Inventory of the Charles Goodnight Correspondence:
Charles Goodnight was born 5 March 1836, in Macoupin County, Illinois. He moved with his family to near Nashville-on-the-Brazos, Milam County, Texas, in 1845. In 1857, Goodnight and his step-brother, John Wesley Sheek trailed a herd of cattle up the Brazos River to the Keechi valley, in Palo Pinto County, Texas. During this time, Goodnight became acquainted with Oliver Loving, who was also running cattle. Goodnight joined Capt. Jack Cureton's rangers, with whom he served as a scout and guide, participating in the raid on 18 December 1860 in which Cynthia Ann Parker was recaptured from the Comanche Indians. In the spring of 1866, Goodnight and Loving organized a cattle drive from Fort Belknap, Texas to the Pecos River, and up to Fort Sumner, New Mexico. This route became known as the "Goodnight-Loving Trail."
In 1869 Goodnight established his Rock Canon Ranch on the Arkansas River, west of Pueblo, Colorado, and married Molly Dyer on 26 July 1870. Goodnight eventually settled in Armstrong County, Texas, where he built a ranch house he dubbed the Home Ranch. After borrowing $30,000 from John G. Adair, Goodnight and Adair launched the JA Ranch, with Goodnight as resident manager. By Adair's death in 1885, the JA Ranch owned 1,325,000 acres, on which grazed more than 100,000 head of carefully bred cattle. As an early believer in improvement through breeding, Goodnight developed one of the nation's finest herds through the introduction of Hereford bulls. With his wife's encouragement, he also started a domestic buffalo herd, sired by a bull he named "Old Sikes," from which he developed the "cattalo" by crossing bison with Angus cattle.
In 1887, Goodnight sold his interest in the JA Ranch, and bought 160 sections in Armstrong County, Texas. He built a ranch house near Goodnight, Texas, into which he and his wife moved on 27 December 1887. He relocated his buffalo herd of 250 head to this ranch, which was organized as the Goodnight-Thayer Cattle Co. After selling his interest in the Goodnight-Thayer Co. in 1900, Goodnight limited his ranching activities to sixty sections surrounding his house. There he continued his experiments with buffalo, and also kept elk, antelope, and various other animals. Goodnight's wildlife preservation efforts gained the attention of such naturalists as Edmund Seymour, and American Bison Society member Martin S. Garretson. Goodnight also grew Armstrong County's first wheat crop, and conducted various agricultural experiments.
The Goodnights had no children. After his wife's death in April 1926, Goodnight became ill, and was nursed back to health by Corinne Goodnight, a young nurse from Butte, Montana. On March 5, 1927, Goodnight married the twenty-six year old Corinne. Shortly afterward they sold the ranch and bought a summer house in Clarendon. Goodnight died on December 12, 1929, in Phoenix, Arizona.
"Goodnight, Charles. " The Handbook of Texas Online.
The Charles Goodnight Correspondence (1887-1938) consists chiefly of personal correspondence between Charles Goodnight and various friends and business associates, some business correspondence relating to the purchase of several grandfather clocks, personal memos, notes and receipts. Also present are newspaper and journal clippings related to Goodnight, Christmas cards from Mrs. Corinne Goodnight to M. S. Garretson, and a photograph of Charles Goodnight.
The correspondence relays a sense of Charles Goodnight in his later years. The rough and tumble cattleman he was in his earlier years is gone, and, though spry for his age, he is not in the best of health. The large ranch he had built up has been sold, and he is now ranching just a few acres. Most of his letters refer to his obsession with the breeding of animals, the demise of the American buffalo, problems with his ranch, and his health. Women did not play a large role in Goodnight's world-his first wife is mentioned just in passing (though there are several condolence letters to him after her death), and his second wife barely at all. There is a sense of misplacement throughout most of the letters; a man suited for the old west of the 19th century living in the settled, tame years of the 20th century. Most of the correspondence after his death in 1929 refer to the breaking up of his various animal herds, and the possibility of his land being taken over by the State Game Commission of Texas to be made into a State Game Preserve and Bird Sanctuary.
Series 1. Goodnight to M. S. Garretson correspondence (1918-1929) consists mainly of handwritten letters written by Charles Goodnight to his friend and fellow American Bison Society member, M. S. Garretson. Most of the letters are written in pencil on Goodnight's lined official ranch stationary, though Goodnight would write on anything available-bank, law office, and sanitarium/clinic stationary, as well as unlined plain white paper. He also changed his official stationary frequently. A small percentage of the letters are written in ink. After Goodnight's second marriage (1927), all of Goodnight's correspondence is either typed or written in Mrs. Goodnight's hand. All of M. S. Garretson's replies are carbon copies of the original. The frequency of the correspondence is quite regular, except in cases of Goodnight's illness or the first Mrs. Goodnight's death. The letters deal with Goodnight's past on the frontier, the demise of, and reminiscences about, the American buffalo, Goodnight's rather strange ideas about the cross-breeding of animals, and the general usefulness of every bit of a buffalo's body (tallow, sinew, meat, horns, skin, etc.). Letters from George Hunt are included as enclosures to Garretson.
Series 2. Goodnight to G. R. Collins correspondence (1898-1906) includes handwritten letters, chiefly in ink, from Charles Goodnight to his business associate, G. R. Collins. Most of the letters are on Goodnight's official stationary, but once again, Goodnight wrote on pretty much anything, including hotel stationary. All of Collins' replies are carbon copies. The correspondence is sporadic, with few of Collin's replies, and little background information supplied. Goodnight and Collins primarily discuss the problem they were having with a Mr. Lindsey, who seems to be cheating them in some way involving the title on a land claim. They also discuss the purchase of cattle and a ranch by Collins, and problems they are having with the legislature in Washington, D.C.
Series 3. Goodnight to E. Seymour correspondence (1923-1929) contains mostly typewritten, unsigned letters from Charles Goodnight to naturalist Edmund Seymour. Two letters are in ink on official Goodnight stationary, but are probably written by Mrs. Corinne Goodnight (Goodnight's second wife). All of Seymour's replies are carbon copies. The correspondence is sporadic. In these letters, Goodnight discusses his long friendship (and animosity) with Indians, including Quanah Parker. He also gives instructions on cooking a buffalo roast, and once again expounds on the general usefulness of the buffalo. More animal breeding is discussed.
Series 4. Letters from Goodnight to miscellaneous recipients (1887-1902) includes a letter from Charles Goodnight to Messrs. Childs & Hadley involving the signing of a contract and several letters to J. M. Coburn about sending cattlemen and Capt. Littlefield to Washington, D.C. and "filling the board". The letters are all handwritten in ink on either Goodnight's official stationary or Adair & Goodnight stationary.
Series 5. Miscellaneous personal correspondence to M. S. Garretson (1918-1933) consists mainly of letters written to Garretson at Charles Goodnight's request. Most are handwritten in ink, on Goodnight's official stationary. A letter from O. H. Nelson relays his experiences on the frontier and with buffalo. Cleo Hubbard writes about his management of Goodnight's ranch, and Mr. and Mrs. Goodnight's health. A cover letter written by Edmund Seymour accompanies a carbon copy of a letter written by Charles Goodnight to Seymour, recounting Goodnight's experiences as a child growing up on the Texas frontier. Also included are three Christmas cards sent to Garretson by Mrs. Corinne Goodnight after Charles Goodnight's death.
Series 6. Miscellaneous other personal correspondence (1919-1938) are all carbon copies of typed letters or telegrams. A letter from Ray E. Gardner to Edmund Seymour detailing Gardner's experiences with George Armstrong Custer and at the Little Big Horn has a handwritten (pencil) unsigned note from Goodnight on the piece. The telegram and other letters are all written by Edmund Seymour, J. H. Ogden, and Ira Gabrielson discussing the sale of Goodnight's ranch and buffalo herd after Goodnight's death.
Series 7. Business correspondence relating to clock purchases by Goodnight (1922) contains correspondence between Charles Goodnight and the Waterbury Clock Company of New York, various notes written by Goodnight related to the purchase of several grandfather clocks and plaques to be affixed to the clocks, and receipts. The correspondence from the Waterbury Clock Co. is typed on company letterhead, while the Goodnight correspondence and notes are either handwritten in pencil or typed, on Goodnight's stationary or various scraps of paper. At least four large grandfather clocks were purchased by Charles Goodnight from the Waterbury Clock Co. for himself, his first wife (Mary Dyer Goodnight), J. M. Crain, and a Mrs. Bugbee, a pioneer woman of the Texas Panhandle.
Series 8. Miscellaneous documents include notes, receipts, newspaper and journal cuttings, and a photograph of Charles Goodnight. One of the notes, handwritten in ink by Goodnight on Adair & Goodnight stationary, lists the counties in the Panhandle of Texas and their judicial districts. Another note, on Goodnight's official stationary and dated 23 July 1925, details, in pencil in Goodnight's hand, how many calves he had sold, bought, and bred so far that year. The receipts are handwritten in pencil, one on Goodnight's official stationary and one on a postcard. The receipt on stationary is for a knife Goodnight found on the "Custer Battlefield in North Panhandle of Texas & Oklahoma", and presented to A. B. S. by Goodnight. The receipt on postcard is for a whip, presented to M. S. Garretson in 1922. This receipt is written in Goodnight's hand, in pencil, and addressed to M. S. Garretson, but the return address is for J. Evetts Haley at the University of Texas in Austin, and is signed in ink by Haley. The journal cutting is from the Erie Railroad Magazine, and is an article entitled "Reminiscences of a Plainsman" by Albert H. Baiseley. The newspaper clippings are from unidentified newspapers, one an article from a column entitled "Books and Things" by Lewis Gannett, discussing the book by J. Evetts Haley, Charles Goodnight, Cowman and Plainsman. The other clipping, from some time after Goodnight's death, reports that Goodnight's buffalo herd is likely to be sold. The photograph is a platinotype of Charles Goodnight, signed in ink by Goodnight, and is stored in a polypropylene photo/print album page.
Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Purchased from M.S. Garretson of Brooklyn, New York and Mike Vinson of Austin, Texas.
Processed by Melissa Zajicek in February 2003
Detailed Description of the Collection