Cattle pioneer Charles Goodnight dies - HISTORY
Year
1929

Cattle pioneer Charles Goodnight dies

Charles Goodnight, co-founder of one of the most important southwestern cattle-drive trails, dies on this day. He was 93 years old.

Born in Illinois in 1836, Goodnight came to Texas with his family when he was nine years old, and he thrived in the rugged frontier environment. His skill as a frontiersman and scout won him a position as a regimental guide during the Civil War, and Goodnight became confident that he could blaze a trail across any landscape, no matter how rugged or desolate. By the time the war ended, Goodnight had also built up a herd of cattle on his ranch in Palo Pinto County, Texas, and he decided to combine his interest in ranching with his ability as a trailblazer. At the time, most Texas ranchers drove their herds north to the railheads in the cattle-towns of Kansas for shipment to the East, but Goodnight was convinced that he could make a better profit if he could find a path to drive his cattle to the growing beef markets in New Mexico and Colorado.

While buying provisions for his proposed drive, Goodnight met Oliver Loving, a cattleman who was already renowned for his frontier and livestock skills. Loving agreed that Goodnight’s idea was solid and the two men became partners. In 1866, they blazed a 500-mile route from Fort Belknap, Texas, to Fort Sumner, New Mexico, which became known as the Goodnight-Loving Trail. Later extended north into Colorado, the Goodnight-Loving Trail became one of the most heavily used cattle trails in the Southwest. Though well utilized, it was a risky ride, since it passed through lands still dominated by small bands of hostile Indians. Loving was killed by Indians while planning a third trip on the trail, but Goodnight continued to use the route for three more years and in 1871 cleared a profit of $17,000.

In 1875, Goodnight blazed another cattle trail, this time from New Mexico to Colorado. But he had grown tired of the long and dangerous trail drives and increasingly focused his efforts on his new Colorado ranch. When the Colorado ranch failed, Goodnight transferred the remnants of his herd to the Palo Duro Canyon in the Texas Panhandle to make a fresh start. After convincing a wealthy Irishman to invest large amounts of capital into his new operation, Goodnight succeeded in building his new JA Ranch into one of the major Texas ranches of the day, eventually running more than 100,000 cattle and returning excellent profits. By the time he died, Goodnight had transformed himself from an intrepid trailblazer and cattle driver into one of the great cattle barons of the American West.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Mona Lisa recovered in Florence

Two years after it was stolen from the Louvre Museum in Paris, Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece The Mona Lisa is recovered inside Italian waiter Vincenzo Peruggia’s hotel room in Florence. Peruggia had previously worked at the Louvre and had participated in the heist with a group ...read more

USS Panay sunk by Japanese

During the battle for Nanking in the Sino-Japanese War, the U.S. gunboat Panay is attacked and sunk by Japanese warplanes in Chinese waters. The American vessel, neutral in the Chinese-Japanese conflict, was escorting U.S. evacuees and three Standard Oil barges away from Nanking, ...read more

Father Flanagan establishes Boys Town

In Omaha, Nebraska, Father Edward J. Flanagan, a 31-year-old Irish priest, opens the doors to a home for troubled and neglected children, and six boys enter to seek a better life. Flanagan, who previously ran the Workingmen’s Hotel, a haven for down-and-out workers in Omaha, ...read more

GM announces phase-out of Oldsmobile

On this day in 2000, General Motors declares that it will begin to phase out the 103-year-old Oldsmobile, the oldest automotive brand in the United States. Oldsmobile had once been one of the most venerable and innovative American brands–Olds cars were the first to have ...read more

Da Vinci notebook sells for over 5 million

On this day in 1980, American oil tycoon Armand Hammer pays $5,126,000 at auction for a notebook containing writings by the legendary artist Leonardo da Vinci.The manuscript, written around 1508, was one of some 30 similar books da Vinci produced during his lifetime on a variety ...read more

Philippine soldiers depart South Vietnam

The Philippine Civic Action Group, a 1,350-man contingent from the Army of the Philippines, departs South Vietnam.The contingent was part of the Free World Military Forces, an effort by President Lyndon B. Johnson to enlist allies for the United States and South Vietnam. By ...read more

JFK memorial album sets record for sales

On this day in 1963, a vinyl long-playing record (“LP”) called John Fitzgerald Kennedy: A Memorial Album sets a record for album sales. A total of 4 million copies sold in the first six days of its release.The album, released on the Premier label, included recordings of some of ...read more

Flaubert is born

French novelist Gustave Flaubert, author of Madame Bovary, is born on this day in 1821 in Rouen, France.Flaubert, the son of the chief surgeon of the hospital in Rouen, France, began writing stories in his teens. In 1840, he went to Paris to study law but failed his exams. Three ...read more

French soldiers killed in train accident

More than 500 French soldiers are killed when their train derails in Modane, France, on this day in 1917. The troops were returning from fighting World War I in Italy. There was ample warning that the conditions were dangerous, but the French officers ignored the expert advice ...read more

The Queen of Mean is sentenced to the slammer

Leona Helmsley, nicknamed the “Queen of Mean” by the press, receives a four-year prison sentence, 750 hours of community service, and a $7.1 million tax fraud fine in New York. For many, Helmsley became the object of loathing and disgust when she quipped that “only the little ...read more

A young murderer is indicted

Fourteen-year-old Michael Carneal is indicted as an adult on three counts of murder and five counts of attempted murder for the shooting of his classmates at Heath High School in West Paducah, Kentucky. On December 1, Carneal pulled out a pistol and fired 11 shots into a group of ...read more

Stand Watie born

On this day in 1806, Confederate General Stand Watie is born near Rome, Georgia. Watie, a Cherokee Indian, survived the tribe’s Trail of Tears in the 1830s and became the only Native American to achieve the rank of general during the Civil War.Watie came from an influential ...read more