few miles apart. A herd of 2500 to 3000 was considered the most favorable size for long drives. Smaller herd required about the same crew and overhead expense larger herds faced problems of watering facilities, grass along the trail and general unwieldiness in handling. Daily travel distances were gauged by grass and water, the object being to fatten cattle en route.

A cattle drive typically covered about 10 to 15 miles a day with a drive to western Kansas taking between 25 and a 100 days.

Cowboys and Hands on a Typical Trail Drive

Trail drivers were cowboys who moved cattle from a home range to a distant market or another range. A typical trail driving outfit consisted of a boss, who might or might not be the owner 10 to 15 hands, each of whom had a string of from 5 to 10 horses a horse wrangler (remudero), who drove and herded the cow horses and a cook, who drove the chuck wagon. A "hoodlum" wagon carried the bedrolls. During the day, the men drove and grazed the cattle and at night herded them by relays. Ten or 12 miles was considered a good day's drive. Typical meals consisted of bread, meat, beans with bacon and coffee. The wage was around $40.00 a month.

The First Chuckwagon in Texas

The trail drive began in the late spring when grass was plentiful. For three months, a handful of man rode herd over more than 1000 head of wild longhorn cattle, moving them less than fifteen miles a day. The centerpiece of any cattle drive was the chuck wagon. Charles Goodnight is given credit for inventing the first of these by taking an old army wagon and strengthening it with extra hard wooden axles, and having a chuck box mounted on the rear end. A storage area to the front carried supplies and bedrolls.

In many ways the cook or "cookie" was the most important member of the drive, and he generally got paid better than the other men. The cook drove the chuck wagon ahead of the herd and was responsible for selecting campsites in the evenings and stopovers for the noonday meal. Besides the cook, there was the trail boss, an experienced cowboy who had been up the trail before, knew where the grass and water were and also knew the dangers along the trail.

Some cowboys were positioned at the front of the herd while others rode "flank" on the sides of the herd and still others rode "drag" at the back of the herd. All cowboys shared the job of watching the herd at night, hoping that the cattle did not become spooked and begin running. Younger cowboys were often given the job of horse wrangler. Their job was to care for the horses used to herd the animals along the long drive north.

Dangers Along the Trail

On the trail, cowboys encountered the boredom and dangers of riding herd on more than 1000 head of cattle. Cowboys ran into unpredictable weather. Crossing treacherous rivers, some cowboys and cattle drowned. There were rattlesnakes, stampedes, and Indians. In the early days of the cattle drives, Indians still ranged across West Texas, leading a nomadic lifestyle chasing buffalo. Some Comanche ranged across northwest Texas until the mid-1870s when Quanah Parker led his band to Fort Sill, in Oklahoma.

When the cowboys finally reached the end of the trail, they celebrated in grand style. Then it was back to Texas for another drive the next year.

Cattle do not trail in a group, but strung out in a long line. Several natural leaders usually take their places in front, while all the others fall into an irregular line behind them. A herd of 1,000 head might stretch out one to two miles on the trail. The drovers worked in pairs, one on either side of the line of animals. The best of the men were usually assigned to be "pointers," working near the head of the line. The remainder of the men worked the flank and swing positions farther back, with drag men bringing up the rear. Communication was by hand signals, adapted from Plains Indian sign language, or gestures with hats.

The drive would cover about 10 to 15 miles a day and, depending on what delays were encountered, a drive to western Kansas would take between 25 and 100 days.

While on the trail, the Goodnight outfit made use of home remedies for illnesses. Coal oil was used to combat lice, and prickly-pear poultices were thought to help wounds heal. Flowers of the bachelor's button plant were used to cure diarrhea, salt and bison tallow were used for piles, and bison-meat juice was drunk as a general tonic.

The Legendary Chisholm Trail

The first cattle drives from Texas on the legendary Chisholm Trail headed north out of DeWitt County about 1866, crossing Central Texas near the towns of San Antonio, Austin, Round Rock, Georgetown, Salado and Waco toward the markets and railheads in Kansas. The trail was named for Indian trader Jesse Chisholm, who blazed a cattle trail in 1865 between the North Canadian and Arkansas rivers. That initial trail was expanded north and south by other drovers. The trail was not one fixed route. As one historian remarked, "trails originated wherever a herd was shaped up and ended wherever a market was found. A thousand minor trails fed the main routes."

Roughly, the Chisholm Trail went from the Rio Grande near Brownsville through Cameron, Willacy, Kleberg, Nueces, San Patricio, Bee, Karnes, Wilson, Guadalupe, Hays, Travis, Williamson, Bell, McLennan, Bosque, Hill, Johnson, Tarrant, Wise and Montague counties. It crossed the Red River and continued to Dodge City and Abilene, Kans. Another popular route approximately paralleled the main trail, but lay farther east. Fixed points on the trail, which all the drives on the Chisholm Trail used, were the crossing on the Colorado River near Austin Brushy Creek near Round Rock Kimball's Bend on the Brazos River and the Trinity Ford in Fort Worth below the junction of the Clear and West forks.

The peak year on the Chisholm Trail was 1871. After interstate railroads came to Texas in the mid-1870s, trailing cattle to the Midwest became unnecessary. The Chisholm Trail was virtually shut down by the 1884 season.

Goodnight-Loving Trail Across West Texas

The Goodnight-Loving Trail was one of the first of the post-war trails to be blazed across part of West Texas. Charles Goodnight established a herd of cattle in the Keechi Valley of Palo Pinto County in the late 1850s and ranged his cattle across Palo Pinto, Parker and Young counties.

After serving in the frontier militia during the war, Goodnight rounded up his cattle in the spring of 1866 and headed for the Rocky Mountain mining region. To avoid Indians, he decided to use the old Butterfield stagecoach route to the southwest, follow the Pecos River upstream and proceed northward to Colorado. This route was almost twice as long as the direct route, but it was much safer.

While buying supplies for this trip, he encountered Oliver Loving, and the two decided to join forces. The combined herd numbered about 2,000 head when they left their camp 25 miles southwest of Belknap on June 6, 1866. Their route took them past Camp Cooper, by the ruins of old Fort Phantom Hill, through Buffalo Gap, past Chadbourne, and across the North Concho River 20 miles above present-day San Angelo. They crossed the Middle Concho and followed it west to the Llano Estacado, crossed New Mexico and proceeded to Denver. With this drive, the Goodnight-Loving Trail was born.

Goodnight and Loving used this trail several times before Loving was mortally wounded in an Indian attack in New Mexico in September 1869. Just before he died, Loving made Goodnight promise to see that he was buried in his home cemetery in Weatherford. Loving's remains were temporarily interred in New Mexico while Goodnight and his outfit completed the drive. Returning to New Mexico, Goodnight had his cowboys flatten out all the old oil cans they could find and solder them together to make a tin casket. Loving's remains were placed into a wooden coffin, which was then put inside the tin casket. Powdered charcoal was packed between the two containers, and metal lid was sealed, and whole contraption was crated and transported to Weatherford for burial. Loving's grave in Weatherford's Greenwood Cemetery has a Texas state historical marker.

It was always understood by pioneer cattlemen that they would strike the Chisholm Trail when they crossed Red River at Red River Station at the mouth of Salt Creek in Montague County into the Indian Territory.

From evidence gathered from reliable sources of the Old Trail Drivers' Association designated the trail that crossed the Red River at Doans Crossing as the Western Texas-Kansas Trail. The term "trail" has been used in Texas to designate routes used by Indians, buffalo hunters, military expeditions, immigration movements and cattle drives.

Drives to northern markets began after the "rise" of grass in the spring and continued through the summer. During the peak of the season many herds where on the trail at the same time, sometimes only a few miles apart. A herd of 2500 to 3000 was considered the most favorable size for long drives. Smaller herd required about the same crew and overhead expense larger herds faced problems of watering facilities, grass along the trail and general unwieldiness in handling. Daily travel distances were gauged by grass and water, the object being to fatten cattle en route.

Trail drivers were cowboys who moved cattle from a home range to a distant market or another range. A typical trail driving outfit consisted of a boss, who might or might not be the owner from 10 to 15 hands, each of whom had a string of from 5 to 10 horses a horse wrangler (remudero), who drove and herded the cow horses and a cook , who drove the chuck wagon. A "hoodlum" wagon carried the bedrolls. During the day the men drove and grazed the cattle and at night herded them by relays. Ten or 12 miles was considered a good day's drive. Typical meals consisted of bread, meat, beans with bacon and coffee. The wage was around $40.00 a month.

The first among the cow hands to arrive at Doans (established in 1878) each spring were the trail cutters, men who represented the big cattle interest and who were ready to begin cutting out the strays from the big herds. Some of the trail cutters were J. K> Payne, official county trail inspector Bob Munson, who was taken away by the Texas Rangers and never returned to Doans, and George Briggs of Granite, Oklahoma. The coming of the trail cutters was anticipated with much pleasure by the belles of Doans and Vernon, it meant the social activities would be stimulated. The men would remain as long as possible at Doans before returning to the ranches 'down below'.

The coming of the herds meant a time of business activity at Vernon and Doans. It might be likened to a good cotton fall. Here the herds were outfitted for their long trail to the north and 'sow bosom, Stetson hats, ammunition and provisions were sold in carload lots. C. F. Doan & Company hand two stores, one at Doans and one at Vernon, and each employed seven men. Wood & Son at Vernon did a thriving business. This was in the 1880's. Supplies were purchased at Denison, Sherman, Gainesville and later Wichita Falls, and were freighted in.

John Lytle, who with a cousin operated one of the most outstanding trailing firms in Texas, and his secretary would spend a month each year at Doans outfitting his herds and everything would be shipshape when they crossed Red River. Furnaces and corrals were erected at Doans for branding purposed, and other herds where outfitted there.

Taylor Creager, who came as a settler in 1888, first went through with a herd of cattle in 1885 on his way to Mobeetie. His herd was watered on Paradise Creek south of Vernon while the men got water and supplies at Condon Springs (the present-day site of Hillcrest County Club). The cowboys had to get off their horses and wade out in the river to drive the cattle off sand bars to cross Pease River.

S. L. Mallow, who became a frontier cowboy when he was a 12 year old boy, "went up the trail" with a big herd through Vernon and Doans several years before coming back in 1886 to settle in this county.

Pease Flats would sometimes be covered with cattle for miles if the river was too high for the cattle to ford. Walter Lorance, who for many years was chief horse wrangler for Waggoner Ranch, once noted that in early days thousands of cattle were gathered on the prairies around Harrold waiting for shipment to market when that was the terminal of the Fort Worth and Denver Railway.

First Hand Account of What it was Like to Go On a Traildrive

The following first hand account of what it was like to go on a trail drive came from an interview in Waco with an elderly gentleman in a retirement home in 1932. "A herd of 1000 cattle, three and four years of age, and 2000 four and five year old beeves were gathered to fill a million pound beef contract set for delivery on Blackfoot Indian Reservation in the northwest corner of Montana, nearly 3000 miles distant. The five month drive averaged 15 miles a day under the leadership of foreman Jim Flood, boss foreman for Don Lovell, cowman and drover.

"The herd crossed at Doans, the crossing which had been in use but a few years at that time. A new ferry had been established for wagons.

"Red River, this boundary river on the northern border of Texas, was a terror to trail drivers. The majestic grandeur of the river was apparent on every hand, with its red bluff banks, the sediment of its red waters marking the timber along its course, while the driftwood, lodged in trees and high on the banks, indicated what might be expected when she became sportive or angry. The crossing had been in use only a year or two when we forded, yet five graves, one of which was less than ten days made, attested her disregard for human life. It can safely be asserted that at this and lower trail crossings on Red River, the lives of more trail men were lost by drowning than on all other rivers together." The country (in No-Man's Land across Red River) was as primitive as in the first day of its creation. The trail led up a divide between the Salt and North forks of Red River. To the eastward of the latter stream lay the reservation of the Apaches, Kiowa's and Comanche's.

"Antelope came up in bands.. while old solitary buffalo bulls turned tail and lumbered away to points of safety. Very few herds had ever passed over this route, but buffalo trails leading downstream, deep worn by generations of travel, were to seen by hundreds on every hand."

"Father anticipated a mighty upturn in the cattle business when he learned about the railroads extending Westward. Basing his action on the well founded conclusions, he devoted his efforts to creating a large herd. "We moved to McCellan co., for the purpose of securing a more suitable ranges. We located on the Brazos River, where we operated for two years and then moved to Coryell county on the Colorado River, just south of Gatesville. "It is obvious to anyone, that with the range being open, it was impossible for a person to indentify any particular unbranded critter as belonging to him. Because of this fact, there took form a sort of gentlemens agreement to govern the branding of the Marvicks and the only logical rule, it was that a rancher had the priviledge of branding the unbranded cattle which were found with his critters or grazing on the range under his control.

Many individuals started a herd by the simple process of locating a watering place, adopting a brand and then going out on the range to hunt and brand Mavericks. "When we moved to McCellan co., father had a few cattle maybe 500. We branded all the Mavericks we could find in our section with our 'AG' brand. I, at the time, was about 11 years old and large enough to help ride the range. Father hired two hands, with whom I worked and all we did was to gather and brand mavericks.

"When we moved to Coryell co., we had a herd 1500 cattle. In Coryell co., we continued thur process of branding all stock in our section, and with the natural increas, our herd soon numbered up to better than 5000.

"Our camp, at first, we consisted of tents for shelter, which we used when inclement weather existed. When the weather was element, we slept outside. Blankets were kept in the area of the chuck wagon and when nights were chilly, we would roll in a cover, otherwise, we did not.

"Our food was coarse, but whole-some. It consisted principally of beef, beans, both corn and wheat brand and dried fruit. We also, generally managed to have some canned vegetables. Black coffee was supplied in large quanities as was necessary to satisfy the appetite of our waddies and they drank a large amount of the breverage.

"The cook was good camp cook and was especially good at cooking meat and beans. He varied the manner of cooking the beef and beans, so the two foods did not become tiresome. "Living as we did in the open, our appetite was always good.One would arise each morning with an excellent appetite and would relish the broiled steak, sour-dough bread, sop, lick and black coffee. "Sickness was a rare condition among we waddies, and we were always able to stay on the job to do what was necessary, even if it was two or three days and nights without rest, which happened occasionally.

"While the range was open and the cattle grazed where their desires lead the herd, we rode the range constantly during the day keeping the cattle bunched and more of less to our range section. After the herd bedded down at night we left just one rider one duty at a time to keep watch, unless inclement weather was existing or threatening.

Thunder and Lightning Meant Stampedes

"It was necessary to keep several riders on duty when inclement weather was apparent, because in the event a storm set in the herd would tend to drift and during severe weather, would drift fast and far, unless held back. Then when thunder and lightening were persisting, there always was danger of a stampede starting, with its resulting loss, unless the riders were on hand to hold the run down to the miminum.

"I have experienced periods of two and three days and nights when our entire crew, of six to eight riders, was on duty the whole time without any rest. During the winter was the period of the year when inclement and threating weather would presist for several successive days, at Occasionally, during the winter, a presisting sleet and rain storm, accompainied with cold, would set in. Such weather was the hardest kind of weather to work in and, also, required the most work, because the cattle would insist on drifting with the storm. Just before a storm would arrive, it was the cattle's instinct which enabled the animal to realize a storm was on its way and would want to drift to shelter. The only shelter was the gullys, wood brake ot hills.

"During the years when cattle roamed the open range, there were a few winter storms when thousands of cattle perished from exposure. My memory does not serve me well as it did in the farmer days, but I think it was during the late 80s, thousands of cattle perished on the range. The storm started with rain, turned to sleet and then turned to snow with low temperature. The inclement weather continued for a week or more. During the storm, a large number of the weaker cattle perished from exposure to the cold. Then, when the storm subsided the ground was coated with ice, and snow, covering the grass which prevented grazing. This condition resulted in many more cattle perishing from starvation.

"Many ranchers were ruined by reasons of their cattle loss during the siege of weather. One could travel over the range for miles and never be out of sight of dead animals. "Father's loss was about 50 percent, but he was able to meet the disaster. He even withstood the attack by heel-flies on the cattle which followed the coming of mild weather.

"The heel-fly is so named because it attacks the cattle in the heel. Evidently, the fly has a painful sting, because when one of the flies hits an animal, the critter will throw its tail in the air, let out a snort and start running for a bog or a water-hole. "The heel-fly is very wearing to the stock and continued attacks from swarms of the flies, will prevent grazing and keep the cattle standing in water or a bog, where they can keep their heels submerged. The cattle will lose wight and finally die. During the heel-fly acreage the cattle crowded the bogs and river in the locality. We were kept busy pulling critters out of bogs, but the animals would go back the second a fly hit it. Many of the cattle became so weak that they become mired and died, before we could get to the animal and pull it out of the mierer. We were faced with a herculean task which was beyoud our ability to perform completly. We worked, both horses and men, to exhaustion dragging mired critters out of bogs.

Our method of dragging out a mired critter was to put a loop around its horns and with the rope tied to the horn of the saddle the horse would pull the animal out.

"Our next most dreaded difficulty which we were compelled to encounter was the stampedes. You may attempt to picture in your mind what a stampede of several thousand longhorn cattle is like, but one can't visualize the actual scene. I shall attempt to draw a mental picture of what the old rawhide viewed and contended with during a cattle run.

"Of course, during a storm we were expecting a possible run and were on the watch for it, but during clement weather a stampede is not looked for unless something scares the cattle. Many things can scare a herd. For instance, a wolf which runs into a herd to pull down a calf or something that may startle just one animal the fear caused to the one animal will spread through the whole herd instantly. While a herd is on their own ground it is not so easily scared, but when bedded off their home range, for instance, when on a drive, the herd is prone to stampede over triffles. These conditions, mentioned, are what we had to be on guard against at all times.

"The herd may be bedded and arise instantly. Looking at a herd arising, appears as if the earth is heaving up with an accompanying roar, a swish like sound, and the clashing of horns. While the cattle are running, the pounding to their feet on the earth sounds as the roll of many muffled drums. The clashing of the horns given off a sound similar that many muffled cymbols. The two sounds is quite a symphony, but broken by the discordance yell of the waddies trying to divert the hreds attention and put and put the animals to milling. "What I mean by milling is to start the cattle to running in a circle, instead of straight away. If the herd was not scared too badly and not running too fast, the critters will follow their leaders. Our job was to force the leading critters from their straight course. That was performed by riding at the side and to the front of the leading animals and crowding the critters. "Most of the time we could accomplish our purpose in stopping a run, but occasionally we would fail. If we failed the cattle would be scattered hither and yon'.

"Of course, while on the home range, a scattered herd was not so disasterous, because we could eventually gather the cattle and those which we could not locate at the time, we would find during the following roundup. So far as the breeding stock was concerned, we were not so much concerned about those becoming scattered, but it was the market cattle we did not want to lose track of and be delayed in their sale until after the roundup.

"Suppose it was dark and storming while a stampede was in progress, which it often was. Then imagine, if you can, riding at the head of several thousand wild, frightened and running cattle, and while riding, crowding your mount against the running cattle trying to force the aminals off their course. Suppose your horse stumbled and threw you in front of the running cattle? Of course, the result of such event is obvious. Talk about daring riders, that was one position the word daring does not express strong enough sand in your gizzard, as the cowhand use to say, expresses such riders more accurately.

"While on a drive with a herd is when a stampede was liable to cause our worse loss. Then we would be in a strange country and if any of our cattle strayed away, most likely our strays would be a permanent loss. Of course, the critters would eventually mingle some other herd, but if we, from Texas, were driving a herd in Kans., when the run took place we would not be in Kans., during the roundup to cut out our brand.

"Here in Texas, each rancher would have his cowhands working in the roundup crews and as the cattle would be gathered, the different [brands?] would be [separated?], held together and driven back to their home range.

"During the severe storm of the early 80s, cattle drifted for more than 100 miles from their home range. The cattle were scattered and mixed from one end of the range country to the other. Many ranchers didn't know whether or not he still had a herd until after the Spring roundup. "Each Spring and Fall there was held a general roundup at which all ranchers participated. working as one big crew under one boss.

"During the Spring roundup the young stock would be branded, and the young bulls castrated. and the herd counted. During the Fall roundup. the herd was counted and cattle branded which were missed during the spring. All the strays were drifted back to their home range. Those animals among the herd which we would want to market would be cut out and held separated from the other cattle. Such cattle would be herded carefully to keep the critters from straying. We were not so particular about the others.

"My father was among the first who entered the business of driving cattle from Texas, to the Northern market, when the railroad penertrated into Kansas..

"Father did not have much cash. In fact, when he made his first trip, he had just about enough cash to pay traveling expenses, and no wages. He cut out all the critters in our herd which were ready for the market, and then gathered small bunches of cattle from small ranchers to make up a herd of 3500 head. "Those cattle gathered from other ranchers were not for at the time we gathered the animals, but driven to the market and sold, and then paid for. No note or other evidence of debt was given by father to any of the ranchers for whom he took cattle to market. When he returned, he paid each person the money due, less their share of the expense incurred making the drive and a precentage.

"We used a crew of from 12 to 14 men to handle a herd of 3500 cattle. I made two drives as a member of the driving crew. I worked as one of the pointers. A pointer is a term applied to the rider who rides at the side of the herd keeping the animals together and headed in the proper direction. "After we had gathered the herd to be driven, we would make an early start in the morning and drive the herd at a fast walking gait all day. The purpose for[making a hard drive the first day, was to be far away from the home bedding ground as possible the first night. If a herd would be near their home ground when bedding time arrived, they would give us considerable trouble by trying to drift back to their ususal bedding ground.

. "With each days drive, the critters would become accustomed to the drive and the work of handling the herd would, likewise, become easier. After the first day we would allow the animals to take their own time and graze, but we keep the herd headed up the trail always. The pointers would allow the animals to spread out a distance of about a mile. Thus each critter would have a chance to get grass. If we would want to move the herd faster than their grazing gait, we would tighten up. That is to say, reduce the spread and urge the animals forward. Often we would want to make some certain point for bedding or reach a watering hole and would have to force drive. "A herd of cattle will travel about 12 miles a day and graze the while, but the distance a herd would travel, as the crow flys, would average about seven miles.

"We followed the Chisholm Trail out of Coryell co., going through Hill, Johnson. Tarrant, Wise, Montigue and Clay Counties. Thence West to Doan's Crossing of the Red River and into the Territory (now Okla.,). The trail was a general course Northward. We followed where the grazing and water was sufficent. "From many directions in Texas, cattle were trailed to Doan's crossing and during the hight of cattle driving, one could see herds fording the Red River most any time of the day.

"While driving a herd it was necessary to maintain constant watch over the herd at night. We worked four night riders and the four riders worked four hour shifts and then would be releaved by another crew of four. Of course, the remainder of the crew were close at hand and could be called to duty in a few minutes. We all slept with most of our cloth on, scattered around the chuck wagon and if called to ride, all we had to do was to pull on our boots and grab our hat, in the event anything happened needing our help.

"Stampedes were the thing we dreaded, therefore, the night rider not only watched the critters, but kept watch for anything which may approach the herd and scare it. Any unsual noise or object may scare one or two animals and their fright is taken up by the rest of the herd quickly. Because of that fact, every precaution was excersized to not disturb the cattle.

"We always prayed and trusted for good weather while on trail drive. When a strom was approaching we were always set for anything and looked for tho worst to happen with the herd.

"When a storm descends on a herd of cattle with lightening flashing and thunder clapping, the animals are going to move. [Especially so when the herd are on strange ground. A herd will drift with a strom and if lightening stricks close to a herd a stampede is most sure to follow. During a strom, at night, is the worst time for a stampede to accure.

"One must expect stampedes with cattle on a drive. We had to contend with stampedes [frequently?], on the two drives I made. We handled the runs successfully with the exception of two. I shall explain what we experienced one night while in the Territory.

"The weather was one of those real Territory busters , which contain all the elements: wind, rain, lightening, and thunder.

"At the start of the storm, the herd was fretful, but we were holding it successfully, until a clap of thunder hit in the center of the cattle. That thunder seemed to split and start the herd running in several directions form the point of the hit. The herd did not act, as a running herd usually did which is all run in the same direction, but it divided into several directions. "Of course, it being dark, we could not see except when the lightening flashed, but the cows was riding trying to keep the animals together. We knew it was impossible to stop the run until the cattle became run down or the storm stopped. "The storm stopped after an hour's time and we put what critters were left to milling, but we had only half of the herd. The rest were scattered to' the four winds'. which properly expresses the condition.

"We spent four days attempting to gather our herd, but were compelled to be satisfied with about [?] of the cattle. Some of the ranchers in the Territory had a few cattle added to their herd. This incident took place before the Cattlemen's Association was organized. and had extended its influence beyond Texas. "The barganing of the present Cattlemens's Association was organized in 1877. and the organization soon established rule whereby strays picked up by others would be sold and the owner paid the salo money through the Association.

"After the Cattlemen's Association became organized, about the only loss the drovers suffered from straying animals would be when the cattle fell into the hands of rustlers. The rustlers would blot the brand, and by several methods change the brands. However, a large number of those cattle were intercepted, by the Association's inspectors, at the markets and thousand of dollars were saved for the ranchers by the inspectors.

"When a drover or rancher lost cattle, the fact was reported to the Association's inspection department. If the critters were offered for sale at any of the markets containing the reported brands or brands which showed evidence of being tampered with, the seller would be compelled to give satisfactory account of how he came into possession of the cattle in question. If the party failed to produce the necessary facts, the cattle were sold and the money paid to the rightful owner, less expense.

"Rustling became a well organized business in many sections of the range country. Coryell co., and its vicinity, was one of the localities where a tolerable lot of rustler trouble existed. "The condition became so bad that the ranchers were forced to organized and deal with the situation directly. Committees were organized to handle the rustlers. Those committees would notify a rustler to leave the community. If the party failed to heed the demand, then the committee would catch the accused and hold a trail.

The trials were under a kangraoo court arrangement. One member of the committee would act as the judge, another the prosecutor. The evidence for and against would be heard. The verdict would be rendered according to the majority vote of the committee. Many were sentenced to be hanged and the hanging would take place on the spot. Some of the accused were turned loose with a warning and given another chance.

"The actions of the committees in Coryell co., had a wholesome effect on the rustlers and their depredations were checked considerably.

"At the age of 17, I entered Baylor university at Waco and spent two years at Baylor and then engaged in teaching school in the rual districts for a period of two years. Following my period of teaching. I again entered the cattle business. I returned to Coryell co., and took charge of my father's ranch and continued in the business until the panic of 1893.

"At the time I returned to ranching, which was in 1876, the T.P. railroad had entered Fort Worth, then our market for cattle was Fort Worth.

"About this time conditions changed rapidly, due to fencing and settlers taking up land for cultivation. The large ranchers moved farther West and the small rancher fenced his range. By the Panic of 1893, the open range virtually disappeared and cattle drives became a thing of the past!


The cattle drive era was a unique period in American history, but it did not last long. The days of the long drives were coming to an end by the 1890s. The railroads continued to build lines further west into Kansas and eventually lines were built to Ft. Worth, shrinking the drives from South Texas significantly. Also, Texas cattle carried ticks which in turn carried a disease called Texas Fever that destroyed large herds of cattle. As settlers moved west, they planted crops around which the cowboys had to take their cattle herds. Barbed wire was a major factor in ending the long cattle drives. By 1881 there were 1229 United States government patents for wire. Also, the invention of the refrigerated car by Gustavus Swift led to the decline of the long drive. But the major blizzards that stuck the midwest in the 1880's killing millions of cows in the feeder lots was the final blow to perhaps the most colorful period in western history.


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Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving: Cattle Kings

Sometimes in life people meet then go their separate ways, never to hear from each other again. Then there are times when a meeting between two people seems both destined and inevitable. When Charlies Gooodnight and Oliver Loving first met, they must have instinctively known that their friendship was both inevitable and destined to change the American West forever.

Goodnight and Loving both followed the path of typical Cattle Barons, or Cattle Kings, in the 1800s--they started out as cowboys, gradually learned business skills, and with a tremendous amount of hard work and an equal amount of luck they made themselves rich. Most of the Cattle Kings were Texas cowboys, former soldiers of the Texas Revolution, or ancestors of the first wave of Texas settlers led by Stephen F. Austin, though there were also Cattle Kings in Wyoming, Montana, and other states. Many of the Texas Cattle Kings came from back east, the "Gone to Texas" group who, like my own Texas ancestors, wanted a fresh start in a new country. (Remember, Texas was a country for 10 years, separate from both the US and Mexico, prior to the American Civil War.) This last group of people were known as GTTs, referring to the signs they left on their doors, signs that said simply "Gone to Texas."

When Horace Greeley made the legendary command to "Go West, young man," he may have had Manifest Destiny in mind, but most of the young men who followed his advice were less concerned with conquering the West and more concerned with making money, either by panning for gold or starting a business. The dream of the cowboy was to make his money with cattle. Unlike gold mining, the cattle business was more than a dream, it was an achievable goal. By 1885 the cattle business was the most profitable line of business in the Old West. Cattle fed the miners, the businessmen, the soldiers, and the people back East who once preferred pork, but found they were much happier with steaks on their plates.

Charles Goodnight (1836-1929) and his family were from the "Gone to Texas" group. Goodnight's father died when Charles was five and his mother remarried their neighbor, Hiram Daugherty. According to the Texas State Historical Association, young Charles Goodnight took great pride in the fact that he was born the same year the Republic of Texas was formed and arrived in Texas the same year Texas became part of the United States. In 1845, Goodnight and his family traveled 800 miles from his birthplace in Macoupin County, Illinois to central Texas with Charles riding bareback on a mare named Blaze. He wanted to teach himself how to be a cowboy. This was his childhood dream, and he may have had a sore bottom by the time they reached their destination near Nashville-on-the-Brazos, but one thing is certain, Charles learned how to ride like a cowboy. He also learned how to hunt and track as they made their way south.

In 1853, when his mother was widowed a second time, she married a Methodist preacher, Rev. Adam Sheek. Charles and his stepbrother, John Wesley Sheek, were close friends. When Charles was twenty, Charles and John made plans to leave the family ranch and explore California, possibly seeking gold. Instead, they made a deal with the neighboring CV Ranch to care for 430 cattle, a decision that would change Goodnight's life forever.

The CV Ranch was owned by Sheek's brother-in-law, Charles Varney. The arrangement was that the two young men could keep every fourth calf born to the herd as payment for their services. Goodnight and Sheek were dedicated to learning the cattle ranching business and apparently quite savvy about their work. In four years they had accumulated 180 head of cattle for their own herd. In 1857 they moved their heard to Palo Pinto County where they also built a log cabin for their aging parents. They remained a close family throughout their lifetimes, caring for each other as best they could.

Unfortunately, like all young men in the south, when their home state of Texas seceded from the Union, Goodnight and Sheek were forced to abandon their cattle and join the Confederate Army. Most of the ranchers made certain their cattle were carefully branded then set them free to roam the wilderness until they returned from the war.

Goodnight chose to serve with the Texas Rangers protecting homes and ranches from attacks by the Kiowa and Comanche. He was admired for his tracking skills and asked to assist in tracking down the location of Cynthia Ann Parker, who was captured by Comanche when she was ten. By the time she was recaptured 25 years later she was married to a Comanche warrior and had a family, and remembered nothing about her previous life. She was separated from her husband and son, the famous Comanche leader Quanah Parker. When Cynthia's infant daughter, Topsannah, died, Cynthia refused to eat and soon after died of a broken heart. Although I can understand her birth family's desire to have her returned, I can only imagine the pain and suffering she endured losing her husband, her baby daughter, and separated forever from her sons. The John Wayne movie The Seekers is loosely based on her story, as are many other Hollywood Westerns. Her son, Quanah Parker became an important leader to his people, one of the last warriors to surrender to reservation life.

When the war ended and Goodnight and Sheek, the two brothers, returned to collect their cattle, they were surprised to learn that their herd had grown to 5000 head. They purchased the remaining herd at the CV Ranch, gathered in a few strays, and in a short time had a herd of 8000. In spite of their great success, John Wesley Sheek's heart was not set on becoming a cowboy like his stepbrother. He wanted to become a family man. When he married, Charles Goodnight took over the herd. It was a huge responsibility, but one that Charles had been preparing for his entire life.

Unfortunately, Goodnight's situation was not unique. All Texans who returned from the war found their herds had increased in size and the market was soon glutted with cattle. Goodnight knew he would have to try a different approach than the other ranchers and decided to head northwest toward the soldiers in Colorado to ensure a higher profit. In 1866 he teamed up with his neighbor, the more experienced Oliver Loving whom he had met years earlier when he first moved to the area, and the two formed their legendary friendship.

Oliver Loving (1812-1867) was also from the "Gone to Texas" group. Loving was born and raised in Kentucky. In 1833, Loving married his childhood sweetheart, Susan Doggett Morgan, and started a family. Ten years and four children later the Lovings posted the legendary "Gone to Texas" sign on their door and left Kentucky forever along with Loving's brother, brother-in-law, and their families. Loving, however, originally chose the life of a farmer and gradually expanded his ranch in Palo Pinto County to include over 1000 acres. He also ran the general store near Keechi Creek, and his family grew with five more children born in Texas.

At some point through the years Loving started to raise cattle and accumulated a herd equal to the size of Charles Goodnight's. Like Goodnight, Loving was also a wise businessman and recognized that the greatest profits could be made by taking his cattle north. In 1857 he sent his 19-year-old son, William, on a cattle drive to Illinois by way of the Shawnee Trail.

The success of this first drive encouraged Loving to repeat the process, but the second time he chose to join his cattle with those of his neighbor, John Durkee. This drive was as profitable as the first, so he tried it a third time. Three years later, on August 19, 1860, Loving and another neighbor, John Durham, left Texas with 1500 cattle to feed the gold miners in the fledgling City of Denver. They moved their herd across the Red River then followed the Arkansas to Pueblo, Colorado where they decided to spend the winter. In the spring they sold the cattle for gold, and Loving started back through New Mexico to return to Texas. In a few short years Loving had established a reputation as an honest, expert cattleman.

By the time he started for home the Civil War had started and Loving was detained in Fort Sumner, New Mexico by Union forces. He turned to his friends, Colonel Kit Carson and wealthy landowner Lucien Maxwell, to convince the Union officers to set Loving free. Lucien Maxwell was the father of Pete Maxwell, friend of Billy the Kid and owner of the ranch where the Kid was shot. At one time, Lucien Maxwell--a former fur trapper who had traveled with explorer John C. Freemont--through inheritance and deeds, was the largest private landowner in the world with a total of 1,714,765 acres in New Mexico and Colorado. This made him a very powerful man and the Union soldiers were eager to cooperate.

The Union soldiers agreed to release Loving, and you can imagine their frustration when Loving returned to Texas and was commissioned to deliver cattle to the Confederate troops! This commission did not pay well in the end. When the war was over, and the Confederate Army disbanded, they still owed Loving between $150,000 and $200,000, which was a lot of money in the days of the Old West.

Loving knew he had to act fast to repair his finances as he still had a large family to support. This is when he formed the bond with the young Charles Goodnight who he had hired once before to run cattle through Kansas to the Colorado miners. There was a chemistry between these two men, an immediate understanding that they had equal intelligence and skill as ranchers and cowboys, and they quickly agreed to become partners. In 1866, Charles Goodnight created his famous invention, the Chuckwagon, and the two men started northwest with 2000 cattle, heading back to Fort Sumner where soldiers were guarding 400 Mescalero Apache and 8000 Navajo following the January 1864 Long Walks to the Bosque Redondo. Both the soldiers and their captives were desperate for food.

Goodnight and Loving moved their cattle through dangerous territory as the Texas Panhandle was still heavily populated with bandits from Mexico, Apache, and Comanche. Goodnight, however, was familiar with dealing with the Apache and Comanche and realized it was wiser to offer them cattle in exchange for safe passage rather than fight a senseless and potentially costly battle. The men soon arrived safely with their herd in Fort Sumner, New Mexico where they sold most of the herd to the United States Army for $12,000. Oliver Loving moved the remaining cattle to Denver, and their path through New Mexico and Colorado became the legendary Goodnight/Loving trail.

In addition to their great success the two men also gained tremendous respect for each other. They trusted each other and were close friends. While Loving was in Denver, Goodnight returned to Weatherford, Texas with the gold from the Fort Sumner sale, gathered a second herd, and met up with Loving in New Mexico. The men decided to start a base camp ranch in the Bosque Grande where they could supply cattle to Fort Sumner and the City of Santa Fe through the winter months.

When spring arrived in 1867, Loving and Goodnight decided it was time to leave their base camp for another cattle drive to Colorado. They returned to Texas for more cattle, but the herd was moving slow due to bad weather and muddy, mucky trails. Loving made the fateful decision to ride west with their scout, Bill Wilson, in order to secure the government contracts before Goodnight arrived with the cattle. This was actually a wise business move. By this time, other cattle barons realized how Goodnight and Loving were making their money and Loving knew that he had to act fast to secure a written agreement before Goodnight arrived with the cattle or the value of their herd could drop considerably.

As a former scout for the Texas Rangers, Charles Goodnight realized the dangers that lay ahead and asked his friend to promise that he absolutely would not travel during daylight hours. Although Loving initially agreed to this request, he felt pressured to make the deal as soon as possible, so Loving and Wilson rode swiftly through the sagebrush and cactus, day and night, while at the same time watching for potential threats. Unfortunately Loving's luck ran out, and the two men encountered a party of Comanche.

Loving was shot in the arm and side. He fought valiantly, but could feel his body growing weaker. He told Wilson he would cover the man's escape and sent Wilson back to Goodnight for help. Somehow, Loving not only survived out in the desert alone, but he also managed to evade the Comanche for three days and nights. When he sensed that they had moved on, possibly assuming he was dead, he started crawling for the trail. He met a group of Mexican traders who lifted him up into their wagon and took him in to Fort Sumner. Goodnight arrived soon after, but Loving was already dying from gangrene. As he stood by his bedside, Goodnight agreed to fulfill his friend's dying wish and return Loving's body to his family in Texas for burial--not an easy task in the days of the Old West.

Oliver Loving was temporarily buried at Fort Sumner. Goodnight and the rest of the cowboys on the drive built a casket of tin cans to surround Loving's wooden casket then covered Loving’s body with charcoal. Then Goodnight moved the herd into Colorado for sale to the soldiers. He returned with the gold and exhumed Loving's body. Loving was escorted back to Weatherford, Texas and buried with Masonic honors in the Greenwood Cemetery on March 4, 1868. Charles Goodnight divided the profits from the cattle drive with the Loving family. In 1958, Oliver Loving was inducted into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City. Loving County, Texas and Loving, New Mexico are named in his honor.

Charles Goodnight had lost a dear friend, but he did not lose his stubborn drive and determination. In 1870 he built the Rock Canon Ranch five miles west of Pueblo, Colorado, an area he had been observing for some time as he moved his cattle to Denver. Goodnight then married his long-time sweetheart, the beautiful Weatherford, Texas schoolteacher Mary Ann Dyer. The couple lived in Rock Canon for six years. Goodnight continued herding cattle with another Cattle King legend, John Chisum, and also sold apples the large orchard on the ranch. The Goodnights had no children, but decided to adopt the son of their long-time housekeeper. His name was Cleo Hubbard and he would later inherit much of the Goodnight fortune.

Soon, Charles Goodnight was one of the wealthiest cattle ranchers in Colorado and considered one of the legendary Cattle Kings. In spite of his great success, Goodnight continued to pay an exorbitant amount of interest on bank loans for his business deals, which irritated him for obvious reasons, so he co-founded the Stock Growers Bank of Pueblo. He invested in many other business ventures in the area, including an Opera House and meat packing plant. He founded Colorado's first Stock Grower's Association. Then, in 1873, the economy collapsed, and Goodnight lost most of his savings in the ensuing panic.

Goodnight was not the only man in the American Old West to find himself a king one day and poor the next, but he still had his cattle herd, his apple orchard, and his unwavering determination. In 1876, he decided to move his cattle to the Texas Panhandle where he was told by Mexican traders there was an oasis in the desert, a strip of land in a canyon that was filled with trees and had a river running through the middle. He found this oasis in Palo Duro Canyon and decided he would make the land his own and start over. He negotiated deals with the bandits, Apache, and Comanche to allow his herds to pass safely through the panhandle in exchange for cattle. Then he used his expert negotiating skills to secure foreign financing from Irish entrepreneurs John and Cornelia Adair.

His shrewd land investments made his second cattle venture even more successful than his Pueblo adventure. His herd grew to 100,000 and his ranch became a community of 50 houses. The community was named Goodnight, of course. Goodnight experimented with breeding bison and Angus cattle on his ranch, which he called “cattalo,” and raised elk and antelope on the land. A recent genetic report suggests that some of the cattle on Catalina Island of the coast of California were from Charles Goodnight's original experimental herd of cattalo, part cattle and part buffalo. In 1880, he organized the Panhandle Stock Association and served as its first president.

When Mary Ann Goodnight died in 1926, Charles became deathly sick, but he soon recovered with the help of his nurse, 26-year-old Corrine Goodnight (no relation). Friends, family, and pretty much everyone who knew him was shocked when Goodnight announced he was marrying the young woman--he was obsessively dedicated to his first wife from the time they met, and Corrine was young enough to be his great granddaughter. Nevertheless, they did marry at the home of Goodnight's nephew, Henry W. Taylor, and shocked the family once more when they sold the ranch home in Palo Duro and moved to Arizona for Goodnight's health.

Goodnight lived his last days surrounded by journalists begging for interviews with the legendary cattle king. Charles Goodnight died in Phoenix, Arizona on December 12, 1929. He was buried next to his first wife, Mary Ann, in Goodnight, Texas.

Along with his friend, Oliver Loving, Charles Goodnight was one of the first five cowboys voted into Oklahoma's National Cowboy Hall of Fame when it was founded in 1958. Many of his personal belongings were donated to museums by his adopted son, Cleo Hubbard. There are several streets in the Texas Panhandle named after Charles Goodnight, along with the highway to Palo Duro Canyon State Scenic Park. The park contains an earthen shelter believed to be Goodnight's first headquarters while he built his ranch. The Goodnight ranchhouse is still standing near US Highway 287.

Although it is widely believed that the characters of Augustus McCrae and Woodrow Call in Larry McMurtry's Pulitzer Prize Winning novel Lonesome Dove are modeled after cattlemen Oliver Loving and Charles Goodnight, there is a note on the IMDb stating that McMurtry denied the connection. The note, however, is not linked to a source.

Goodnight-Loving Trail

Sometimes just called the Goodnight Trail, the cattle-driving route known throughout cowboy culture mythology as the Goodnight-Loving Trail ran from Young County, Texas, across the Pecos River, through New Mexico, and on to parts north in Colorado. Available live water dictated a trail’s particular route and the Goodnight was no different, hugging the Pecos through some of its route through Texas, a waterway that was once as dramatic in its breadth as it is diminutive today, reduced greatly by irrigation.

Although not completely established by cattlemen Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving (portions of the route, such as those that occupied the Butterfield Overland Mail route, were already being used), Goodnight and Loving forged much of the route themselves, modifying passages according to available water sources and, at one time, avoiding a toll station set up by an enterprising rascal named "Uncle Dick" Wootton, who charged 10 cents a head for passage at New Mexico’s Raton Pass. The following spring, in 1868, Goodnight opened a new segment through a different geographical pass in order to cut "Uncle Dick" out of the process.

Although Loving has certainly found his place in history, Texans have whole-heartedly embraced Charles Goodnight as icon of the 19th century cattle industry, a title Goodnight deserves for his significant and enduring contribution to the era. Not only was Goodnight a distinguished cattleman, he single-handedly rescued the genetics of our nation’s native bison herd, displaced by the very cattle that helped create Goodnight’s fortune, from extinction.

Goodnight: Charles and Mary Ann Goodnight Ranch State Historic Site

Charles Goodnight, along with business partner John Adair, established the JA Ranch, the first cattle ranch in the Texas panhandle, in 1887 in the Palo Duro Canyon area.

At the Charles and Mary Ann Goodnight Ranch State Historic Site, the 1887 Victorian-style Goodnight home is newly restored on its original site. It features a 268-foot second-floor sleeping porch with spectacular views of the countryside and the nearby bison herd, descendants of the herd raised by Charles and Mary Ann Goodnight. The J. Evetts Haley Visitor and Education Center offers exhibits about the Goodnights, bison, and transportation and settlement of the area. A Quanah Parker Trail giant arrow marker commemorates the friendship between Charles Goodnight and Quanah Parker, last Chief of the Comanche.

View slide shows:

April 2013 (dedication of visitor center)
May 2013 (dedication of the Quanah Parker Trail marker)
September 2013 (Molly Goodnight Day and dedication of visitor center)

The Chisholm Trail

Jesse Chisholm created the famous "Chisholm Trail" in 1865. Cowboys and vaqueros brought cattle up north on his trail the first time in 1866.

When Jesse Chisholm started his trail in 1865 it began near San Antonio. But by the mid-1870's, the Chisholm Trail started at the Rio Grande (that's where the border with Mexico lies) near Brownsville. It stopped in Abilene, Kansas.

On the Chisholm Trail, cowboys and vaqueros had to bring herds across the Colorado River, Brushy Creek, the Brazos River, the Trinity Ford, and the Red River. That's a lot of water, Buckaroo!

Why did it stop there? Because that's where the railroads were that could deliver them to other places in the United States. That's also where some of the people were who wanted to buy the cows.

The Chisholm Trail was used the most in 1871. But by the mid-1884, the trail wasn't being used much anymore. Why? Because railroads had been built in Texas so the cattle could be shipped from here. That meant cowboys and vaqueros no longer had to bring the cattle up north to the railroads.

This Day In History: Charles Goodnight, The Great Cattle Baron Is Born (1929)

Charles Goodnight was a legend in the old west. He was the man who helped to develop the cattle industry in Texas and he also pioneered several important cattle trails. He was born in 1836 in the State of Illinois and he moved to Texas when he was still a boy. He loved the frontier life and soon he became a skilled cowboy and frontiersman. Goodnight served as a scout and guide for the Union during the Civil War. During the Civil War, he entered the cattle business and set up a ranch in Palo Pinto County. At this time most ranchers drove their cattle to Kansas where they were shipped to the big cities in the East or north to Chicago. Goodnight was a shrewd businessman and knew that there were markets further west in New Mexico and Colorado.

Goodnight Trail marker

He decided to establish a drive to the southwest and he formed a partnership with Oliver Loving. Together they established a trail in 1866 from Texas to New Mexico. The trail became known as the Goodnight-Loving trail. They later added another trail to Colorado. The Goodnight-Loving trail became one of the best known in the Old West. It was a dangerous trail and those who traveled it, were often attacked by Indians. Goodnight&rsquos partner, Loving was killed by a band of Indians on only the third trip on the trail. Goodnight despite the dangers continued to use the trail and in a three-year period made a small fortune. However, this was not enough for Goodnight, he was an ambitious man and believed that there were more opportunities to be had.

In 1875, Goodnight blazed another cattle trail, this time from New Mexico to Colorado, even though the area was still not pacified by the US army and Native American tribes regularly attacked white settlers and cowboys. After establishing a new trail Goodnight turned his attention to a new project. In the late 1970&rsquos he increasingly focused his efforts on his new Colorado ranch. When the Colorado ranch failed, because of a drought and an economic downturn, that led to a collapse in the price of beef, Goodnight transferred his herd of cattle to the Palo Duro Canyon in the Texas Panhandle. He was not the type of man to give up and he moved to the Panhandle to make a fresh start. He persuaded an investor to help him to build up a new ranch. Soon his ranch was one of the biggest in Texas and at one time Goodnight had tens of thousands of head of cattle. In later years Goodnight became fabulously wealthy. He died at the age of 93.

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