The Origins of the "Goodnight" Trail
SNE OF THE MOST PROMINENT CATTLE TRAILS OF WESTERN HISTORY
followed the Middle Concho River to its head, crossed a cruel ex-
panse of waterless plains to intersect the Pecos River at Horsehead Crossing,
and then ran northward past Fort Sumner and over the Raton Mountains
into Colorado. During the years when thousands of cattle were being driven
over it to stock much of the ranges of the West, it was referred to variously
as the Pecos, New Mexico, or Colorado trail. As a drover later explained,
"None of the various routes . . . appears ever to have become commonly
known by any more definite name than that of the territory into which it
led. . . ." Sometimes, he added, it did bear the name of the river it fol-
lowed. Most trails, such as the Sedalia or Great Western, have retained
names of this type, but a few have since acquired the names of individuals.
Prominent in this category is the Goodnight Trail.
For many years after the close of the cattle-driving era, considerable con-
fusion existed among writers over the proper name for the trail up the
Pecos. James Cox in 1895 referred to it as the "Chisum and Goodnight
Trail." Ten years later Prose and Poetry of the Live Stock Industry spoke
more specifically of it as the Chisum Trail, "first opened by John S. Chi-
sum." As late as the 192os historians such as E. S. Osgood were writing
highly regarded studies of the cattle industry without mentioning the Good-
By the end of the following decade, however, the trail had become uni-
versally known as the Goodnight or Goodnight-Loving Trail and all recent
books on the cattle industry have indicated that these two cattlemen were
the first to use it.' This sudden development was primarily due to J. Evetts
*Mr. Kenner is an associate professor of history at Arkansas State University.
'National Live Stock Association, Prose and Poetry of the Live Stock Industry of the
United States (3 vols.; Kansas City and Denver, 1905), I, 529.
2[James Cox], Historical and Biographical Record of the Cattle Industry and the
Cattlemen of Texas and Adjacent Territory (St. Louis, 1895), 300; National Live Stock
Association, Prose and Poetry of the Live Stock Industry, I, 523; Ernest Staples Osgood,
The Day of the Cattleman (Minneapolis, I929).
3Wayne Gard does note that "Several cowmen trailed Longhorns by way of the Concho
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 77, July 1973 - April, 1974. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117148/. Accessed March 4, 2015.