"Lone Star Historian" is a blog about the travels and activities of the State Historian of Texas. Bill O'Neal was appointed to a two-year term by Gov. Rick Perry on August 22, 2012, at an impressive ceremony in the State Capitol. Bill is headquartered at Panola College (www.panola.edu) in Carthage, where he has taught since 1970. For more than 20 years Bill conducted the state's first Traveling Texas History class, a three-hour credit course which featured a 2,100-mile itinerary. In 2000 he was awarded a Piper Professorship, and in 2012 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Wild West Historical Association. Bill has published almost 40 books, half about Texas history subjects, and in 2007 he was named Best Living Non-Fiction Writer by True West Magazine.
For 20 years the last home of Charles and Molly Goodnight was one of the many stops on the itinerary of my Traveling Texas History Course for Panola College. Built in 1888, the two-story ranch house faced the village of Goodnight, where the Goodnights built Goodnight College. The college was housed in a two-story brick structure which, like most of the community, has vanished.
This view from the east shows the large second-story sleeping porch at
the rear of the Goodnight home. The exterior of the 2,900-sq ft. house
has been returned to its original paint tones.
The Goodnight House faces north, a short distance
south of Hwy 287 and twelve miles southeast
But the Goodnight home did not vanish. For decades the Goodnights hosted a parade of cattle country notables, while the two-story frame Victorian dwelling was the nerve center for Goodnight's last ranch. Goodnight was a legendary pioneer cattleman who had opened cattle trails - most notably the Goodnight-Loving Trail - and established frontier ranches - most famously the JAs in Palo Duro Canyon. Goodnight invented the chuck wagon, developed a safer side saddle for his wife, Molly, and bred cattle with buffalo. Molly, a female pioneer of note in her own right, died in 1926. Charles lived in their home another year before, now in his 90s, moving to Clarendon. He spent his winters in Arizona, where he died late in 1929. He was buried beside Molly at the Goodnight Cemetery, located about a mile north of their longtime home.
The Goodnight Cemetery occupies a wind-swept
hilltop northeast of the little community.
A large monument commemorates Charles and
Molly Dyer Goodnight.
When I began taking Panola College students to view the exterior of the house during the 1970s, the building was painted white, and there had been additions. Montie Goodin was born in the house in 1931, the daughter of the Goodnights' foster son. Montie married rancher Emery Goodin, and she became a primary force in the Armstrong County Historical Society, headquartered in Claude, the county seat.
By long custom, visitors to the Goodnight Cemetery tie a bandana to the
fence in front of Goodnight's grave. Faded and torn, the bandanas are
periodically removed, but new ones soon appear. My new one is the
second red bandana from the right.
A few years ago Montie was instrumental in launching a $3 million campaign to restore the Goodnight house to its original appearance. Funding was raised and meticulous research was done, and slowly the house was returned to its early visage. Every time I drove nearby I turned off to see the progress, and once I met Emery Goodin, who genially provided information about the project. Finally, a gala event was held on Friday evening, October 5, featuring music and food and a general celebration. On Saturday there was an Open House, with tours available to the public for a modest admission fee. Heavy equipment then arrived for earth-moving equipment and the construction of a Visitor Center, after which the historic property will be perpetually open to visitors. Hats off to the Goodins and other friends and supporters of the Goodnight House.
For more information on the Goodnight House restoration