Goodnight was one of the most prosperous cattlemen in the American West. The novel “Lonesome Dove” is a fictionalized account of a cattle drive by Goodnight and partner Oliver Loving. After the Civil War, Goodnight and Loving joined in a near statewide round up of cattle that had roamed free during the war. Having recovered his herd, Goodnight faced the problem of bringing it to market somewhere outside the war-ravaged South. He decided to head west, toward New Mexico and Colorado, despite the fact that getting there would mean driving the herd across a waterless stretch of west Texas.
The men set out with 2,000 head to blaze a trail from Belknap, Texas, to Fort Sumner, N.M., which became known as the Goodnight-Loving Trail. In 1876, Goodnight consolidated his operations back in Texas, this time at a ranch near Palo Duro Canyon in the Texas Panhandle. The next year, he formed a partnership with an Irish investor, John G. Adair. Their ranch soon covered more than a million acres, with a herd of 100,000 head.
Scholars such as author and folklorist J. Frank Dobie left little doubt about Goodnight’s impact.
Price said the papers will play a significant role in highlighting the correct genealogy of Goodnight’s family.
Price’s work will help document the golden age of ranching from 1877-1900, with letters describing Goodnight and John Adair as they established the JA Ranch, as well as fugitive letters about Mary Ann Dyer Goodnight and the preservation of the buffalo. The papers also have information on Goodnight and the development of cattalo, a hybrid of cattle and bison, his association with the American Bison Society, his various agriculture experimentations with grains such as wheat and various animal projects.
It also illustrates the great human interest stories of two of Goodnight’s exceptional animals, the longhorn Old Blue and the great buffalo, Old Sikes. There are also documents about the establishment of Goodnight College, silver mining, wildcatting for oil, as well as documenting Indians and buffalo with film.
Price said the last three years of Goodnight’s life prior to his death in 1929 have not been well documented.
According to Price, the papers consider the popular rekindling of the Goodnight Saga in Larry McMurtry’s novel Lonesome Dove and the television miniseries.
The Summerlee Foundation was established in 1988 by Dallas philanthropist Annie Lee Roberts. The Foundation is a mission driven, proactive organization with a strong desire to address significant issues in animal protection and Texas history. Since its inception, the foundation has awarded more than $27 million to grantees.