Charles Goodnight ignited the cowboy culture that would go on to define the American southwest. His likeness is immortalized in stone and bronze across the state of Texas. He is known for transforming cattle drives from a hardscrabble frontier livelihood, into the biggest business in the American West. In 1955, he was inducted into the Hall of Great Westerners of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.
However, before he became a Texas legend, Goodnight chose to live along the banks of the Arkansas River in southern Colorado.
Goodnight first made his fortune driving cattle from Texas to Colorado, blazing the trail across the American countryside that would eventually bear his name. By the end of the cattle-driving era, it’s estimated that more than half a million heads of cattle traveled the Goodnight-Loving Trail.
In 1869, after several years on the trail, Goodnight purchased a large swath of ranchland west of Pueblo, Colorado, where he and his wife Mary Anne hoped to settle permanently. After a major economic downturn devastated the rancher’s finances in 1876, Goodnight was forced back on the trails. By 1887, Goodnight had amassed enough wealth to purchase a new ranch in the Palo Duro Canyon, east of Amarillo, Texas, where his Victorian-style ranch house still stands today.
Despite Goodnight’s eventual departure, all signs indicated that he originally had every intention of living permanently in Colorado.
The Goodnight Barn, a squat, sturdy structure of rough-cut sandstone, is now one of the oldest surviving buildings in Colorado. It’s the last-standing remnant of Goodnight’s Rock Valley Ranch. In 2020, the building was restored using $1,000,000 raised by the Goodnight Barn Preservation Committee and other organizations
The goal is to use the barn as a setting for events such as historic barn dances and chuckwagon cookoffs. Eventually, the hope is to turn the property into a full-scale interpretive center dedicated to educating the public about Goodnight’s legacy in Colorado.
Know Before You Go
Follow Highway 96 (Thatcher Ave) west out of Pueblo and toward Lake Pueblo State Park. The barn will appear on your right soon after mile marker 50. Park in the small dirt lot and walk to the structure, which boasts a newly-renovated entryway and information center.