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Published on Thursday, July 1, 2010

Charles Goodnight

Legendary Cattleman

By Matthew Pizzolato


As co-founder of the famous Goodnight-Loving cattle trail, Charles Goodnight made many significant contributions to Western history.


Although not a native Texan, he was born in 1836 in Macoupin County, Illinois, Goodnight arrived there at the age of 10 when his family relocated.

He became involved in the cattle business and in 1857 joined the Texas Rangers. When the War of Northern Aggression began, Goodnight fought for the cause of Southern Independence.

At the war's conclusion, he returned to find his cattle scattered and no market for beef in his home state of Texas.


The Goodnight-Loving Trail

He found a partner, Oliver Loving, and started West with a herd of 2,000 head of cattle from Fort Belknap in Texas to Fort Sumner, New Mexico.

The two men sold some of their cattle for a net profit of about $12,000. Goodnight returned to Texas for another herd and Loving drove the remaining cattle north to Denver.

The trail carved out by Loving and Goodnight became one of the most heavily traveled in the Southwest. The course it covered ran southwest from Young County, Texas around the southern tip of the Llano Estacada to connect with the Pecos River, up the river valley to Fort Sumner in New Mexico and then north to Denver, Colorado.

Goodnight Settles Down

Though he made many more cattle drives, Goodnight eventually settled down in the Palo Duro Canyon in the Texas Panhandle and founded a ranch that covered more than a million acres and ran more than 100,000 head of cattle.

He began experimenting with crossing different breeds of cattle and is credited as being the first to cross cattle and buffalo, producing the cattalo.

Goodnight is also given credit for the invention of the chuckwagon, a kitchen on wheels that followed the majority of all trail herds north.

Charles Goodnight passed away in 1929 after a very long and energetic life. The West may not have been settled as quickly as it was without him.

Works cited:

  1. New Perspectives on the West
  2. Legends of America

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