The Goodnight-Loving Trail

“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.
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9 Responses to The Goodnight-Loving Trail

  1. Miguel says:

    If I am not mistaken, James Michener memorialized the Goodnight-Loving Trail in his book Centennial. In the miniseries of the same name, the cattle drive can be found in the episode “The Longhorns” I am no expert, but I think it is one of the best depictions of a cattle drive ever made.

  2. Grandpa says:

    This is true American – ok, actually Texas – history. And I’ll bet is not taught anywhere in this country, anymore. Sad, that.

  3. Cowpoke says:

    What a coincidence. I just watched an episode of Death Valley Days about a cattle drive on the Goodnight-Loving trail. I think I was born in the wrong century.Shoud have been a cowboy.

  4. fjord says:

    I’ve been thinking alot about trails, laterly,

    Cool info. thanks.

  5. Elmo says:

    I better get ‘Charles Goodnight: Cowman and Plainsman’. If it’s even half as good as J. Evetts Haley’s ‘The XIT Ranch of Texas’ it’ll be a great read.

    • H says:

      It’s a great read, you won’t be sorry. Haley, by the way, was himself not a man to be screwed with. He was on the UT board when he got into a fist fight with another board member during a board meeting, after which he ended up disarming the UT library of his extensive reference collection and moved it all to Midland. He was 70.

      At Goodnight’s gravesite in Goodnight, Texas there is a chain link fence around the family plot. Cowfolk tie their bandanas in the wires. It is not a bad way to be remembered, when you think about it.

      • Elmo says:

        ‘XIT’ was so good and so full of interesting history that I read it and immediately read it again. I’ve got the Goodnight book coming from eBay.

        Thanks, and thanks for the anecdotes about he and Haley. Could these men get any more interesting?

  6. Steve says:

    There are folks here in Texas that will spit in your eye if you state that the Chisholm Trail started in Texas. The Chisholm, to these folks actually starts once you cross the Red River. Because Chisholm “never” traveled in Texas….according to them.

    Steve
    (and they don’t care what the local Chamber of Commerce says)

  7. philinpueblo says:

    Goodnight had a ranch here in Pueblo for a few years. Just west of town in the river valley is the adobe barn he built. It’s one of the oldest buildings around and the object of preservation efforts recently. He’s a local historical celebrity and rightly so.

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