The Cowboy Chuckwagon and Charles Goodnight

Charles Goodnight rebuilt an army surplus wagon to create his chuckwagon

The Cowboy Chuckwagon and Charles Goodnight go hand in hand. The chuckwagon (a cowboy's portable kitchen wagon used on the cattle trails) was invented by Goodnight in 1866. He is sometimes known as the "father of the Texas Panhandle" and is often described as one of the most prosperous cattlemen in the American West.

Goodnight, a former Texas Ranger who was born in 1836, owned the first cattle ranch in the Texas Panhandle, called the JA Ranch, located in the Palo Duro Canyon.

Goodnight helped create one of the major cattle trails, the Goodnight-Loving Trail, which was a cattle drive route from Texas that led into eastern New Mexico and Colorado.

Goodnight rebuilt an army surplus Studebaker wagon to create his chuckwagon. The chuckwagon was drawn by oxen or mules. The wagon usually carried food, eating utensils, a water barrel, as well as tools and bed rolls, all tucked away in drawers and shelves and covered by a canvas covering. A hinged counter that folded out was used for chopping and preparing the food.

Chuckwagon food was comprised of black-eyed peas, beans, corn and cabbage. Of course, there was lots of beef and bison steaks and stews spiced with chiles, garlic, and onion or the occasional catfish or shrimp caught from the rivers, lakes or coastal waters. Sourdough breads (sourdough bullets), quick biscuits, skillet corn bread and cowboy coffee were served with the meals.

Charles Goodnight - Biography 

Goodnight was born in Macoupin County, Illinois, but moved to Texas with his mother and stepfather when he was 10. In 1856, Goodnight became a cowboy and served with the local military, fighting against Comanche raiders. A year later, in 1857, Goodnight joined the Texas Rangers.

 At the beginning of the Civil War, he joined the Confederate States Army. Most of his time was spent as part of a frontier regiment guarding against raids by Indians.

Goodnight later succeeded in building his new JA Ranch into one of the major Texas ranches of the day, eventually running more than 100,000 cattle and returning excellent profits. After eventually selling off his ranch, he spent his last years investing in Mexican mining operations, taking a stab at being a movie producer, and enjoying the acclaim of his community at a small ranch near Goodnight, the panhandle town named for him, where he died in 1929 at the age of 93.

The frame house where Goodnight lived from 1889 until 1926 is still standing in the town of Goodnight, Texas, and was a private residence until 2005, when the owners donated the home and 30 acres of land for the Charles Goodnight Historical Center. The Charles and Mary Ann Dyer Goodnight House is considered one of the most important historic structures in the Texas Panhandle. The building was restored in 2012 and operates as a museum and learning center.

The Term 'Chuck'

Since early 17th Century England, individuals involved in the meat business referred to a lower priced part of the beef carcass as the "chuck."