Charles Goodnight was born on March 5, 1836, in Macoupin County, Illinois, to Charles and Charlotte Collier Goodnight. Following his father’s death when he was five-years-old, young Charles moved with his step-father, mother and siblings to begin a new life in the Lone Star State. Two years after arriving in Texas, 11-year-old Charles began hiring out to neighboring ranches, the first step in a legendary life which would feature prominently in the settlement of Texas and the development of multiple industries.
Among his many notable accomplishments, Goodnight worked as a Texas Ranger, befriended Comanche Chief Quanah Parker, invented the chuck wagon, blazed the Goodnight-Loving Trail, served as an early Texas statesman, established a buffalo herd he bred with cattle, founded Goodnight College, produced a motion picture about his ranch, opened the southern plains to ranching, and built a 2,900 square-foot home for his wife, Mary Ann.
The Goodnight Ranch, also known as the Castle on the Prairie and Goodnight Buffalo Ranch, became a nationally-known travel destination for thousands during its prime as a working ranch.
Charles Goodnight was larger than life in a state known for its fabled vastness and almost limitless challenges. As a tribute to a life well-lived, Charles Goodnight was one of the original five voted into the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City in 1958.
Goodnight died on December 12, 1929, at the age of 93. He was buried next to Mary Ann “Molly” Dyer Goodnight, who died in 1926, at the Goodnight Community Cemetery. The inscription on the tombstone of Charles and Mary Ann Dyer Goodnight reads:
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry is loosely
based on the life of Charles Goodnight and
his long-time friend, Oliver Loving.
Portions of the written narrative and photos were originally published in the Charles Goodnight Historical Center Souviner Program from the dedication ceremony on October 5, 2012