Is 1883’s Charlie Goodnight Based on a Real Person?

1883‘ gives viewers a look at life in the American Westward Expansion in the 19th century through the eyes of a group of travelers. The caravan set out from Texas and is heading to Oregon while navigating various challenges on their way. While traveling through a Native American territory, the group encounters some bandits and a rancher named Charles “Charlie” Goodnight.

The show blends elements of reality with fiction and features real-world figures such as Jim Courtright and George Meade. Hence, it is natural for viewers to wonder whether Charlie Goodnight is based on a real person. If you are looking for clarification in that regard, here’s everything we have gathered! SPOILERS AHEAD!

Who Is Charlie Goodnight in 1883?

Charles “Charlie” Goodnight first appears in the seventh episode of the series and is a rancher passing through Native American territory outside of Texas. He arrives just in time to save James, Shea, and Thomas from a group of bandits. Charlie is an old friend of Shea, and the two catch up briefly after the gunfight. Since Shea and Thomas have frequently traveled across the Great Plains, it is no surprise that this isn’t their first encounter with Charlie. Charlie is a rancher and cowboy who hunts cattle thieves on the Texas boundaries and herds cattle from one place to another for a living. Series creator Taylor Sheridan essays the role of Charlie.

Is Charlie Goodnight Based on a Real Person?

Yes, Charles “Charlie” Goodnight is based on a real person of the same name. Goodnight was born on March 5, 1836, in Macoupin County, Illinois. Soon, Goodnight moved to Texas with his mother and stepfather. At the age of 20, he became a cowboy and joined a local militia. During the Civil War, Goodnight served in the Confederate States Army. After the war ended, Goodnight ventured into cattle herding. He resorted to guiding Texas Longhorn cattle towards the North from the Western parts of Texas.

Image Credit: University of North Texas Libraries/The Portal to Texas History

In 1866, Goodnight teamed up with Oliver Loving to drive a herd of cattle from the banks of Brazos River to Fort Sumner, where they eventually sold the cattle to the army. The route followed by the duo would later become known as the Goodnight-Loving Trail. The pair extended the trail to various parts in the following years and established cattle pastures in multiple spots. In 1876, Goodnight founded one of the first ranches in the Texas Panhandle area. He co-founded the ranch known as JA Ranch with Irish businessman John George Adair.

Goodnight also helped form the Panhandle Stockman’s Association. He was married to Mary Ann “Molly” Dyer and had two children. After Molly died in 1926, Goodnight married Corinne Goodnight in 1927. Goodnight passed away on December 12, 1929, aged 93. He is buried at Goodnight Cemetery near Amarillo, Texas. Goodnight’s works greatly influenced Texas’s cowboy and ranching communities and culture. Due to his contributions, Goodnight has been dubbed as “father of the Texas Panhandle.” He was inducted into the Hall of Great Westerners of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in 1955, and his legacy continues to live on in Texas.

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