American History

Charles Goodnight

Charles Goodnight co-founded the JA Ranch in 1877, the first large cattle operation in the Panhandle. He worked to produce better livestock, not only purebred cattle but also a bison-cattle cross called “cattalo.”

Charles’ wife, Mary Ann, known as Molly by the ranch hands, cared for orphaned bison calves and was instrumental in conserving living herds during a period of systematic extermination.

In 1887, the Goodnights built a spacious Victorian-style two-story ranch house. The home is restored on its original site and features a 268-square-foot second-floor sleeping porch with spectacular views of the countryside and the nearby bison herd that are actual descendants of the herd raised by Charles and Mary Ann.

Plan a visit to Charles and Mary Ann Goodnight Ranch State Historic Site:

A snowy day in the Panhandle, January 2022

American History

The Arcane Texas

The Pecos River rises on the slopes of the Santa Fe mountain range in Mora County, New Mexico, and travels 900+ miles before emptying into the Rio Grande. Its drainage basin is approximately 44,000 square miles. It’s sort of hard to believe when you look at the river today, but before dams came along and impounded it, the river used to flow swiftly:   Early-day travelers described it as generally sixty-five to a hundred feet wide and seven to ten feet deep, with a fast current. It was fordable at only a few places, the most famous of which was the Horsehead Crossing. Incidentally, like most Texas Rivers, the Pecos has had many different names. In 1583 Antonio de Espejo called the river the Río de las Vacas (“river of the cows”) because of the number of buffalo in the vicinity. Gaspar Castaño de Sosa, who followed the Pecos northward, called it the Río Salado because of its salty taste, which, he said, caused it to be shunned by men and animals alike. According to Adolph F. Bandelier, the name Pecos first appears in Juan de Oñate’s reports concerning the Indian pueblo of Cicuye, now known as the Pecos Pueblo, and is of unknown origin. To Mexicans, the river was long known as the Río Puerco (“dirty river”).

Shown here is a photo of the Pecos near Sheffield, Texas that was taken by Traces of Texas reader Trey Armstrong.  Thank you, Trey!

American History

Texas America

Traces of Texas reader Mary Haner graciously submitted this wonderful photo of the Sayers family outside their home, which comes with a good story Says Mary:

“This is the Sayers home in Dumont. Farley Says is 5th from the right. Burk Burnett shot Farley Sayers over a cattle dispute in May 1912. Farley was married to my Dad’s half-sister, Rosa Magee. I remember Dad telling me how proud the young rancher was with his newly built home. Left to right:  the carpenter (unknown), Minnie Magee Morgan (Rosa’s sister), Walker Morgan (who was in the washroom when Farley got shot), Jess Sayers, Farley Sayers, Little Farley, Rosa Magee Sayers, Lois Sayers, J.T. Sayers, and Mary Johnson, who later married Jess Sayers.”

The story behind the shooting of Farley Sayers is this:  In 1912 when he was 63 years old, Burke Burnett was confronted by Farley Sayers in a bathroom at the Goodland Hotel in Paducah, Texas. Witnesses say Sayers reached for his gun but was outdrawn by Burnett and killed by a single shot to the chest. Burnett turned himself in to local law enforcement and stood murder trial next was acquitted on grounds of self-defense. A feud between the two men over the ownership of cattle precipitated the event.

Thank you, Mary! I just did quite a bit of research on all of this, including reading the New York Times account in 1912. I guess any time a man as wealthy as Mr. Burnett owner of the 6666 ranches kills a man, it’s newsworthy.

American History

American History ~ Texas

One of the oldest existing ferry services in Texas began 200 years ago.

A member of Stephen F. Austin’s Old Three Hundred, Nathaniel Lynch, established his ferry in 1822. The flat-bottomed boat was pulled by hand using a rope strung across the San Jacinto River at Buffalo Bayou.

The historic ferry played a vital role in Texas’s fight for independence. During the fearful exodus known as the Runaway Scrape, as many as 5,000 women and children crowded together waiting to use the ferry to escape Santa Anna’s advancing Mexican army.

On April 21, 1836—the day of the Battle of San Jacinto and the turning point in Texas’ war for independence—Lynch’s Ferry carried wounded soldiers across the San Jacinto River to the town of Lynchburg.

Since 1888, the Lynchburg Ferry has been operated by Harris County, free of charge. Passengers can board at Lynchburg for a 10-minute ride across the Houston Ship Channel to our San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site.

American History

Petrified Wood America

The Texas Quote of the Day:

“A petrified wood explosion is sweeping over Glen Rose … Every new building is incorporating some of this ‘wood’ from the nearby petrified forests into its walls or fences. Every owner of house needing repairs is lying awake at night studying out how he may most attractively weave some stone logs or chunks or stump or chips or splinters into its walls and make it distinctively Glen Rosian.”

From 1929, an article in the Dallas Morning News describes the boom in petrified wood construction that Glen Rose, Texas experienced in the late 1920s. About 45 of the structures still stand.  Shown here is the Ed Young Service station on CR 312.

I believe locals refer to it as sycamore grove. It was built in 1928 and served as a speakeasy during Prohibition. 

Traces of Texas reader Aaron Maxwell took this photo and kindly sent it in.