Trail Dust - June 6
On this day in 1866, Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving headed northwest with 2,000 head of Texas cattle, opening a new era in the American West.
George Goodnight was a prominent rancher in the Texas panhandle, and a former Texas Ranger and Confederate soldier. Following the war, he joined fellow Texans rounding up feral Texas Longhorns
As early as 1860, Oliver Loving drove 1,500 cattle to Denver, selling them for $36 a head in gold, more than $700 in today's money. The trip back to Texas hit a snag with the start of the Civil War. Union officials refused to let Loving leave until the legendary frontiersman Kit Carson interceded for him.
Upon his return, Loving was quickly commissioned to supply cattle to Confederate troops along the Mississippi River.
It was largely the relocation of thousands of Native Americans at Fort Sumner Arizona's Bosque Redondo during the Navajo's Long Walk that prompted Loving to blaze a new trail. Combining his herd with that of friend and fellow rancher Goodnight, the pair initially followed the familiar Butterfield Overland Mail route. The mail route had operated as a stage line and U.S. postal service from 1857 to 1861, carrying both mail and passengers between Memphis and St. Louis to San Francisco.
Leaving the Overland, Goodnight and Loving followed the Pecos River Valley, crossing the river periodically to graze and water the cattle.
At Fort Sumner, the U.S. Army agreed to pay 8 cents a pound for the steers but refused to buy 800 stocker cattle (lightweight calves). Goodnight returned to Texas with the $12,500 they had earned and Loving continued to Denver with the remainder of the herd.
Goodnight and Loving didn't invent the cattle drive but the Goodnight-Loving Trail played a significant role in the cattle culture of Texas.