HSU Students Help to Tell the Story of one of Texas’ Most Fabled Cowboys

HSU Students Help to Tell the Story of one of Texas’ Most Fabled Cowboys

By Janlyn Thaxton, HSU Media Relations Coordinator

 

 

 

When Charles Goodnight was just 20 years old and living in the Texas Panhandle, he was already on his way to becoming one of the most celebrated cowboy-rancher figures of Texas history. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Goodnight joined the Confederate States Army and later became part of a frontier regiment guarding against Comanche raids. Students at Hardin-Simmons University have just recently completed a seven-year project to tell the story of Charles Goodnight, and in April, were on hand to help open the J. Evetts Haley Visitor and Education Center in Goodnight, Texas, with a ribbon cutting. The center features the work of numerous Hardin-Simmons students and several HSU professors who helped design the displays and exhibits. The Goodnight home is located one-quarter mile south of U.S. Highway 287, about 40 miles east of Amarillo, Texas. The home restoration started as a project of the Armstrong County Museum, charged with reviving the dilapidated structure to resemble its appearance in 1887. {{more}} Part of Goodnight’s fame came when he organized and led a posse to locate the Comanche camp where the kidnapped Cynthia Ann Parker was living. He later guided Texas Rangers to the camp leading to her recapture. Goodnight is also the man behind the name of what is now known as the Goodnight-Loving Trail used in the cattle drives of the 1860s for the large-scale movement of Texas Longhorns. Dr. Tim Chandler, HSU professor of communication, one of many HSU professors who worked on the project, says, “In 2005, HSU was originally tasked with assisting in the promotion of the campaign to raise funding and awareness for the restoration of the Goodnight buffalo ranch house. The Henry and Koma Beryl Fields family, long-time supporters of Hardin-Simmons, and Koma Beryl herself a graduate of Simmons College in 1940, contacted us about partnering with the museum on their project.” Chandler explains that the work began with a summer school course and quickly grew to include the production of video, brochures, original art, a book, a theater production, and the recording of some of George Crane’s music for both stage and screen. “In 2012, HSU was again enlisted, this time to help publicize the opening of the restored house and to begin developing a commemorative book and displays for the planned visitor center.” “In the middle of these developments,” says Chandler, “I received a call from the Texas Historical Foundation with an opportunity for students to write articles for a special edition of its quarterly publication, Texas Heritage. Working through Dr. Randy Armstrong’s public relations writing class, six students were enlisted to research and write for the Charles Goodnight issue of the magazine and meet with the editor of the magazine to plan the writing.” Dr. Tiffany Fink, associate professor of history, reviewed the book produced for the project, “Charles Goodnight: A Man For All Ages,” which ran in the same issue of the magazine. Chandler says the scope of the project continued to grow as students created a companion website for the Goodnight issue, and developed three more websites dedicated to the project, the book, and the Goodnight Historical Center. When the restored house was opened this past October, Chandler, Armstrong, and a group of students were among the first to tour the facility. More recently the visitor center project included students’ designs for a print ad and poster, along with a news release to promote the opening of the center. Chandler says, “The whole experience allowed students to witness the successes and problems involved in coordinating a project with multiple stakeholders and learning to give and take as necessary to accomplish the objectives.” More HSU students and professors became involved as associate professor of art, Steve Neves, directed two of his classes to create artwork for transportation posters, which are now displayed inside the visitor center. Armstrong handled production of the limited edition book boxed set bound in buffalo leather, Mike Jones, chair of the HSU art department, was called on to work with Exhibit Concepts of Ohio regarding the displays and exhibits, the same company doing the Frontier Texas renovation in Abilene. The J. Evetts Haley Visitor and Education Center and the Charles Goodnight Historical Center were officially opened Saturday, April 13, 2013, with a ribbon cutting. Armstrong, Chandler, and seven students each got a piece of the red ribbon. Chandler says, “We are honored to have been a part of the telling of Goodnight’s story and for the opportunity it has afforded our students and faculty.” The property, in addition to telling the story of the name behind the Goodnight-Loving trail, also serves as the home to a herd of about 20 bison comprised of genetically pure descendants of Goodnight’s original herd.