“The trace that led from Texas to Fort Sumner is generally known as the Goodnight Trail,” J. Evetts Haley wrote in his monumental biography Charles Goodnight: Cowman and Plainsman, “while that which Goodnight later blazed direct to Cheyenne is called the Goodnight and Loving Trail, though sometimes the terms are used interchangeably.”
Like with many trails, the route changed over the years, depending on water, grass and the fact that Goodnight didn’t like paying “Uncle Dick” Wootton a dime a head at Wootton’s toll station at Raton Pass on the Colorado-New Mexico border.
The trail begins in Young County, Texas, in Newcastle. Now Newcastle did not come about until the early 1900s when settlers came to work for the Merrill and Clark Strip Mining Company. Before that, however, Fort Belknap stood guard along the Brazos River. Founded in 1851, the fort bustled with activity because nearby roads—including John Butterfield’s Overland Mail route—led out in all directions.