Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving blazed a trail in 1886 to sell cattle in Fort Summer, New Mexico. That same trail was later named the Goodnight-Loving Trail. It spanned from Texas to Wyoming, but how long was the Goodnight-Loving Trail?
What Is the Goodnight-Loving Trail?
Sometime after the Civil War, former Texas Ranger and Indian Scout Goodnight met cowboy Loving. It was a time when there were not enough markets to sell their cattle. There was a huge need for cattle at Fort Summer since there were about 8,000 Navajo living at the Bosque Redondo reservation. Provisions from the United States government weren’t reaching the reservation, hence the need for urgent food supplies.
Goodnight and Loving followed a route often used by the Butterfield Overland Mail as they joined the herds of John S. Chisum in New Mexico. The Goodnight-Loving Trail started in Young County, Texas, then southwest to Horsehead Crossing along the Pecos River, up to the Pecos to Fort Summer in New Mexico, and then on north to Colorado.
So, how long was the Goodnight-Loving trail? It was a 700-mile route from Texas, and New Mexico, to the mining regions of Colorado. The trail later expanded to include Cheyenne, Wyoming.
In the early 1880s, western Texas started to build railroads that made long drives unnecessary. The trail, which was also known as the Goodnight Trial, was eventually abandoned. The Goodnight-Loving Trial was used for 20 long years.
What Happened on the Goodnight-Loving Trail?
It was dangerous to travel along the trail during those times since the inhabitants along the route were hostile. However, this didn’t bother Goodnight and Loving. On June 6, 1866, they set out to blaze the trail through the old route of the Butterfield Overland Mail (1858-1861). They passed through west Texas on the Pecos River, then went to New Mexico.
They brought 2,000 Texas Longhorns and 18 cowhands from Fort Belknap, Texas. When they reached Fort Summer, they sold beef to the army for 8 cents per pound, amounting to $12,000 in gold. The buyers were only interested in the steers. Thus, Goodnight and Loving had 800 stocker cattle left.
Goodnight went back to Texas to get the second herd. On the other hand, Loving continued to drive the remaining cattle to Denver, Colorado, via Raton Pass. Loving sold the remaining cattle to John Wesley Lliff. In addition, they sealed a partnership deal with John Chisum.
Tragedy on the trail
However, tragedy struck on their third trail drive in the summer of 1867. Loving, bringing only one trusted scout, went ahead to negotiate contracts in New Mexico. Comanche Indians attacked him, Despite his injuries, he still managed to reach Fort Summer, New Mexico. His injuries developed gangrene in his arm, which was eventually amputated. Loving succumbed to complications on September 25, 1967.
Meanwhile, Goodnight continued driving to Colorado. Later, he returned to get Loving’s body to bring it back to Texas. Loving was subsequently buried in the Greenwood Cemetery in Weatherford.
During the spring of 1868, Goodnight met with John Wesley Lliff. They forged a partnership contract to deliver cattle to the Union Pacific Railroad in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Together with his men, Goodnight traveled from the Arkansas valley near Pueblo to the north, through the east of Denver. They then proceeded to the South Platte River. Next they traveled through the stream, which is the site of modern-day Greeley, and then followed a tributary, Crow Creek. They finally reached Cheyenne, the delivery destination.
Afterward, he and his men returned to New Mexico to acquire more cattle from Chisum at the Bosque Grande. Upon returning from the north, they successfully straightened out the route by leaving Pecos, which is at the north of Fort Summer. Then they proceeded to the north, en route to Alamogordo Creek, and across the plains, passing through Cuervo Creek. Furthermore, they traveled to the Canadian River, just 20 miles out of Fort Bascom. Then they went to Cimarron Seco, just west of Capulin Mountain. They opened an easier trail via the Trinchera Pass en route to Colorado, thereby avoiding Dick Wootton’s toll road. He and his men managed to travel the trail several times.
What happened to Goodnight?
Finally, Goodnight settled down on the Texas Ranch he built. He stayed there until his retirement. Cattle drivers continued to use the trail Goodnight and Loving blazed. Drivers coming to and from Texas, passing through New Mexico and Colorado. Cattle ranches with Texas Longhorns were soon built across Wyoming. At the same time, several Texas companies began relocating, while others built subsidiaries there.
Summing everything up, it spanned 700 miles, and used for 20 years. That answers the question, how long was the Goodnight-Loving trail?