By Michael Baadke
Charles Foxwing Goodnight Jr. was born March 5, 1836, in Macoupin County, Ill., and moved with his family to Milam County, Texas, in 1845.
With less than a year’s formal education, Goodnight became an able scout and hunter, herded cattle, and established important cattle trails throughout the West. He served as a scout for the Confederates during the Civil War, and with cattleman Oliver Loving, he forged the Goodnight-Loving trail across Texas and into New Mexico in 1866.
During his time on the trail, Goodnight created the chuck wagon to carry provisions and equipment to feed the trailhands.
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Goodnight married schoolteacher Molly Dyer in 1870, and with Scottish businessman Jack Adair he established the huge JA ranch in the Texas panhandle. Goodnight managed the ranch with a firm hand and tolerated no whiskey, fighting, or gambling among the cowboys.
He and Molly left the JA ranch in 1887 and built a new ranch near Goodnight, Texas. After years as one of the great cattle barons of the west, Goodnight became a civic leader and benefactor to the town, establishing a Methodist church and a school, and he found success as a landowner and developer. Goodnight died in 1929 at age 93.
Charles Goodnight is featured on a 29¢ stamp in the 1994 Legends of the West set (Scott 2869l, 2870l).