At the age of nine, in 1849—the same year Texas joined the Union—Goodnight (1836–1929) rode his mare, Blaze, bareback, 800 miles from Illinois to what is now Milam County, with his family. He would become Texas’s most prolific cowboy, scout, and trailblazer, helping to locate the captive Cynthia Anne Parker, establishing—among others—the Goodnight-Loving Trail, designing the first chuckwagon, and developing the famed JA Ranch in the Panhandle’s Palo Duro Canyon. He was also the first president of the Panhandle Stock Association, maintained a private foundation bison herd, and opened Goodnight College in the town of Goodnight, where he also founded the Goodnight Ranch.
Goodnight’s legend inspired plenty of literature, including the 1936 non-fiction tome by J. Evetts Haley, Charles Goodnight: Cowman and Plainsman, as well as the 1985 Western epic, Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry. When the National Cowboy Hall of Fame was created in Oklahoma City in 1958, Goodnight was among its first five inductees.
Ikard (1843–1929) was born into slavery in Mississippi, but his owner, Dr. Milton Ikard, moved to Parker County not long before the Civil War. Freed by the Thirteenth Amendment, Ikard signed on to herd cattle for Oliver Loving in 1866. After Loving was killed, Ikard remained in the service of Charles Goodnight, developing a bond that lasted a lifetime and inspired Ikard’s inclusion in Lonesome Dove as the beloved character Joshua Deets.
Bose married and settled in Weatherford, and lived to age 85. Charles Goodnight paid tribute to his friend:
“He was a good bronc rider, and exceptional night herder, good with the skillet and pans, and surpassed any man I had in endurance and stamina. There was a dignity, a cleanliness and a reliability about him that was wonderful. His behavior was very good in a fight, and he was probably the most devoted man to me I ever had. I have trusted him farther than any living man. … We went through some terrible times during those four years on the trail. He was the most skilled and trustworthy man I had.”
Samuel Burk Burnett
Learning the trade from his father, Burnett (1849–1922) acquired his own brand, “6666,” and began building what would become the Four Sixes empire in South Texas when he was in his early 20s. The operation moved its headquarters to the Wichita Falls area in 1881 and by 1903, was comprised of 206,000 acres. Eventually, the Four Sixes would also come to include ranches in Mexico and Oklahoma, on which Burnett ran some 20,000 cattle. With the help of his friend Theodore Roosevelt, the location of the ranch was renamed Burkburnett, and oil was discovered there in 1921, making Burnett increasingly wealthy. When he died a year later, Burnett’s widow used much of her late husband’s $6 million as an endowment for Texas Christian University.
In addition to operating the Four Sixes, Burnett was the director of the First National Bank in Fort Worth, the president of the Ardmore Oil Mining and Gin, a charter member of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, as well as the president of the National Feeders and Breeders Association.
Parker (1845–1911) was the son of Comanche Chief Peta Nocona and his white captive, Cynthia Anne Parker. Growing up in both worlds, Parker had extensive knowledge of the Llano Estacado and surrounding plains. He became a leader in the Comanche’s refusal to take part in the Medicine Lodge Treaty and their subsequent defense of their way of life off the reservations that lasted many years. Ultimately, Parker and his people were forced to resign their liberties, though Parker is remembered for easing the tensions between the Plains Indians and the whites by promoting education, agriculture, and forged business relationships with white ranchers, including Charles Goodnight. Parker himself became a successful cattle rancher and entrepreneur who enjoyed the acquaintance of Theodore Roosevelt and became the deputy sheriff of Lawton, Okla., in 1902. He died of an unnamed illness after visiting the Cheyenne Reservation and, in 1957, was reburied in Lawton with full military honors after a missile base expansion at his original burial location.
In the mid-1850s, Waggoner (1828–1902)purchased his first herd of Longhorns and began the task of buying up properties near and around Decatur, starting with 160 acres in what is now Wise County, and eventually, with his son, amassing approximately 525,000 acres across seven different counties, on which they ran some 80,000 cattle, not including the nearly 100,000 acres they leased in Indian Territory.
Not just a cattleman, Waggoner built El Castile, or “the castle”—a $50,000 Victorian mansion—for his family and owned five banks, three cottonseed mills, and a coal company. He died of kidney disease in Colorado Springs, Colo., but the ranch stayed in the family until its sale in 2016.
A 12th-generation cattle rancher, Guerra (1929–2016) grew up in the Rio Grande Valley at a time when purebred Texas Longhorns had lost favor and were being bred out of existence. Recognizing their value, Guerra combed the Mexican deserts for foundation stock, gathering them up when he could out-wile them, and created his own herd of 69 head of pure Longhorn cattle.
In addition to preserving a breed of cattle with roots as deep as his own family’s, Guerra, along with his son, was also a prolific collector of Mexican and Tejano art and artifacts. Much of his collection is on display at the Briscoe Western Art Museum in San Antonio, including the sword of Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna.