History in Focus: Maggie’s nipple
In the fall of 1871, George Baggs came north from New Mexico trailing 900 head of cattle. Seeking shelter from oncoming winter weather, he parked his herd in the warm confines of Brown’s Park. In the spring, Baggs sold his well fed and healthy cattle for a tidy profit, inaugurating the year-round cattle industry in Northwest Colorado.
Along with his cattle, George’s common-law wife, Maggie, made her debut in Brown’s Hole and quickly became infamous for her numerous extramarital affairs. Without delay, the former Chicago dance hall girl quickly shacked up with Pablo Herrera, brother of the notorious cold-blooded and knife wielding “Mexican Joe” Herrera and even moved with Pablo to New Mexico for a short stint.
In the spring of 1872, George returned to New Mexico, gathered up another herd of cattle, and returned to the Little Snake River area. He established his ranch, the Double Eleven, along the river and close to the location of modern Baggs, Wyoming. George was betting he could take advantage of the nutritious, untrammeled, and free bluestem grass on the open range. His operation flourished.
At the same time, he also filed the very first homestead claim in what would become Routt (and later Moffat) County, along the Little Snake River. This claim is about eight miles southwest of the intersection of today’s County Road 7 and 21.
Maggie also returned with George. She saddled up and took to the range with the cowboys, but her domineering and annoying presence was unbearable. The tense atmosphere on the ranch drove off many good cowboys. Due to Maggie’s libertine attitude and harsh bossing, one witty and sarcastic cowpuncher named John Farrell nicknamed a small rounded knob near the ranch’s southern homestead, “Maggie’s Nipple.” Less than honored, Maggie had him horse-whipped in public and fired from the Double Eleven.
From the same intersection of today’s County Road 7 and 21, “Maggie’s Nipple” is visible about two miles to the southwest, just across the Little Snake. However, Maggie’s anatomic fame has been tamed and is now known simply as “The Nipple.”
Amidst the drama and infidelity, the affable and patient George proved to be a good businessman. He caught the attention of Denver area beef buyers, and he cornered the Denver market for several years with his delicious grass-fed steers.
While George worked hard developing the Double Eleven, Maggie worked equally hard finding cowhands to service her amorous needs. According to author John Rolfe Burroughs, the hired hands would cool off in the pond near the bunkhouse during the hot summer. Concealed behind a clump of willows, Maggie observed their key “attributes” and found one cowboy, Mike Sweet, worthy of her attention.
George’s patience finally ran out! In 1883, he filed for divorce and sold the ranch and all of its holdings to William Swan of the Swan Land and Cattle Company. Maggie got ⅓ of the sale, and took off with Mike Sweet to California. After the money ran out, so did Mike Sweet. And according to legend she ended up in Galveston, Texas, running a shady boarding house.
As for George, details of his life after northwest Colorado are few and far between. While Maggie and George were a founding couple of the cattle industry in our area, they were no idyllic example of supposed western virtues. Yet, because of their tempestuous relationship, they are one of northwest Colorado’s most memorable early settlers and helped set the tone for the area’s reputation for attracting unique characters, desperados, and outlaws.
James Neton teaches history at Moffat County High School and can be reached at netonjim@yahoo,com. Source for this article: Where The Old West Stayed Young by John Rolfe Burroughs (1963), and the archives and photo collection of the Museum of Northwest Colorado.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Craig and Moffat County make the Craig Press’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.