Charles Goodnight - Blazing the Cattle Trails
Co-founder of the
Charles Goodnight was born in Mocoupin County,
on March 5, 1836. Charles moved with his family to Waco,
in 1846 when he was ten years old. By the time he was twenty he was
working as a cowboy and served with the local militia in the many
raiders. In 1857, he joined the
Rangers, where he continued to fight in the
Indian Wars and served
Indian scout. Later, when the
began, he again served
as a scout.
After the war, Goodnight joined up with
Oliver Loving to move cattle from Fort Belknap,
in what became known as the Goodnight-Loving Trail. It was during this
time, in 1866, that Charles would invent the
chuck wagon when he rebuilt an
army surplus Studebaker wagon for more practical use on a long cattle
Unfortunately, Loving was killed by a
war party in 1867, but this did not stop Goodnight from continuing to
organize cattle drives on his own.
Though busy with his
numerous cattle drives, Goodnight married Mary Ann (Molly) Dyer, a
schoolteacher from Weatherford, Texas
on July 26, 1870. A year later, he joined up with John Chisum and
extended the trail from New Mexico
and eventually to
Charles Goodnight in later years. This image available for
photographic prints and downloads
In 1876, Goodnight
founded what was to become the JA Ranch in
Canyon. Partnering with John Adair, the ranch would wind up
encompassing nearly a million acres, where they maintained a herd of about
100,000 head of cattle, as well as preserving a herd of bison, which
continues to survive today.
In the summer of 1878
Goodnight took the first JA trail herd north to
which at the time was the nearest railhead. Blazing the Palo Duro-Dodge
City Trail, the path would quickly become well-used by a number of
Panhandle ranchers in the upcoming years. Just a few months later,
from the reservations in
Territory arrived to hunt the now-scarce buffalo, Goodnight made his
famous treaty with
Quanah Parker in which he promised two beeves every
other day if Parker and his followers would not disturb the JA herd.
In 1879 Goodnight moved
the ranch headquarters to Turkey Creek, farther east, to be closer to the
railroad. There he built new ranch, a log home for himself, and later, a
stone house for the Adairs to live in.
By 1880, the area was suffering badly from a
number of cattle rustlers, and having warned the Texas Rangers
that if they could not handle the problem, that he would, he established
the Panhandle Stockman's Association. The association, located in
immediately began to take care of the cattle rustling problem themselves,
by applying vigilante justice to the area's
and cattle thieves.
Foreseeing the end of
the open range, Goodnight ended his association with Adair and the JA
Ranch in 1889 and bought his own ranch at what would become the
village of Goodnight, Texas.
Here, he was reportedly the first Panhandle rancher to build fences of
following years, Goodnight dabbled in a number of other endeavors,
establishing the Goodnight College in Armstrong County, Texas,
as well as working as a newspaperman and banker.
Charles Goodnight made his home in what is
now Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Kathy Weiser.
This image available for
photographic prints and downloads
However, an investment in Mexican silver
mines eventually brought him financial ruin. Forced to sell his
ranch, Goodnight conveyed the property to a friend, oilman, W.J.
McAlister in 1919, with the provision that he and his wife could stay
in the home until they died. She passed before him in 1926, and Charles Goodnight
lived there until the end of that year before moving to Clarendon,
Texas. He passed away
on December 12, 1929.
JA Ranch continues to operate as an active ranch today, located within
Palo Duro Canyon, and owned by Adair descendents. There, the original buildings,
erected in 1879, are still standing, including the big stone house built
for the Adairs. Though modernized and expanded, it continues to dominate
the cluster of buildings at the ranch headquarters. The
site of Goodnight's original dug-out cabin is located within the Palo Duro
Canyon State Park and has been rebuilt by the Panhandle-Plains
The frame-house where Goodnight lived from 1889 until
1926 is still standing in the town of Goodnight, Texas and
was a private residence until 2005, when Mr. and Mrs. Brent Caviness
and Mr. and Mrs. Marsh Pitman donated the home and 30 acres of land,
along with an initial investment toward preservation, for the Charles
Goodnight Historical Center. The Charles and Mary Ann Dyer Goodnight
House is considered one of the most important historic structures in
the Texas Panhandle, and for that matter, the state of Texas.
Restoration of the house was completed in 2012 and operates as a
museum and learning center.
of America, updated April, 2017.