The famed Goodnight-Loving Trail was blazed by Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving, but before they joined forces each had a life.
Oliver Loving (1812-1867) was born in Kentucky and became a farmer. He married Susan Doggett Morgan in 1833 and together they had nine children. In 1843, he, his brother and brother-in-law along with their families moved to Texas. He acquired 640 acres of land in Collin, Dallas, and Parker counties but by 1855, he moved to Palo Pinto County. There on Keechi Creek, he ran a country store and ranched. By 1857, he owned 1,000 acres of land. In order to make money, he drove his herd of cattle out of Texas and sent his nineteen-year-old son Joseph to Illinois driving the remainder of the herd and a neighbor’s herd up the Shawnee Trail. During the war, Loving continued driving herds of cattle and selling beef to Confederate troops. Unfortunately, at war’s end, he was owed $250,000 by the Confederacy which he never collected. In 1866, he joined forces with Charlie Goodnight.
Charles Goodnight (1836-1929) was born in Illinois. He moved to Texas in 1846 with his mother and stepfather, Hiram Daugherty. At age 20, he became a cowboy and a year later, a Texas Ranger. It was Goodnight who lead a posse against the Comanche Indians and discovered Cynthia Ann Parker. He also later made a treaty with her son, Quanah Parker. Goodnight spent the Civil War in the Confederate Army guarding the Texas frontier against Indian raids. However, following the war’s end, he became involved in “making the gather”, a state- wide roundup of longhorn cattle that had roamed free during the four years of the war. He helped drive the herd northward to railroads heading east. In 1866, he met Oliver Loving and they teamed up. Together they blazed the Goodnight-Loving Trail.
It was during this first cattle drive that Goodnight invented the chuckwagon. After reaching Fort Sumner in New Mexico, they sold a portion of the herd to the army. They then split up with Loving driving the remainder of the longhorns on to Denver and Goodnight returning to Texas to secure a second herd. When they reunited in New Mexico, they formed a partnership with New Mexico cattleman John Chisum (known to Loving through a cousin) for future contracts to supply the United States Army with cattle.
It was on this third cattle drive in the spring of 1867 that Loving along with a trusted scout, Bill Wilson went ahead of the herd to conduct contract negotiations. They were attacked by Indians and Loving was seriously wounded which led to gangrene. Loving evaded Indians and with the help of Mexican traders made it to Fort Sumner. Wilson, meanwhile, made it back to the herd and upon hearing of his friend’s condition Goodnight spent the last two weeks by his bedside until he died. After taking the herd to Denver, Goodnight returned to Fort Sumner and as promised took his friend’s body back to Texas where he was buried in Weatherford, Texas.
If all of this rings a bell, it was the story borrowed by Larry McMurtry for his novel Lonesome Dove. What do you know about… Texas?