It Happened Here: Weatherford, Texas

Call's promise to bury his partner in Texas is based on a true story.
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Call's promise to bury his partner in Texas is based on a true story.
Credit: Tarrant County College, Weatherford Public Library Charles Goodnight and W.D. Reynolds, ca. 1928.

Credit: Tarrant County College, Weatherford Public Library Charles Goodnight and W.D. Reynolds, ca. 1928.

Oliver Loving moved his young family from Muhlenberg County, Ky., to Parker County, Texas—named for Isaac Parker, a Texas revolutionary, legislator, and the uncle of the kidnapped Cynthia Ann Parker—in 1843. After trying his hand at farming for a few years, Loving’s cattle empire began to blossom and he found market for them in Shreveport, Alexandria, and New Orleans, La., and later, Illinois. In 1858, he trailed the first cattle from Texas to Colorado, selling them to gold-seeking miners. He continued this practice until—while in Colorado—the Civil War broke out. Authorities refused to let him leave, however, his friend Kit Carson intervened on his behalf and Loving was allowed to return to Texas. He then began supplying the Confederate army with beef. 

When the war ended, he and Charlie Goodnight became partners, supplying the Army at Fort Sumner, N.M., with beef via what would become known as the Goodnight-Loving Trail. On their third drive to Fort Sumner in 1867, Loving (54 at the time) and “One-Armed” Bill Wilson went ahead of the herd and were attacked by Comanches—their story becoming the basis for the Lonesome Dove attack scene. 

As Loving died in Fort Sumner with Goodnight at his side, he lamented passing without paying off his debts (the Confederacy owed him $150,000 for beef). Goodnight, 31, saw to it that all of Loving’s accounts were square. Moreover, Loving regretted “Having to be laid away in a foreign country.” Fort Sumner was Union territory. Texas, of course, was Confederate. 

“I assured him that he need have no fears,” Goodnight told his biographer, J. Evetts Haley. “That I would see that his remains were laid in the cemetery at home. He felt this would be impossible, but I told him it would be done.”

And it was. Briefly buried in New Mexico, the next spring, Goodnight—with W.D. Reynolds in charge of the outfit—exhumed the body and loaded it in a wagon drawn by six mules. With several cowboys—including Goodnight—accompanying the procession, the body was delivered to the Masonic Lodge at Weatherford, Texas, (the Parker County seat) where it was buried with fraternal honors. To this day, a headstone in Greenwood Cemetery marks the grave of Oliver Loving.