Legendary cattleman Charles Goodnight liked to say he was born the same year as the Republic of Texas — 1836 — and “joined” Texas when his family moved from Illinois to Milam County in 1845, the year of Texas statehood.
Goodnight had many links to North Texas: He ran cattle on the Brazos River for 10 years with stepbrother Wes Sheek beginning in 1857; as a member of Cureton’s rangers, he participated in the recapture of Cynthia Ann Parker at Nocona’s Comanche camp on the Pease River in December 1860; he partnered with Palo Pinto County rancher Oliver Loving in cattle drives to New Mexico in 1866 and 1867 along what became the Goodnight-Loving Trail, the story of which was adapted by Larry McMurtry into Lonesome Dove; and married his long-term sweetheart, former Weatherford school teacher Mollie Dyer, in 1870.
In the fall of 1875, he ventured to the Texas Panhandle and soon decided that Palo Duro Canyon was an ideal spot for what he dubbed the Home Ranch. In June 1877, Goodnight entered into a partnership with English investor John G. Adair, launching the JA Ranch. Goodnight retained one-third ownership and profits of the ranch and drew an annual salary to manage ranch business. When Adair died in 1882, the JA Ranch comprised more than 1.325 million acres grazing 100,000 cattle. Goodnight sold his interest in the JA Ranch in 1887 but contracted to manage the ranch another year.
He continued cattle ranching on a smaller scale, invested in a Mexican gold and silver mining venture, and maintained herds of buffalo, elk and antelope at his Goodnight Ranch, which became a popular tourist attraction. In 1898, he and his wife founded Goodnight College. Goodnight died in Phoenix in 1929.
Charles Goodnight is seated in the center of the front row in this photograph. Notes on the back of the photo tell us that it was taken at the JA Ranch on Nov. 29, 1921. If you can identify any of the other men or know the occasion for the gathering, please contact us at 817-272-3393 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The University of Texas at Arlington Libraries offer a rich and diverse collection of materials on the history of Texas and the Southwest. Each week in Time Frames, readers get a glimpse of the past with an image from Special Collections. 817- 272-3393; library.uta.edu/special-collections.