Charles Goodnight

Charles Goodnight
Charles Goodnight

Charles Goodnight (March 5, 1836December 12, 1929) was a cattle rancher in the American West. He was born in Macoupin County, Illinois, the fourth child of Charles and Charlotte (Collier) Goodnight. He moved to Texas in 1846 with his mother and stepfather (Hiram Daugherty). In 1856, he became a cowboy, and served with the local militia fighting against the Comanche raiders. A year later, in 1857, Goodnight joined the Texas Rangers.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, he joined the Confederacy. Most of his time was spent as part of a frontier regiment guarding against raids by Indians. Following the war, he became involved in the herding of feral Texas longhorn cattle northward from West Texas to railroads. In 1866, he and Oliver Loving drove their first herd of cattle northward along what would become known as the Goodnight-Loving Trail. Goodnight invented the chuckwagon, which was first used on this cattle drive.

On July 26, 1870, Goodnight married Mary Ann (Molly) Dyer, a schoolteacher from Weatherford, Texas. Goodnight developed a practical sidesaddle for his wife to use.

In 1876, Goodnight founded what was to become the JA Ranch, in Palo Duro Canyon.

Missing image
Charles Goodnight statue outside of the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum at the West Texas A&M University campus.
In addition to raising cattle, Goodnight preserved a herd of native American Bison, which survives to this day, and also experimented with crossbreeding buffalo with domestic cattle which he called cattalo.

After his wife's death in April of 1926, Goodnight became sick, but was nursed back to health by Corinne Goodnight, a 26 year old nurse and telegraph operator from Butte, Montana, with whom Charles had been corresponding because of their shared surname.

In his last years he mined in Mexico and tried to become a movie producer. On March 5, 1927, Charles turned 91 and married the very young Corinne Goodnight. Two years later, Goodnight died on December 12th in Phoenix, Arizona.

Several streets in the Texas Panhandle are named after Goodnight. in addition to the Charles Goodnight Memorial Trail and the highway to Palo Duro Canyon State Scenic Park. Goodnight is also known for guiding Texas Rangers to the Indian camp where Cynthia Ann Parker was recaptured, and for later making a treaty with her son, Quanah Parker.


  • Charles Goodnight: Cowman and Plainsman, by J. Evetts Haley
  • Texas Ranchmen, by Dorothy Abbott McCoy
  • The New Handbook of Texas, Texas State Historical Association

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