Oliver Loving, son of Joseph and Susannah Loving of Kentucky, was born December 4, 1812. At 21 he married Susan Morgan. They began a farm where they grew, among other things, their family of 9 children. But ten years later these Kentucky farmers heard of a deal that was too good to pass up. The Republic of Texas was offering land at bargain prices, so Oliver along with his brother and brother-in-law took their families to Texas!
There he received three patents of land (640 acres–about a square mile) for his farm. He hauled freight, too, and life was good. Fifteen years later, he’d bought a bigger ranch. He and his oldest son drove their cattle and the cattle of their neighbors up the Shawnee Trail to Illinois where beef prices were better. The venture was a success, earning them a profit of $36 per head! You can bet that Loving was all up for doing that again!
All went well until the Civil War broke out. The Confederate Army commissioned Loving to provide cattle for southern soldiers, but when the war ended badly for the Confederates, Loving was left holding the bag for over $100,000. He needed a new market.
In 1866 he teamed up with Charles Goodnight. Together they drove their sizable herds to Fort Sumner, New Mexico where there was a large Indian reservation. They sold their beeves to the U.S. Army for $12,000 in gold and began to develop plans for new markets in the expanding West. The land was rugged, water was scarce, and there was always a threat of Indian attack. The relatively safe route Goodnight and Loving blazed came to be known as the Goodnight-Loving Trail. Cowboys drove hundreds of thousands of cattle along this trail over the next twenty years or more.
Sadly, Oliver Loving made his last trip up the trail in 1867. On his third drive, the herd was attacked by Comanche warriors along the Pecos River, and Loving was shot. The place where he was wounded is called Loving Bend. He struggled to reach Fort Sumner, but died there of gangrene. His friend Charles Goodnight had Loving’s body returned to Texas to be buried at the Greenwood Cemetery in Weatherford, Texas.
Loving County, Texas is named in honor of Oliver Loving and has the distinction of being the least populated county in the entire United States.