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Cattle pioneer Oliver Loving dies of gangrene

Cattle pioneer Oliver Loving dies of gangrene


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On September 25, 1867, the pioneering cattleman Oliver Loving dies from gangrene poisoning in Fort Sumner, New Mexico. A few weeks before, Loving had been trapped by 500 Commanche braves along the Pecos River. Shot in the arm and side, Loving managed to escape and reach Fort Sumner. Though the wounds alone were not fatal, Loving soon developed gangrene in his arm, a common infection in the days before antibiotics. Even then he might still have been saved had his arm been removed, but unfortunately the fort doctor “had never amputated any limbs and did not want to undertake such work.”

Sometimes referred to as the “Dean of the Trail Drivers,” Loving had been braving the Commanche territory along the Pecos in order to make his second pioneering drive of cattle from Texas to Denver. In the 1860s, the Texas cattle herds were booming, but as long as the cattle were in Texas they were essentially worthless. To make money, they had to be moved over thousands of miles to the big cities where Americans were becoming increasingly fond of good fresh western beef. To overcome this challenge, a number of Texans pioneered the technique known as the “long drive,” hiring cowboys to take massive cattle herds overland to the first cattle towns like Wichita and Dodge City where they could be loaded on trains for the East.

Along with his partner Charles Goodnight, Oliver Loving tried a brilliant alternative approach. Goodnight and Loving proposed to drive a herd of cattle directly to the growing population centers in New Mexico and Colorado where they could avoid middlemen and earn higher prices per head. The result was the Goodnight-Loving Trail, a 700-mile route through west Texas and New Mexico that eventually brought the cattle right into the booming mining regions of Colorado.

During the course of their first long and often treacherous drive in 1866, Loving and Goodnight lost more than 400 head, mainly to dehydration and drowning. But the 1,600 cattle that survived the trip brought good prices, and when Goodnight headed back to Texas his mule carried $12,000 in gold. Encouraged, the two men were preparing to follow the same route the next year when Loving’s fatal encounter with the Commanche abruptly ended the partnership. However, Goodnight and others continued to use the Goodnight-Loving Trail, and it soon became one of the most successful cattle trails of the day.


Cattle pioneer Oliver Loving dies of gangrene - HISTORY

Charles Goodnight wrote of the death of his friend Oliver Loving in the book The Trail Drivers of Texas by J. Marvin Hunter. The book is widely available for purchase, and also can be downloaded. In it, Hunter has assembled sketches and observations of the cattle drivers of the 1800s.

Goodnight refers to Loving as the first man to trail cattle from Texas, having made his initial drive in 1858 across the Indian Nation and into Missouri and Illinois. The following year, Loving took a second herd west to Colorado. Goodnight then refers to their first joint trail drive in 1866 in which they drove a herd west to Mexico and then up to Denver, Colorado. The next year, 1867, they began a similar drive, starting around Palo Pinto County, heading west to the Concho and proceeding further west to the Pecos.

After they had driven the herd north 100 miles upon reaching the Pecos, just across the current Texas-New Mexico border, Loving and one of their most trusted cowboys named Bill Wilson struck out alone to precede the herd’s arrival and make contacts for its sale to the government. Wilson was a top hand despite having only the use of one arm. The herd had been delayed already, as it was June and the government contracts would be let in July. Their destination was Fort Sumner, about 250 miles away, and the intention was to sell some or all of the cattle to the U. S. Army to feed the Indians on the newly established reservation located nearby.

Goodnight referred to Wilson as the clearest-headed man in the outfit and said that he had recommended that the two travel only at night in order to avoid detection along the way. Loving did not like to travel at night, so after about two days of it, the two decided to make time by day. Around 2 o’clock that very afternoon, Wilson spotted a large group of around 100 Comanches. Loving and Wilson left the trail and headed northwest to the Pecos River where they planned to seek shelter. They had just reached the river bank and tied up their horses when the Comanche converged on the two, seizing the cowboys’ mounts. The Comanche then took positions in the six foot tall native cane along the riverbank. In the skirmish, one Comanche rose up out of the brush, aimed at Loving and Wilson shot him, but not before Loving had taken a round that passed through his wrist and lodged in his side. After an exchange of fire with the group, Wilson stepped out to try and parlay with the Comanches and was promptly shot in the arm as well. He was also wounded in his side and returned to Loving, who was suffering badly from his wounds.

Despite their injuries, they found shelter and survived the night. The next morning Loving tried to persuade Wilson to leave and try to make contact with the herd. Loving figured that he was too badly wounded to make it that far, and if Wilson survived, at least Loving’s family would know his fate. Further, Loving vowed to kill himself rather than fall victim to the Comanches and told Wilson that he would do his best to make it one mile to another place of concealment on the river. They divided up their various weapons with Loving taking Wilson’s six shot rifle and all of the pistols while Wilson took Loving’s Henry rifle since the Henry rounds were waterproof. Wilson made his way into the river after shedding and hiding most of his clothing down to his underwear and hat. Wilson managed to conceal himself in the water as he drifted to the south although he stashed the Henry rifle. It was hindering him as he tried to escape in the water and he did not want to take the chance of it falling into the hands of the Comanche.

Wilson passed undetected for a short way and left the river, walking barefoot in the general direction of the herd. He thought that even traveling slowly, he and the herd were closing the distance between each other, originally a distance of around 100 miles. Traveling mostly at night and staying close to the Pecos, Wilson took shelter in a small cave about fifteen or twenty feet in length and sheltered for the day. When he exited the cave later, he looked in the direction of the herd and was surprised to see it approaching. The first cowboy he saw turned out to be his own brother, riding “point” for the herd along with Goodnight. Goodnight cautiously rode toward the lone man suspecting also that Indians could be not far away. As he got closer, he recognized man to be Wilson, who gave him a sign that it was safe to continue.

Once rescued and treated for his wounds, Wilson told his tale, saying that Loving had been badly wounded and that he had probably died either from the wound or from having taken his own life. Wilson described the location to Goodnight and told him where to find his clothing and rifle that he had hidden. At this point, Goodnight’s story concludes in the book, but Wilson’s directly followed and completed the narrative.

Goodnight took several cowboys and struck out to find Loving. When they arrived at the scene of the skirmish, they located Wilson’s clothing and rifle, but there was no sign of Loving. They felt that he had possibly not been killed there, as they did not find his body although there ample tracks of the Comanche ponies as they had searched for him. Goodnight and his cowboys returned to the herd. About two weeks later, they encountered a group heading south from Fort Sumner who told them that Loving was at the fort. Loving had managed to drift down the river and after five days had encountered a group of Mexicans who took him to the fort.

Goodnight eventually connected up with Loving at Fort Sumner. His wounded side was healing but his arm was still in a sling. Goodnight stayed at the fort for a few days, before leaving to round up some cattle. He was headed back when a courier reached him to say that Loving had taken a serious turn for the worse. Loving’s wound in his side had responded to treatment but his wounded arm had become infected and developed gangrene. The senior camp doctor was away attending a court martial. The young doctor left in charge at the fort had not previously done an amputation and was reluctant to undertake such an operation on Loving. Nevertheless, he did eventually remove Loving’s arm but the infection had already spread. After a few more days, Loving died. Wilson concluded his remarks in the book by saying of Loving, “Thus ended the career of one of the best men I ever knew.”

In the J. Evetts Haley biography of Charles Goodnight, he wrote that the Goodnight cowboys had gathered oil cans, flattened them out, soldered them together and made a big tin casket, placing inside it the exhumed wooden casket that contained Loving’s body. The cowboys, including Boze Ikard, left Fort Sumner, New Mexico on February 8, 1868 with a wagon led by six mules and carried it back down the Goodnight-Loving trail back to Weatherford, Texas where Goodnight, then thirty-one years old, buried his friend with Masonic honors.

[Note: There are conflicting accounts as to the parties who returned Loving’s body back to Weatherford. In addition to the Haley account, there are other accounts stating that it was Oliver Loving’s son Joe Loving who retrieved his father’s body and brought it back to Weatherford. If more information becomes available, we will post it here.]

The location where the confrontation between the Comanche, Loving and Wilson supposedly occurred is now called Loving’s Bend and is just a few miles north of the town of Loving, New Mexico, located in Eddy County. There is an alternate location slightly south of Loving where the Pecos makes a similar westerly bend near where the Black River ties into it. Both locations lie a few miles southeast of Carlsbad.

Bose Ikard and Oliver Loving are both buried in City Greenwood Cemetery in Weatherford, Texas. Charles Goodnight is buried in Goodnight Cemetery in Armstrong County, Texas. W. J. Wilson lived well up into his senior years and is believed to be buried in Oklahoma.

Certain true events in the life of Oliver Loving strongly resemble those of the fictional character Gus McCrae in Larry McMurtry‘s Lonesome Dove. W. J. Wilson’s barefoot walk resembles that of another of McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove characters, Pea Eye Parker.


The Death of Oliver Loving

A few miles north of the Texas-New Mexico border in Eddy County is a town named Loving, named for Oliver Loving, a co-founder of the old Goodnight-Loving Trail. Before the ranges of the state became fenced, a number of cattle drives proceeded north along the eastern side of the state. They generally followed along the Pecos River and once they went as far north as the headwaters of the Pecos, they continued north, exiting the state south of Pueblo, Colorado. Oliver Loving and another cowboy were involved in a skirmish with Comanche Indians a few miles north of the current town of Loving. Both were wounded and Loving later died of his wounds in Fort Sumner.

Charles Goodnight wrote of the death of his friend Oliver Loving in the book The Trail Drivers of Texas by J. Marvin Hunter. The book is widely available for purchase, and also can also be downloaded. In it, Hunter has assembled sketches and observations of the cattle drivers of the 1800s.

Goodnight refers to Loving as the first man to trail cattle from Texas, having made his initial drive in 1858 across the Indian Nation and into Missouri and Illinois. The following year, Loving took a second herd west to Colorado. Goodnight then refers to their first joint trail drive in 1866 in which they drove a herd west to Mexico and then up to Denver, Colorado. The next year, 1867, they began a similar drive. They began around Palo Pinto County, headed west to the Concho and on further west to the Pecos.

After they had proceeded north 100 miles upon reaching the Pecos, just across the current Texas-New Mexico border, Loving and one of their most trusted cowboys named Bill Wilson struck out alone to precede the herd’s arrival and make contacts for its sale to the government. Wilson was a top hand despite having only the use of one arm. The herd had been delayed already, as it was June and the government contracts would be let in July. Their destination was Fort Sumner, about 250 miles away, and their intention was to sell some or all of the cattle to the U. S. Army to feed the Indians on the newly established reservation located nearby.

Goodnight referred to Wilson as the clearest headed man in the outfit and said that he had recommended that the two travel only at night in order to avoid detection along the way. Loving did not like to travel at night, so after about two days, the two decided to make time by day. Around 2 o’clock the very next afternoon, Wilson spotted a large group of around 100 Comanches. Loving and Wilson left the trail and headed northwest to the Pecos River where they planned to seek shelter. They had just reached the river bank and tied up their horses when the Comanche converged on the two, seizing the cowboys’ mounts. The Comanche then took positions in the six foot tall native cane along the riverbank. In the skirmish, one Comanche rose up out of the brush, aimed at Loving and Wilson shot him, but not before Loving had taken a round that passed through his wrist and lodged in his side. After an exchange of fire with the group, Wilson stepped out to try and parlay with the Comanches and was promptly shot in the arm himself. He was also wounded in his side and returned to Loving, who was suffering badly from his wounds.

Still, they found shelter and survived the night. The next morning Loving tried to persuade Wilson to leave and try to make contact with the herd. Loving figured that he was too badly wounded to make it and if Wilson survived, at least Loving’s family would know his fate. Loving vowed to kill himself rather than fall victim to the Comanches and told Wilson that he would do his best to make it one mile to another place on the river. They divided up their various weapons with Loving taking Wilson’s six shot rifle and all of the pistols while Wilson took Loving’s Henry rifle as the Henry rounds were waterproof. Wilson made his way into the river after shedding and hiding most of his clothing down to his underwear and hat. Wilson managed to conceal himself in the water as he drifted to the south although he stashed the Henry rifle. It was hindering him as he tried to escape in the water and he did not want to take the chance of it falling into the hands of the Comanche.

Wilson passed undetected for a short way and left the river, walking barefoot in the general direction of the herd. He thought that even traveling slowly, he and the herd were closing the distance between each other, originally a distance of around 100 miles. Traveling mostly at night and staying close to the Pecos, Wilson took shelter in a small cave about fifteen or twenty feet in length and sheltered for the day. When he exited the cave later, he looked in the direction of the herd and was surprised to see it approaching. The first cowboy he saw turned out to be his own brother, riding “point” for the herd along with Goodnight. Goodnight cautiously rode toward the lone man suspecting also that Indians could be not far away. As he got closer, he recognized man to be Wilson, who gave him a sign that it was safe to continue.

Once rescued and treated for his wounds, Wilson told his tale, saying that Loving had been badly wounded and that he had probably died either from the wound or from having taken his own life. Wilson described the location to Goodnight and told him where to find his clothing and rifle that he had hidden. At this point, Goodnight’s story concludes in the book, but Wilson’s directly followed and completed the narrative.

Goodnight took several cowboys and struck out to find Loving. When they arrived at the scene of the skirmish, they located Wilson’s clothing and rifle, but there was no sign of Loving. They felt that he had possibly not been killed there, as they did not find his body although there ample tracks of the Comanche ponies as they had searched for him. Goodnight and his cowboys returned to the herd. About two weeks later, they encountered a group heading south from Fort Sumner who told them that Loving was at the fort. Loving had managed to drift down the river and after five days had encountered a group of Mexicans who took him to the fort.

Goodnight eventually connected up with Loving at Fort Sumner. His wounded side was healing but his arm was still in a sling. Goodnight stayed at the fort for a few days, before leaving to round up some cattle. He was headed back when a courier reached him to say that Loving had taken a serious turn for the worse. Loving’s wound in his side had responded to treatment but his wounded arm had become infected and developed gangrene. The senior camp doctor was away attending a court martial. The young doctor left in charge at the fort had not previously done an amputation and was reluctant to undertake such an operation on Loving. Nevertheless, he did eventually remove Loving’s arm but the infection had already spread. After a few more days, Loving died. Wilson concluded his remarks in the book by saying of Loving, “Thus ended the career of one of the best men I ever knew.”

In the J. Evetts Hayley biography of Charles Goodnight, he wrote that the Goodnight cowboys had gathered oil cans, flattened them out, soldered them together and made a big tin casket, placing inside it the exhumed wooden casket that contained Loving’s body. The cowboys, including Boze Ikard, left Fort Sumner, New Mexico on February 8, 1868 with a wagon led by six mules and carried it back down the Goodnight-Loving trail back to Weatherford, Texas where Goodnight, then thirty-one years old, buried his friend with Masonic honors.

[Note: There are conflicting accounts as to the parties who returned Loving’s body back to Weatherford. In addition to the Haley account related above, there are other accounts stating that it was Oliver Loving’s son Joe Loving who retrieved his father’s body and brought it back to Weatherford. If more information becomes available, we will post it here.]

The location where the confrontation between the Comanche, Loving and Wilson supposedly occurred is now called Loving’s Bend and is just a few miles north of the town of Loving, New Mexico, located in Eddy County. There is an alternate location slightly south of Loving where the Pecos makes a similar westerly bend near where the Black River ties into it. Both locations lie a few miles southeast of Carlsbad.

Bose Ikard and Oliver Loving are both buried in City Greenwood Cemetery in Weatherford, Texas. Charles Goodnight is buried in Goodnight Cemetery in Armstrong County, Texas. W. J. Wilson lived well up into his senior years and is believed to be buried in Oklahoma.

Certain true events in the life of Oliver Loving strongly resemble those of the fictional character Gus McCrae in Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove. W. J. Wilson’s barefoot walk resembles that of another of McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove characters, Pea Eye Parker.


Oliver Loving – Pioneer of the Cattle Drive

Kentucky farmer Oliver Loving moved his family to Texas in 1843, pioneered the long-distance cattle drive, and helped establish the Goodnight/Loving trail.

Oliver Loving (1812-1867) was born and raised in Kentucky where he married Susan Doggett Morgan in 1833. Over the next ten years they had four children on their farm in Muhlenberg County, then Loving and his siblings decided to move their families to Texas. Loving continued to farm, and his family grew to include nine children. Their property grew, as well: According to the Handbook of Texas Online, the first assessment of Palo Pinto County in 1857 listed1000 acres in the name of Oliver Loving.

Loving Moves his Cattle North

In addition to land, Loving accumulated a large herd of cattle. He knew the greatest profits could be made by moving the cattle north. In 1857 he sent his son on a cattle drive to Illinois by way of the Shawnee Trail. His success encouraged Loving to repeat the drive, this time joining his cattle with that of a neighbor, John Durkee. This drive was equally profitable, so he tried it a third time with another neighbor, John Durham. They moved 1500 cattle into Denver to feed the miners and Loving quickly gained a reputation as an honest cattleman experienced in large cattle drives.

Contract to Feed the Confederate Army

By the time he was ready to return to Texas the American Civil War started and Loving was detained by the Union Army. Colonel Kit Carson and wealthy landowner Lucien Maxwell interceded with the Union officers to set Loving free. Much to the Union’s chagrin, when Loving returned to Texas he was commissioned by the Confederate Army to deliver cattle to their troops. However, when the war ended, the Confederate Army still owed Loving around $200,000.

Charles Goodnight and the Goodnight/Loving Trail

That same year, Texas rancher Charles Goodnight met with Loving to discuss his plans for a cattle drive. Loving needed a new partner, and the two men quickly became friends. In 1866 they hit the trail with 2000 cattle. Their first stop was Fort Sumner, New Mexico. They sold most of their herd to the Army for $12,000, then Loving moved the remaining cattle to Denver. Their path through New Mexico and Colorado became the Goodnight/Loving trail. Charles Goodnight returned to Weatherford, Texas with the gold, gathered a second herd and met up with Loving in New Mexico. They established a ranch in the Bosque Grande for use as a base camp to supply cattle to Fort Sumner and Santa Fe during the winter.

Fateful Encounter with the Comanche

In the spring of 1867, Loving and Goodnight returned to Texas for more cattle. On this drive, Loving and his scout, Bill Wilson, traveled ahead to secure government contracts while Goodnight followed with the herd. Eager to reach the northern markets ahead of other cattlemen, Loving decided to risk traveling during the day and soon encountered a party of 500 Comanche. Loving was shot in the arm and side. He sent Wilson back to Goodnight then managed to evade the Comanche for three days and nights before he flagged down a wagon that took him to Fort Sumner. Goodnight arrived soon after, but Loving was already dying from gangrene. Goodnight promised his friend that he would take his body back to Texas for burial.

A Texas Burial

Loving was temporarily buried at Fort Sumner and Goodnight returned after the cattle drive to exhume his body. Loving was escorted back to Weatherford, Texas and buried with Masonic honors in the Greenwood Cemetery on March 4, 1868. True to his word, Goodnight divided the profits from the drive with the Loving family. The character Gus McCrae in Larry McMurtry’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Lonesome Dove is based on Oliver Loving. In 1958, Oliver Loving was inducted into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City. Both Loving County, Texas and Loving, New Mexico, are named in his honor.


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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Julia Cauble Smith, &ldquoLoving, Oliver,&rdquo Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 25, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/loving-oliver.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


Loving's Bend

In July 1867 Oliver Loving, a partner in the Goodnight-Loving cattle concern, was attacked by Comanches while driving cattle to Fort Sumner. Wounded, Loving held off the attack for two days and nights. With the help of Mexican traders, he made it to Fort Sumner, where he died of gangrene. Fulfilling his promise, Charles Goodnight exhumed Loving's body, reburying him a year later in Weatherford, Texas.

Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Agriculture &bull Animals &bull Native Americans &bull Settlements & Settlers. A significant historical month for this entry is July 1867.

Location. 32° 17.639′ N, 104° 6.143′ W. Marker is near Loving, New Mexico, in Eddy County. Marker is at the intersection of U.S. 285 and County Road 712, on the right when traveling south on U.S. 285. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Loving NM 88256, United States of America. Touch for directions.

Other nearby markers. At least 4 other markers are within 14 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Goodnight-Loving Trail (approx. 1.7 miles away) Espejo's Trail (approx. 4.7 miles away) Civilian Conservation Corps Carlsbad Campsite (approx. 13.7 miles away) Carlsbad Irrigation Flume (approx. 13.8 miles away).

Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker.


Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving: Cattle Kings

Sometimes in life people meet then go their separate ways, never to hear from each other again. Then there are times when a meeting between two people seems both destined and inevitable. When Charlies Gooodnight and Oliver Loving first met, they must have instinctively known that their friendship was both inevitable and destined to change the American West forever.

Goodnight and Loving both followed the path of typical Cattle Barons, or Cattle Kings, in the 1800s--they started out as cowboys, gradually learned business skills, and with a tremendous amount of hard work and an equal amount of luck they made themselves rich. Most of the Cattle Kings were Texas cowboys, former soldiers of the Texas Revolution, or ancestors of the first wave of Texas settlers led by Stephen F. Austin, though there were also Cattle Kings in Wyoming, Montana, and other states. Many of the Texas Cattle Kings came from back east, the "Gone to Texas" group who, like my own Texas ancestors, wanted a fresh start in a new country. (Remember, Texas was a country for 10 years, separate from both the US and Mexico, prior to the American Civil War.) This last group of people were known as GTTs, referring to the signs they left on their doors, signs that said simply "Gone to Texas."

When Horace Greeley made the legendary command to "Go West, young man," he may have had Manifest Destiny in mind, but most of the young men who followed his advice were less concerned with conquering the West and more concerned with making money, either by panning for gold or starting a business. The dream of the cowboy was to make his money with cattle. Unlike gold mining, the cattle business was more than a dream, it was an achievable goal. By 1885 the cattle business was the most profitable line of business in the Old West. Cattle fed the miners, the businessmen, the soldiers, and the people back East who once preferred pork, but found they were much happier with steaks on their plates.

Charles Goodnight (1836-1929) and his family were from the "Gone to Texas" group. Goodnight's father died when Charles was five and his mother remarried their neighbor, Hiram Daugherty. According to the Texas State Historical Association, young Charles Goodnight took great pride in the fact that he was born the same year the Republic of Texas was formed and arrived in Texas the same year Texas became part of the United States. In 1845, Goodnight and his family traveled 800 miles from his birthplace in Macoupin County, Illinois to central Texas with Charles riding bareback on a mare named Blaze. He wanted to teach himself how to be a cowboy. This was his childhood dream, and he may have had a sore bottom by the time they reached their destination near Nashville-on-the-Brazos, but one thing is certain, Charles learned how to ride like a cowboy. He also learned how to hunt and track as they made their way south.

In 1853, when his mother was widowed a second time, she married a Methodist preacher, Rev. Adam Sheek. Charles and his stepbrother, John Wesley Sheek, were close friends. When Charles was twenty, Charles and John made plans to leave the family ranch and explore California, possibly seeking gold. Instead, they made a deal with the neighboring CV Ranch to care for 430 cattle, a decision that would change Goodnight's life forever.

The CV Ranch was owned by Sheek's brother-in-law, Charles Varney. The arrangement was that the two young men could keep every fourth calf born to the herd as payment for their services. Goodnight and Sheek were dedicated to learning the cattle ranching business and apparently quite savvy about their work. In four years they had accumulated 180 head of cattle for their own herd. In 1857 they moved their heard to Palo Pinto County where they also built a log cabin for their aging parents. They remained a close family throughout their lifetimes, caring for each other as best they could.

Unfortunately, like all young men in the south, when their home state of Texas seceded from the Union, Goodnight and Sheek were forced to abandon their cattle and join the Confederate Army. Most of the ranchers made certain their cattle were carefully branded then set them free to roam the wilderness until they returned from the war.

Goodnight chose to serve with the Texas Rangers protecting homes and ranches from attacks by the Kiowa and Comanche. He was admired for his tracking skills and asked to assist in tracking down the location of Cynthia Ann Parker, who was captured by Comanche when she was ten. By the time she was recaptured 25 years later she was married to a Comanche warrior and had a family, and remembered nothing about her previous life. She was separated from her husband and son, the famous Comanche leader Quanah Parker. When Cynthia's infant daughter, Topsannah, died, Cynthia refused to eat and soon after died of a broken heart. Although I can understand her birth family's desire to have her returned, I can only imagine the pain and suffering she endured losing her husband, her baby daughter, and separated forever from her sons. The John Wayne movie The Seekers is loosely based on her story, as are many other Hollywood Westerns. Her son, Quanah Parker became an important leader to his people, one of the last warriors to surrender to reservation life.

When the war ended and Goodnight and Sheek, the two brothers, returned to collect their cattle, they were surprised to learn that their herd had grown to 5000 head. They purchased the remaining herd at the CV Ranch, gathered in a few strays, and in a short time had a herd of 8000. In spite of their great success, John Wesley Sheek's heart was not set on becoming a cowboy like his stepbrother. He wanted to become a family man. When he married, Charles Goodnight took over the herd. It was a huge responsibility, but one that Charles had been preparing for his entire life.

Unfortunately, Goodnight's situation was not unique. All Texans who returned from the war found their herds had increased in size and the market was soon glutted with cattle. Goodnight knew he would have to try a different approach than the other ranchers and decided to head northwest toward the soldiers in Colorado to ensure a higher profit. In 1866 he teamed up with his neighbor, the more experienced Oliver Loving whom he had met years earlier when he first moved to the area, and the two formed their legendary friendship.

Oliver Loving (1812-1867) was also from the "Gone to Texas" group. Loving was born and raised in Kentucky. In 1833, Loving married his childhood sweetheart, Susan Doggett Morgan, and started a family. Ten years and four children later the Lovings posted the legendary "Gone to Texas" sign on their door and left Kentucky forever along with Loving's brother, brother-in-law, and their families. Loving, however, originally chose the life of a farmer and gradually expanded his ranch in Palo Pinto County to include over 1000 acres. He also ran the general store near Keechi Creek, and his family grew with five more children born in Texas.

At some point through the years Loving started to raise cattle and accumulated a herd equal to the size of Charles Goodnight's. Like Goodnight, Loving was also a wise businessman and recognized that the greatest profits could be made by taking his cattle north. In 1857 he sent his 19-year-old son, William, on a cattle drive to Illinois by way of the Shawnee Trail.

The success of this first drive encouraged Loving to repeat the process, but the second time he chose to join his cattle with those of his neighbor, John Durkee. This drive was as profitable as the first, so he tried it a third time. Three years later, on August 19, 1860, Loving and another neighbor, John Durham, left Texas with 1500 cattle to feed the gold miners in the fledgling City of Denver. They moved their herd across the Red River then followed the Arkansas to Pueblo, Colorado where they decided to spend the winter. In the spring they sold the cattle for gold, and Loving started back through New Mexico to return to Texas. In a few short years Loving had established a reputation as an honest, expert cattleman.

By the time he started for home the Civil War had started and Loving was detained in Fort Sumner, New Mexico by Union forces. He turned to his friends, Colonel Kit Carson and wealthy landowner Lucien Maxwell, to convince the Union officers to set Loving free. Lucien Maxwell was the father of Pete Maxwell, friend of Billy the Kid and owner of the ranch where the Kid was shot. At one time, Lucien Maxwell--a former fur trapper who had traveled with explorer John C. Freemont--through inheritance and deeds, was the largest private landowner in the world with a total of 1,714,765 acres in New Mexico and Colorado. This made him a very powerful man and the Union soldiers were eager to cooperate.

The Union soldiers agreed to release Loving, and you can imagine their frustration when Loving returned to Texas and was commissioned to deliver cattle to the Confederate troops! This commission did not pay well in the end. When the war was over, and the Confederate Army disbanded, they still owed Loving between $150,000 and $200,000, which was a lot of money in the days of the Old West.

Loving knew he had to act fast to repair his finances as he still had a large family to support. This is when he formed the bond with the young Charles Goodnight who he had hired once before to run cattle through Kansas to the Colorado miners. There was a chemistry between these two men, an immediate understanding that they had equal intelligence and skill as ranchers and cowboys, and they quickly agreed to become partners. In 1866, Charles Goodnight created his famous invention, the Chuckwagon, and the two men started northwest with 2000 cattle, heading back to Fort Sumner where soldiers were guarding 400 Mescalero Apache and 8000 Navajo following the January 1864 Long Walks to the Bosque Redondo. Both the soldiers and their captives were desperate for food.

Goodnight and Loving moved their cattle through dangerous territory as the Texas Panhandle was still heavily populated with bandits from Mexico, Apache, and Comanche. Goodnight, however, was familiar with dealing with the Apache and Comanche and realized it was wiser to offer them cattle in exchange for safe passage rather than fight a senseless and potentially costly battle. The men soon arrived safely with their herd in Fort Sumner, New Mexico where they sold most of the herd to the United States Army for $12,000. Oliver Loving moved the remaining cattle to Denver, and their path through New Mexico and Colorado became the legendary Goodnight/Loving trail.

In addition to their great success the two men also gained tremendous respect for each other. They trusted each other and were close friends. While Loving was in Denver, Goodnight returned to Weatherford, Texas with the gold from the Fort Sumner sale, gathered a second herd, and met up with Loving in New Mexico. The men decided to start a base camp ranch in the Bosque Grande where they could supply cattle to Fort Sumner and the City of Santa Fe through the winter months.

When spring arrived in 1867, Loving and Goodnight decided it was time to leave their base camp for another cattle drive to Colorado. They returned to Texas for more cattle, but the herd was moving slow due to bad weather and muddy, mucky trails. Loving made the fateful decision to ride west with their scout, Bill Wilson, in order to secure the government contracts before Goodnight arrived with the cattle. This was actually a wise business move. By this time, other cattle barons realized how Goodnight and Loving were making their money and Loving knew that he had to act fast to secure a written agreement before Goodnight arrived with the cattle or the value of their herd could drop considerably.

As a former scout for the Texas Rangers, Charles Goodnight realized the dangers that lay ahead and asked his friend to promise that he absolutely would not travel during daylight hours. Although Loving initially agreed to this request, he felt pressured to make the deal as soon as possible, so Loving and Wilson rode swiftly through the sagebrush and cactus, day and night, while at the same time watching for potential threats. Unfortunately Loving's luck ran out, and the two men encountered a party of Comanche.

Loving was shot in the arm and side. He fought valiantly, but could feel his body growing weaker. He told Wilson he would cover the man's escape and sent Wilson back to Goodnight for help. Somehow, Loving not only survived out in the desert alone, but he also managed to evade the Comanche for three days and nights. When he sensed that they had moved on, possibly assuming he was dead, he started crawling for the trail. He met a group of Mexican traders who lifted him up into their wagon and took him in to Fort Sumner. Goodnight arrived soon after, but Loving was already dying from gangrene. As he stood by his bedside, Goodnight agreed to fulfill his friend's dying wish and return Loving's body to his family in Texas for burial--not an easy task in the days of the Old West.

Oliver Loving was temporarily buried at Fort Sumner. Goodnight and the rest of the cowboys on the drive built a casket of tin cans to surround Loving's wooden casket then covered Loving’s body with charcoal. Then Goodnight moved the herd into Colorado for sale to the soldiers. He returned with the gold and exhumed Loving's body. Loving was escorted back to Weatherford, Texas and buried with Masonic honors in the Greenwood Cemetery on March 4, 1868. Charles Goodnight divided the profits from the cattle drive with the Loving family. In 1958, Oliver Loving was inducted into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City. Loving County, Texas and Loving, New Mexico are named in his honor.

Charles Goodnight had lost a dear friend, but he did not lose his stubborn drive and determination. In 1870 he built the Rock Canon Ranch five miles west of Pueblo, Colorado, an area he had been observing for some time as he moved his cattle to Denver. Goodnight then married his long-time sweetheart, the beautiful Weatherford, Texas schoolteacher Mary Ann Dyer. The couple lived in Rock Canon for six years. Goodnight continued herding cattle with another Cattle King legend, John Chisum, and also sold apples the large orchard on the ranch. The Goodnights had no children, but decided to adopt the son of their long-time housekeeper. His name was Cleo Hubbard and he would later inherit much of the Goodnight fortune.

Soon, Charles Goodnight was one of the wealthiest cattle ranchers in Colorado and considered one of the legendary Cattle Kings. In spite of his great success, Goodnight continued to pay an exorbitant amount of interest on bank loans for his business deals, which irritated him for obvious reasons, so he co-founded the Stock Growers Bank of Pueblo. He invested in many other business ventures in the area, including an Opera House and meat packing plant. He founded Colorado's first Stock Grower's Association. Then, in 1873, the economy collapsed, and Goodnight lost most of his savings in the ensuing panic.

Goodnight was not the only man in the American Old West to find himself a king one day and poor the next, but he still had his cattle herd, his apple orchard, and his unwavering determination. In 1876, he decided to move his cattle to the Texas Panhandle where he was told by Mexican traders there was an oasis in the desert, a strip of land in a canyon that was filled with trees and had a river running through the middle. He found this oasis in Palo Duro Canyon and decided he would make the land his own and start over. He negotiated deals with the bandits, Apache, and Comanche to allow his herds to pass safely through the panhandle in exchange for cattle. Then he used his expert negotiating skills to secure foreign financing from Irish entrepreneurs John and Cornelia Adair.

His shrewd land investments made his second cattle venture even more successful than his Pueblo adventure. His herd grew to 100,000 and his ranch became a community of 50 houses. The community was named Goodnight, of course. Goodnight experimented with breeding bison and Angus cattle on his ranch, which he called “cattalo,” and raised elk and antelope on the land. A recent genetic report suggests that some of the cattle on Catalina Island of the coast of California were from Charles Goodnight's original experimental herd of cattalo, part cattle and part buffalo. In 1880, he organized the Panhandle Stock Association and served as its first president.

When Mary Ann Goodnight died in 1926, Charles became deathly sick, but he soon recovered with the help of his nurse, 26-year-old Corrine Goodnight (no relation). Friends, family, and pretty much everyone who knew him was shocked when Goodnight announced he was marrying the young woman--he was obsessively dedicated to his first wife from the time they met, and Corrine was young enough to be his great granddaughter. Nevertheless, they did marry at the home of Goodnight's nephew, Henry W. Taylor, and shocked the family once more when they sold the ranch home in Palo Duro and moved to Arizona for Goodnight's health.

Goodnight lived his last days surrounded by journalists begging for interviews with the legendary cattle king. Charles Goodnight died in Phoenix, Arizona on December 12, 1929. He was buried next to his first wife, Mary Ann, in Goodnight, Texas.

Along with his friend, Oliver Loving, Charles Goodnight was one of the first five cowboys voted into Oklahoma's National Cowboy Hall of Fame when it was founded in 1958. Many of his personal belongings were donated to museums by his adopted son, Cleo Hubbard. There are several streets in the Texas Panhandle named after Charles Goodnight, along with the highway to Palo Duro Canyon State Scenic Park. The park contains an earthen shelter believed to be Goodnight's first headquarters while he built his ranch. The Goodnight ranchhouse is still standing near US Highway 287.

Although it is widely believed that the characters of Augustus McCrae and Woodrow Call in Larry McMurtry's Pulitzer Prize Winning novel Lonesome Dove are modeled after cattlemen Oliver Loving and Charles Goodnight, there is a note on the IMDb stating that McMurtry denied the connection. The note, however, is not linked to a source.


Oliver Loving, C.S.A.

Only Texan instrumental in mapping 3 major cattle trails: Shawnee, Western and Goodnight-Loving trails.

Born in Kentucky. Came to Texas 1845, to farm, haul freight, deal in cattle. Started large Palo Pinto County ranch. In 1858, drove herd to Chicago--first time in history Texas cattle trailed to northern market. In 1859 drove to Denver.

When Civil War broke out, 1861, was Confederate beef contractor, furnishing meat to army commissaries. Served on 24-hour patrol squad against Indians in frontier town of Weatherford. Mapped an 1862 expedition by 300 or more Texans to wipe out depredating Indians on the home grounds in Colorado, but failed to get necessary men to put this plan into action.

After the war, with Charles Goodnight, drove cattle from Palo Pinto to Horsehead Crossing on the Pecos, then up the river to Indian reservations and forts in New Mexico. In 1867 on this trail, was shot by Comanches: crawled 5 miles, chewing an old kid glove for food. Hauled at price of $250 to Fort Sumner by Mexican traders, he had wounds treated, but died of gangrene. Partner packed corpse in charcoal, hauled him to Weatherford for burial, fulfilling last wish.

Loving County was named for him in 1887.

Erected 1965 by State Historical Survey Committee. (Marker Number 3851.)

Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Agriculture &bull Roads & Vehicles &bull Settlements & Settlers &bull War, US Civil. A significant historical year for this entry is 1845.

Location. 31° 42.399′ N, 103° 35.888′ W. Marker is in Mentone, Texas, in Loving County. Marker is at the intersection of Bell Street (State Highway 302) and Dallas Street, on the right when traveling west on Bell Street. Marker is in the southeast corner of courthouse plaza. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Mentone TX 79754, United States of America. Touch for directions.

Other nearby markers. At least 5 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Loving County (within shouting distance of this marker) Mentone (within shouting distance of this marker) Mentone Community Church (approx. 0.2 miles away) Route of Old Butterfield Stagecoach Road (approx. half a mile away) Goodnight-Loving Trail (approx. half a mile away).


150 Years on the Goodnight-Loving Trail

Oliver Loving (left) and Charles Goodnight’s (far left) historic partnership in the cattle business and trail-driving longhorns from Newcastle, Texas, to Cheyenne, Wyoming, included a more direct route around “Uncle Dick” Richens Lacey Wootton’s (above) toll station at Raton Pass, Colorado.
– True West Archives –

What better adventure than to follow the trail blazed by Woodrow Call and Gus McRae—plus Dish, Deets, Newt and my personal favorite, Pea Eye Parker?

Oh, wait. Larry McMurtry won a Pulitzer Prize for his 1985 novel, Lonesome Dove, but that’s fiction. The real trail, and the real history, belonged to Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving. It didn’t lead to Montana, but first to New Mexico, then Colorado, and eventually Wyoming. And now, 150 years after that first cattle drive along the trail, it’s time to retrace the route.

“The trace that led from Texas to Fort Sumner is generally known as the Goodnight Trail,” J. Evetts Haley wrote in his monumental biography Charles Goodnight: Cowman and Plainsman, “while that which Goodnight later blazed direct to Cheyenne is called the Goodnight and Loving Trail, though sometimes the terms are used interchangeably.”

Like with many trails, the route changed over the years, depending on water, grass and the fact that Goodnight didn’t like paying “Uncle Dick” Wootton a dime a head at Wootton’s toll station at Raton Pass on the Colorado-New Mexico border.

The trail begins in Young County, Texas, in Newcastle. Now Newcastle did not come about until the early 1900s when settlers came to work for the Merrill and Clark Strip Mining Company. Before that, however, Fort Belknap stood guard along the Brazos River. Founded in 1851, the fort bustled with activity because nearby roads—including John Butterfield’s Overland Mail route—led out in all directions.

The fort was permanently abandoned in 1867, and could have just disappeared. In 1936, however, Senator Benjamin Oneal and a bunch of locals decided to restore and rebuild some of the buildings as a state centennial project. Still a county park, the old grounds include restored buildings, while the Fort Belknap Cemetery includes the grave of Major Robert Neighbors—who fought for the rights of Comanches, and paid the ultimate price when a white settler murdered him for his support of the Indians in 1859.

But this story isn’t about Neighbors. It’s about two other intriguing figures who teamed up in 1866 to make history and legend.

Partners: Oliver Loving and Charles Goodnight

Kentucky-born Oliver Loving arrived in Texas in 1843 when he was 30. Loving drove cattle to Denver in 1860, and the Confederacy commissioned him to drive cattle to Rebel forces on the Mississippi River. The government was said to have owed him between $100,000 and $250,000 when the war ended.

Born in Illinois, Goodnight had to grow up fast when his father died of pneumonia in 1841. Goodnight was just five years old. The family moved to Texas four years later, and by the time Goodnight was 11, he was working on farms. As a young man, he entered the cattle business.

In 1866, Navajos and Mescalero Apaches were at the Bosque Redondo reservation—a concentration camp, Indians would say—near Fort Sumner, New Mexico Territory. Goodnight figured he had found a new market for beef.

When Goodnight approached Loving with the idea, the elder man warned him of the dangers. Goodnight remained undeterred, so Loving told him, “If you will let me, I will go with you.”

They joined forces, and on June 6, 1866, 18 men and 2,000 longhorns started the
drive about 25 miles west of Belknap.

Talk about an all-star cast. “One-Armed” Bill Wilson, who would survive a harrowing escape from Indians in 1867. Cross-eyed Nath Brauner, who made a habit of killing rattlesnakes. A black cowboy named Jim Fowler, who drew the grim chore of killing newborn calves that would be unable to finish the drive. And former slave Bose Ikard, whose epitaph was written by Goodnight when the loyal cowhand died in 1929: “Served with me four years on the Goodnight-Loving Trail, never shirked a duty or disobeyed an order, rode with me in many stampedes, participated in three engagements with Comanches, splendid behavior.”

Ikard’s grave can be found in the Greenwood Cemetery in Weatherford, near Loving’s grave.

The herd followed the Overland Route from Belknap through Castle Gap in Upton County, to the Pecos River, then along the Pecos to Fort Sumner.

West Texas remains tough country, but you’ll find an oasis in San Angelo, home of the excellent Fort Concho National Historic Landmark shops and galleries (but no overnight accommodations) at The Cactus Hotel, Conrad Hilton’s fourth hotel murals throughout town Miss Hattie’s Bordello Museum and plenty of Elmer Kelton novels for sale, which you would expect in the late, great Western novelist’s hometown.

After their grueling journey, the Goodnight-Loving drive reached the Pecos River. For days, the cattle crew moved along the east side of the Pecos, “the most desolate country that I had ever explored,” Goodnight observed.

It hasn’t changed much. Which makes the town of Pecos a welcome reprieve.

First established as a cow camp, the town of Pecos wouldn’t boom until the 1880s, but it’s worth a stop today to visit the grave of gunfighter Clay Allison and the West of the Pecos Museum, housed in an 1896 saloon and a 1904 hotel.

At the Pecos, the trail crew left Butterfield’s road and moved north along the Pecos River. The best-known crossing was Horsehead Crossing, one of the few places where people could safely ford the river in present-day Pecos and Crane counties, south of the town of Pecos. Farther northwest, however, Pope’s Crossing was on the Loving-Reeves county line just south of New Mexico, was Goodnight and Loving’s choice. Used by Spanish explorers and California gold-chasers, Pope’s Crossing was named for Captain John Pope, who led a survey crew in 1854. The crossing disappeared in 1936 with completion of Red Bluff Dam and Reservoir.

The Land of Enchantment

Following U.S. 285 near the Pecos River takes you into New Mexico. To Loving (we’ll talk about it later). To Carlsbad (consider a deviation from the route to Carlsbad Caverns National Park).

Travel through the bleak countryside to Artesia, once home to Sallie Chisum, the niece of another famed cattleman, John S. Chisum. At a gas station on First and Main stands Vic Payne’s 2007 monumental sculpture Trail Boss, which honors Goodnight and his legacy to the area.

Then, proceed to Roswell, known more for crashed alien spaceships and the International UFO Museum and Research Center. And finally to Fort Sumner, best known as the end of trail for Billy the Kid. The town has two Billy museums and the graves of Billy and a couple of his pals—not to mention a marker for Joe Grant, shot and killed by the Kid in a local saloon in 1880.

Loving and Goodnight came here for the fort and reservation, now excellently preserved at Fort Sumner Historic Site and the Bosque Redondo Memorial. But government contractors and subcontractors wouldn’t buy the stock cattle. They paid eight cents a pound for the steers, netting $12,000, which left the cattlemen with 700 to 800 cattle. Goodnight returned to Texas, and Loving pushed the cattle on for Colorado, past Las Vegas and Raton, and to Denver, where Loving sold the cattle to John W. Iliff.

The next year, Goodnight and Loving organized another drive. Indians and rains slowed the cowboys in 1867. Along the Pecos, Loving and “One-Armed” Bill Wilson rode out ahead. Indians attacked…and since everyone has either read and/or seen Lonesome Dove, you know how the story ends.

That brings us back to the New Mexico village of Loving, which went through a number of names (Vaud, Florence) before the name was changed to honor Loving. No one knows for certain where Loving was wounded. Wild Cat Bluff? Loving’s Bend? Just like no one knows why this place was once Florence (a city in Italy, or after Loving’s daughter).

End of the Trail

Back to the Indian fight: Loving, seriously wounded, sent Wilson back to the herd. Wilson’s escape was epic, but overshadowed by Loving’s story. Mexican traders found Loving and got him to Fort Sumner, where he died of gangrene on September 25. Goodnight took the cattle north to Trinidad—where today the A.R. Mitchell Museum of Western Art and the Trinidad History Museum are musts. Goodnight established a ranch and cattle-relay station 40 miles northeast of town. In February 1868, Goodnight loaded Loving’s coffin into a wagon and brought him back to Texas for burial, “the strangest,” Haley wrote, “and most touching funeral cavalcade in the history of the cow country.”
Later that year, Goodnight contracted with Iliff to bring cattle to Cheyenne, Wyoming, and the Union Pacific Railroad. So the trail got longer, moving from Pueblo, east of Denver, to the South Platte River. Past Greeley—check out Greeley Hat Works, making great hats since 1909—and then following Crow Creek to Cheyenne, among the West’s most Western burgs.

“By 1870,” Haley wrote, “the trade along the Goodnight and Loving Trail was well established, and the amount of money handled by its Western bankers was noted as enormous.”

Historical Marker
You can find a roadside marker about Horsehead Crossing at a roadside park on U.S. 385/67 in southeastern Crane County. But the true adventurer can come closer to the actual site, and an earlier marker, by taking a caliche county road about 15 miles southeast of Imperial, Texas, off F.M. 11. A little more than three miles northeast, you’ll find the granite marker erected by the State of Texas in 1936.

The murals inside the Fort Sumner Courthouse depict the area’s history and were painted as a 1930s WPA project by artist Russell Vernon Hunter from Texico, New Mexico.
– All images courtesy Johnny D. Boggs unless otherwise noted –

After his death in New Mexico, Oliver Loving was reinterred—with Masonic honors—on March 4, 1868 at Greenwood Cemetery in Weatherford, Texas.

The restored Union Pacific depot in Cheyenne, Wyoming, houses the Cheyenne Depot Museum, which tells the story of the town’s early history.

Johnny D. Boggs re-creates another trail drive in Return to Red River. His book, a sequel to the novel by Borden Chase that became the classic John Wayne movie Red River, is due out later this year from Kensington.

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Father and Son: Longhorns and Headlines

Oliver Loving was born in Hopkins County, Kentucky in 1812. He farmed there as a young man. (Photo from Legends of America.)

In the 1840 census he listed his household as one male age twenty to thirty, two males under age five, one female age twenty to thirty, one female age five to ten.

About 1845 he moved his family to Texas, where he had a land patent in southwest Collin County.
Near the site of today’s Plano he farmed and hauled freight. But the nearest mills for his crops were in Shreveport and Jefferson, two hundred miles away.
So, he turned to raising cattle. According to one source, the sale of a sidesaddle belonging to his wife paid for his first longhorn.

In 1850 his son George Barnet Loving was born. (Baby George does not appear in this 1850 census.)
In 1855 the Lovings moved to Palo Pinto County and settled in Pleasant Valley, which became known as “Loving Valley.” There the Lovings operated a country store and ranched on Keechi Creek.

In 1856 when a new mail route was established between Dallas and Fort Belknap, Oliver Loving was postmaster of Pleasant Valley.
By 1857 Loving grazed a large herd of cattle on one thousand acres of land. The next year he assigned his son Joseph, nineteen, to drive the herd up the Shawnee Trail to market in Illinois. The drive was so successful that Oliver Loving repeated it in 1859.

In 1860 Oliver Loving had five children and eight slaves in Pleasant Valley.
But the valley was not always pleasant. The Telegram later wrote, “Owing to outbreaks among the Comanche Indians, life in that locality was very risky, and the elder Loving finally removed with his family to Weatherford” in Parker County.

By 1862 the Lovings were living in Weatherford in this house, built in 1857.

In 1866 Loving heard that Fort Sumner in New Mexico needed cattle to feed eight thousand Native Americans on a nearby reservation. Loving gathered a herd, combined it with a herd of cattleman and former Texas Ranger Charles Goodnight (photo from Wikipedia), and began the long drive to the fort. Loving and Goodnight sold some of their cattle to the Army for $12,000 ($212,000 today) in gold. Loving then drove the remainder of the herd north to Colorado and sold it. Meanwhile, Goodnight returned to Weatherford with the gold and gathered another herd to drive. Goodnight and Loving reunited in southern New Mexico, where they spent the winter of 1866-1867 and supplied cattle to Santa Fe and Fort Sumner.
In 1867 Goodnight and Loving made three drives along the trail from Texas west to Fort Sumner and north into Colorado, accompanied by tracker and cowboy Bose Ikard. The third drive was slowed by heavy rain and the threat of attack by Native Americans. Despite the risk, Loving left the herd and rode ahead toward Fort Sumner to negotiate sales contracts, taking with him only his scout, one-armed Bill Wilson. Although Loving told Goodnight that he would travel only at night through Native American territory, Loving did not like to travel by night and became impatient. He decided to ride by day, tempting fate. Around two o’clock on the first afternoon about one hundred Comanches attacked Loving and Wilson on the trail. Loving and Wilson left the trail and sought shelter on the Pecos River southeast of Carlsbad.

One newspaper account of the time reported: “After fighting the Indians some time, and being badly wounded, he [Loving] and his companion [Wilson], to save themselves, swam the Pecos, and the Indians, finding they could not kill them by firing from this side, one of their number swam across but was killed by Loving. His companion filled his boots with water, and setting them by Loving, and leaving his brace of pistols with him, at his request, started in pursuit of assistance. Loving swam back to this side, and meeting a Mexican train, paid the wagon master $300 [$5,000 today] to carry him to Sumner. After getting the money, they proposed killing him to avoid the trouble, but his life was saved by the determination of a boy, and he reached the Fort. Amputation was found necessary which was performed, but one of the arteries having broken loose, a re-amputation became necessary, and he died a few days after.”
As Loving lay dying of gangrene he asked Goodnight to take his body back to Weatherford for burial, to pay off his debts, and to see that his family was cared for.
Loving was buried at Fort Sumner while Goodnight drove the herd on to Colorado. Then Goodnight had Loving’s body exhumed. J. Evetts Haley in his biography of Goodnight writes that Goodnight’s cowboys gathered oil cans, flattened them, soldered them together, and fashioned a tin casket, placing inside it the exhumed wooden casket that contained Loving’s body. By one account Goodnight packed the body in charcoal and returned it by wagon to Weatherford, where Loving was reburied in Greenwood Cemetery on March 4, 1868. Other accounts say the body was accompanied by Bose Ikard or William D. Reynolds (see below) or Loving’s son Joseph, who had made the Lovings’ first cattle drive in 1858.

This marker is in Mentone, county seat of Loving County.

Greenwood Cemetery, Weatherford.

The trail that Goodnight and Loving blazed became known as the “Goodnight-Loving Trail,” stretching seven hundred miles through west Texas into New Mexico and north into Colorado. It became one of the Southwest’s most heavily traveled cattle trails. Oliver Loving is remembered as “the dean of the trail drivers.” (Map from Billington and Ridge, Western Expansion: A History of the American Frontier.)

A cowboy driving his herd on the Goodnight-Loving Trail. (Illustration from Harper’s Weekly, 1867.)

Oliver Loving’s son George Barnet Loving was born on June 10, 1850 in Collin County near the future site of Plano.
George was seventeen years old when Oliver was killed in 1867. Like older brothers Joseph and James, George inherited their father’s ranching gene.
At age nineteen George married Miss Helen Shephard at Weatherford. He began ranching in Parker County, then moved to Denison to buy and ship cattle (he also was hide and cattle inspector).

While in Denison, in part because of the national financial panic of 1873, Loving went bankrupt. The “Bros.” in “George B. Loving & Bros.” probably included James Loving and one or more of two other brothers.

George moved to Fort Worth in 1876. As in Denison, he bought and sold cattle and served as hide and cattle inspector.

The coming of the railroad in 1876 transformed Fort Worth, making it a shipping center for cattle.

Loving moved to a ranch in Jack County in 1878 and herded his cattle to Fort Worth for sale and shipment.
When he moved back to Fort Worth in 1880 he was $15,000 ($400,000 today) in debt. He continued to buy and sell cattle, but he also began to use black ink to get himself out of the red.

In 1880 Loving began publishing the Stock Journal for cattle raisers.
In 1881 he published one of the bibles of the industry. His Livestock Manual contained “the name, post office address, ranch location, marks and brands of all the principal stockmen of Western and Northwestern Texas, showing marks and brands on electrotype cuts as they appear on the animal.”
In 1882 he began publishing Wool Grower for sheep raisers.
Also in 1882 Loving founded the Fort Worth Gazette and thus became a general in the newspaper wars that raged in Fort Worth during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
The Gazette’s genealogy:

The Fort Worth Democrat was founded in 1871 as a weekly by Major Khleber Miller Van Zandt and others.
In 1873 B. B. Paddock bought the Democrat and served as editor and publisher. The Democrat became the city’s first daily in July 1876 with arrival of the railroad.
In 1880 W. P. Wilson began publishing the daily Advance.
The Daily Democrat merged with Wilson’s Advance in 1881 to form the Democrat-Advance. Paddock remained as editor.

In 1882 George B. Loving bought the Democrat-Advance and merged it with his Livestock Journal to form the Fort Worth Gazette morning daily. Paddock remained as editor. The Gazette would be a success with six thousand subscribers who paid $10 ($300 today) a year.

Meanwhile, Loving’s ink had quickly put him enough in the black that in 1880 he built an eighteen-room mansion at 1502 Summit Avenue, one of the first mansions on Quality Hill. (Photo from University of Texas at Arlington Libraries.)
But Loving did not live in his mansion long. In 1883 he sold the mansion to fellow cattleman capitalist E. B. Harrold and thereafter lived in various houses and hotels in Fort Worth.

By 1885 Loving was publisher and general manager of a newspaper, president of a dairy, proprietor of a refrigeration works, and partner in a land and cattle business.

That year his Gazette reported that a county in far west Texas would be created and named after his father Oliver. Loving County indeed was created in 1887. Today it remains the least populous county in the contiguous United States.
I think that distinction would bring a smile to the chapped lips of an ol’ range rider like Oliver Loving.

Fort Worth’s newspaper wars continued in the 1890s. In 1896 the Gazette was killed in action: The Dallas Morning News bought the Gazette, took over its subscription list, and it ceased publication. Gazette readers read this front-page notice in the Morning News when it suddenly appeared on their porch.
In response, former Gazette employees banded together to begin publishing the Fort Worth Register. Which in 1905 was bought by the Record. Which in 1925 was bought by the Star-Telegram.

During the 1890s Loving also published the Daily Mail, which was bought about 1900 by the Telegram. Which merged with the Star in 1909 to become the Star-Telegram.

George Barnet Loving died in 1903.

He in buried in Oakwood Cemetery.

And now the rest of the story:

Mrs. M. M. Barnes was the daughter of E. B. Harrold, who had bought George Loving’s Quality Hill mansion in 1883. She had lived in the mansion since 1883. When she died in 1947 she willed the property to the city to be used as a park. At the time of her death the mansion still contained some of its original furniture.
In 1950 the city announced that the mansion, two-story stable and garage, servant’s quarters, coal house, wash house, greenhouse, and a two-room house would be sold to be moved or dismantled.

The contents of the mansion were sold.

The mansion sold for $2,000 ($22,000 today) to Hearne Wrecking Company, which means the mansion was “parted out” like a ’51 Studebaker in an auto salvage yard. The mansion was cannibalized for its exterior lumber, handcrafted wood paneling, staircases, fireplace mantels, custom tiles, stained glass windows, chandeliers, etc.

And on the Loving property on Summit Avenue at Rio Grande the city laid out E. B. Harrold Park. There is more history north and south of the park. In this aerial view, the “Alexan Summit” complex stands where once stood the mansion of cattleman Samuel Burk Burnett. The “Law Office of Jim Zadeh, PC” occupies the home of cattleman and brick baron Lyman Cobb. And “Lone Star Ag Credit” is located where cattleman William David Reynolds’s mansion once stood. His carriage house survives.
(According to the Handbook of Texas, Reynolds as a young cowboy worked for Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving, rode on the cattle drive when Loving was killed in 1867, and was a member of the party who brought Loving’s body back to Weatherford for reburial in 1868.)


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