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Mary Ann "Molly" Goodnight


Mary Ann "Molly" Goodnight

Mary Ann “Molly” Dyer was born in Madison County, Tennessee in 1839. Her parents brought her to Belknap, Texas when she was 14, where she met Charles Goodnight. They were married in 1870 in Hickman, Kentucky.

They first settled in Pueblo, Colorado, where Charles had already established a ranch. Three of Molly’s brothers also worked on the ranch. They stayed until the Panic of 1873 and a draught drove them to Texas, where Charles got financial backing from John Adair from Ireland. The Goodnights and Adairs co-founded the famous JA in Palo Duro Canyon in the Texas Panhandle three years after the last Comanches were driven from the area.

Along with the normal chores of a pioneer housewife, she also became doctor, nurse, spiritual comforter, sister and mother to the hand who worked for her husband. Because of her compassionate demeanor she became known as the “Mother of the Panhandle.”

Molly began raising orphaned buffalo calves, establishing a buffalo herd, which became famous throughout the world. That herd still exists in Caprock Canyon State Park and part of it helped replenish their number. Part of the herd went to Yellowstone National Park, some went to the New York Zoological Park. A few also went on the road with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. She also crossbred some of the buffalo with range cattle to produce “Cattalo.”

In 1898 she helped establish Goodnight College and a small railhead town and a church were named for the couple.

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