Mount Margaret

Sometimes, the raucous history of a place -- and a name -- is incongruent with its reality. Look at Mount Margaret, near Red Feather Lakes in northern Colorado. The 7.2-mile roundtrip hike to the summit of Mount Margaret winds through through gentle green meadows that bloom with pasque flower, golden banner, and pussy toes in June. It crosses a clear, burbling stream. The path is wide enough for three people to walk beside each other. "Mount" is deceptive, as this is the only mountain I have ever hiked that requires a downhill walk to the summit. On a sunny day, Mount Margaret is merely a lovely pile of smooth boulders, a perfect place to eat a lunch.

But examine its history, and Mount Margaret and the surrounding area, known as Maxwell Ranch, reveal an astounding series of scandals and land dramas. Houses and barns burned, people died suddenly, land was bought and sold and contested. The most scandalous story, though, involved the namesake of the mountain, Margaret Goldsborough. According to Lon Lewis of the Red Feather Historical Society, Margaret bought three homesteads on Maxwell Ranch for her daughter Mildred, as a wedding present in 1926. Mildred married a veterinarian named Dr. Wallace Brown. However, after just three years, Mildred filed for divorce from Dr. Brown, claiming that he was cruel and that he had only married her for her mother Margaret's wealth. Brown, still in possession of the land Margaret had purchased, promptly married a rich Denver socialite named Marion Elliot -- before his divorce was finalized -- and was charged $500 for bigamy. Only a year later, Marion filed for divorce, charging Brown with extreme cruelty. In 1935, Margaret managed to re-purchase the ranch. She, her daughter Mildred, and Mildred's son John from Mildred's second (failed) marriage moved onto the ranch. Mildred re-married and had a daughter, Margaret Ellen, in 1941. In 1943, Mildred heard that Dr. Brown had been found dead in Sweetwater, Texas, where he was widowed from his fifth wife and probably practicing veterinary medicine illegally.

Meanwhile, on Mount Margaret, the pasque flower bloomed purple and the bluestem grass waved in the breeze, and somewhere cattle lowed.

And exactly who was Margaret Williams Goldsborough? I can find no photographs of her. I know, from Ancestry.com, that her middle name was Luetta and that she was born in Illinois. I know Mildred was a daughter from her first marriage, though I can't figure out how the first marriage ended. I know she married Lewis Custice Goldsborough, twenty years her senior, who was rich, and who died in 1919, only four months after he and Margaret married, leaving Margaret with enough money to buy ranchland. I know she married A.G. Barnes Stonehouse, the famed owner of the Al. G. Barnes Circus, in 1930, and that he died seven months later (was Margaret cursed, or was she killing her husbands?) I know Margaret lived in Denver until she moved onto the ranch with Mildred and John in 1935. I know from the Denver Public Library archives that Margaret died in 1938, in early September, just three years after she moved onto the ranch.

But what was she like? What did she think and feel? The mountain named for her hides it all. She was persistent, evidently, since she got the ranch back after all those complicated changes of ownership. She was resourceful, since her marriage gained her wealth. But was she happy? Did she sometimes walk to the top of her mountain and feel some peace from the view?

These are the answers the cold archive, the birth records, the marriage records, the death records, hide. We can only imagine the stories.
Walking on the mostly flat trail on Mt. Margaret

On the summit of Mt. Margaret (June 2, 2018)


Cows grazing behind us


How to hike Mount Margaret:
1. Drive west on Highway 74E to the Mount Margaret trailhead, on the north side of the road.
2. Follow the Mount Margaret trail for 3.6 miles to the summit. Note that several other trails intersect with this trail, but the signage is good, if you are paying attention. Just before the summit, the trail goes downhill, and then hikers must scramble up boulders for a view of the surrounding valley.



Sources:

Lewis, Lon D. "Maxwell Ranch History." Red Feather Historical Society.  2015. Retrieved from http://redfeatherhistoricalsociety.org/local-histories/historic-local-sites/maxwell-ranch-history/, 14 June 2018.

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