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Texas | Columns | "It's All Trew"

How legends are made
Charles Goodnight

by Delbert Trew
Delbert Trew

Research recently turned up interesting facts about the parallel lives of two Panhandle men, one who became famous and the other who became lost in the annals of history. Strangely, the reason for the difference in the outcome of their lives was, believe it or not, about 500 feet in altitude. Now, as Paul Harvey would say, the rest of the story.

Charles Goodnight, the famous man, and Henry W. Cresswell, the forgotten man, became acquainted when they both arrived in Pueblo, Colo. Goodnight established a ranching venture and Cresswell started a dairy and grain farm. As they prospered, they became good friends.

In time, both owned and raised a lot of cattle, grazing them on open range east of Pueblo. Both became respected customers of the Thatcher Brothers Bank in Pueblo, which eventually grew into the largest financial institution in the area.

As the range settled up and became over-grazed, both men sought new grass for their herds. Goodnight drove a large herd to the Canadian River in Texas with Cresswell going along to see and investigate the country. When Goodnight stopped in the Canadian breaks, Cresswell went on in a great circle to see the wide open spaces in the northern Texas Panhandle. He was convinced it would be good cattle country.

Less than a year later, Cresswell brought his herd down the same trail as Goodnight traveled, settling just down the river from Adobe Walls and his friend, Goodnight.

Later that year, Goodnight moved on south into Palo Duro Canyon, eventually grazing over a million acres. Cresswell grazed his herds from the Canadian River north to the Oklahoma Strip, which included 1.25 million acres.

They were neighbors and friends, sold and bought cattle from each other and were prominent respected citizens. When Goodnight was elected the first president of the Panhandle Stock Association in 1880, Cresswell served as vice-president.

When the famous drift fence was built across the Texas Panhandle north of the Canadian River, Cresswell built east into Oklahoma and Goodnight and others built west into New Mexico .

Both changed with the times, accepting new barbed wire fences as inevitable and needed. Each protected their rights but neither turned vicious with the nester/settler problems.

Charles and Mary Ann Dyer Goodnight Marker
Photo courtesy Marlee Goodnight Dickerson
Goodnight, Texas
At this point, the year 1886-87, the parallels stop. Today, we know almost every accomplishment and every word Goodnight said or did. Books have been written and a museum is being developed in his memory.

Almost no one remembers Henry Cresswell. I finally found where he had died of blood poisoning in January of 1905 and is believed to be buried at Pueblo. Why was he not remembered better? Because the winter of 1886-87 brought prolonged blizzards and cold, killing hundreds of thousands of livestock on the Great Plains.

Those ranchers like Goodnight, living below the caprock, survived with little loss. Cresswell, grazing the high plains, survived and continued operating but never recovered financially to the level enjoyed before the blizzards. The difference was basically about 500 feet in altitude.

Delbert Trew

"It's All Trew"
August 21, 2007 Column

Charles Goodnight Historical Marker
Photo courtesy Curtis Carter
Historical Marker - On FM 52 in Oran
Charles Goodnight
Here at Black Springs in the Keechi Valley in 1857, the celebrated pioneer open range cowman and trail driver Charles Goodnight (1836-1929) located his first ranch on the extreme Indian frontier of Texas. From here he took part in the 1860 Pease River fight when Cynthia Ann Parker was recaptured from Comanches, he served as scout and guide for the Texas Rangers during the Civil War and in 1866 he laid out the Goodnight-Loving cattle trail, over which thousands of longhorns were driven to market in New Mexico. In 1867 at Fort Sumner, New Mexico, his partner Oliver Loving died from wounds suffered in an Indian attack. Without the aid of an undertaker, Goodnight carried the body by wagon through hostile Indian territory for burial at Weatherford (24 miles southeast).

Goodnight extended his cattle trails to Wyoming and to Colorado, where he started a ranch near Pueblo. In 1876 he established the first cattle ranch in the vast Texas panhandle, which became the internationally known JA Ranch. Involved in the preservation of the area's native buffalo, he also bred the first herd of cattalo by crossing buffalo with range cattle.

Goodnight's pioneer efforts led to the development of the frontier and the Texas cattle industry.
(1982)

See Goodnight, Texas
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