James C. Loving was the son of the well known cattleman and trail driver Oliver Loving and his wife Susan Loving, and was born in Kentucky in 1836. His parents came to Texas in 1845, settling for a year in Lamar County before moving to Collin County.
He grew up on the family farm and at the age of twelve began working as a teamster, driving an ox-drawn wagon in the family freight business. The railroads had not yet arrived in Texas and for many years, freighting by wagon was the way that goods and supplies were shipped. He became an experienced “bull-whacker” and evidently made a good “hand.” His family remained in Collin County for another 10 years before moving to Palo Pinto County. Their freighting business was then phased out, except for shipping home supplies and products. They became engaged in the mercantile trade, also finding success trading horses and mules and raising cattle under the name of O. Loving and Son. The cattle business was not hugely rewarding but they managed to support their families. Because he began working at such an early age, J. C. had no formal education.
He married married the former Mary Ellen Willett in 1857 and remained in the dry goods business until the opening days of the Civil War. Like many others, he remained within the state in a unit that was engaged in defense of the frontier. His rank was first lieutenant and he was in command of a company of about 60 other rangers. The company was primarily engaged in defending the fellow settlers against Indian raids from the various area tribes, including the Comanche and Kiowa.
His father, Oliver Loving, and Charles Goodnight had established a ranch in southern Colorado, operating under the name of Loving and Goodnight. They also bought cattle and made several successful cattle drives for their own account and for others. However, Oliver received a mortal wound in an Indian attack while driving a herd of cattle up to the ranch. The incident occurred in the late summer of 1867 and shortly thereafter, Oliver died of gangrene near Ft. Sumner, New Mexico. Many think that this incident was adapted by author Larry McMurtry to portray the death of his character Gus McCrae in “Lonesome Dove.” Following his father Oliver’s death, J. C. shut down his dry goods business and in 1868 set out to drive a herd of cattle to the ranch in Colorado from Texas in order to close out his father’s joint interests with Goodnight. However before he could leave Texas, Indians raided the ranch and stole most of the horses that he had allocated for the trail drive. It took him several days to replace the needed horses, but eventually he and a group of cowboys set out with a herd of 1,500 head of cattle in June of 1868. They traveled by way of Indian Territory, in an effort to avoid the hazardous southern route. Along the way, they made arrangements to merge their herd with a larger one, retaining some of the cowboys from each outfit to handle the herd, which by then numbered 4,000 head.
In Kansas they were confronted by a force of 1,000 to 1,500 Indians. When they talked through an interpreter with four of the party including a Comanche by the name of Black Beaver, the Indians inquired if the cowboys were from Texas, and Loving understood that it would have led to a battle if they had answered yes. Loving and the other cowboys told the Indians that they were from Kansas and were driving the herd for the government to forts that were beyond. The Indians consented to let them continue, as they were more concerned at the time with the warring Osage tribe. The trail drive went on to Ft. Dodge, Kansas where they learned of a Cheyenne uprising that threatened the area. They combined the herd with a mule train of many wagons and managed to assemble a combined force of 125 to 130 men heading for Ft. Lyon in Colorado. Fortunately, they made the rest of the trip without further incident and the mule train of wagons split off. J. C. and his cowboys were able to reach the Loving and Goodnight ranch in September 1868 and sell the herd. J. C. was able to negotiate the settlement of his father’s interest.
For about the next 10 years, Loving and his son Oliver II operated a cattle business in the Jack County area. He and the other ranchers continued to deal with Indian raids, with the last major incident occurring around 1875. The raids and a series of financial reverses forced the Lovings to close their operation down for several years beginning in 1876. The threat of Indian attacks continued until federal troops returned and helped to police the North Texas area.
The following year, Loving helped organize the Stock-Raisers’ Association of North-West Texas, the purpose of which included trying to deal with the wide spread cattle rustling that plagued the area. Its founding members included C. C. Slaughter, Loving and others, although some local ranchers declined to join due to possible retaliation from the rustlers. The organization, now known as the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raiser’s Association, provided for brand inspectors and generally aided stockmen in trying to offset the influence of large packing companies which had organized to try and keep prices at an unfavorable level. In addition to his return to ranching with his son, Oliver Loving II, J. C. Loving served as secretary of this entity and its successors until the year of his death in 1902 at age 66. The Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raiser’s Association continues today. Though the methods have improved with technology, its functions are largely the same as when it was created.
James C. Loving had come to Texas with his family at age 8. His generation had witnessed what may be called the taming of the west. They saw many changes, including the settling of Texas, the Mexican-American War, cattle drives, Texas statehood followed by succession and readmission into the Union, the Civil War, the Indian Wars, the arrival of the railroads and other major events. Loving was buried in City Greenwood Cemetery in Weatherford. His ranch house in Jermyn, Jack County, received a roadside historical marker in 1968.
© 2017, all rights reserved.