The story of Horace and 'Baby Doe' Tabor
Horace Tabor was not a miner. Instead he ran a general store in Leadville after arriving from Maine. Horace was married to a woman he met and returned for in Maine named Augusta (strangely from Augusta, Maine).
Augusta was reputed to be a great housekeeper and shopkeeper. She was just not all that pretty, at least not by 1880 (by then she was 47).
Not being a miner Horace could not strike it rich by mining. But he was fond of taking a stake in mining in exchange for goods from his store. He hit paydirt with one of his 'grubstakes' in 1878 when some German-immigrant miners gave him 1/3 of their claim and he proceeded to continue to invest until he was alledgedly the wealthiest man in Colorado!
So Who is Baby Doe?
Elizabeth Bonduel McCourt Doe Tabor was born in Wisconsin in 1854 to Peter Mcourt and Ellizabeth Nellis. She was vivacious, married Harvey Doe, and moved to Colorado! A beautiful woman with spunk when her husband failed to get to work Lizzie donned miner's clothes and worked in her father-in-law's mine around Central City, CO. The miner's alledgedly nicknamed her 'Baby Doe.'
Whether 'Baby' Doe divorced and moved to Leadville, or whether Horace met her before her divorce they connected. Baby Doe was approx. 25 years Horace's junior. In 1883 when they married, she was almost age 29, and Horace was nearly 53.
While we would assume she might have married for money and fame since Horace became Mayor of Leadville and then Governor of Colorado, indeed they were loyal to each other. How so....
Though quite wealthy for a few years the price of silver dropped in the 1890s and poor Horace lost nearly everything. In his later life he was reportedly working as a Postmaster in Leadville.
After his death, Baby Doe was left with little but the Matchless Mine. In a cabin at the entrance to the Matchless she spent her last years and was found frozen to death there! Loyal to Horace and loyal to the thought that the Matchless might someday produce more.
thanks to the Univ. of Colorado, www.babydoe.org, and www.leadville.com as well as the History Channel for filling in pieces of this story
USA's Highest Golf Course
I saw signs in town advertising Leadville's municipal golf course as the highest in the US, so drove by to take a look and purchase a souvenir sweater from the club house. From my vantage point, it didn't look like a very interesting course, but I have seen other mountain courses that looked benign, even boring from one viewpoint and have turned out to be monsters after the first couple of holes. I didn't play this course, so can't comment for sure. Having played other courses at a high altitude, I can tell you that you had better hit the ball straight, because your drives will go further out of bounds than at sea level. And sometimes it is difficult to concentrate on the game with such scenery around you!
Visit the Matchless Mine
Horace Tabor was the greatest of Colorado's Silver Kings during the "Silver Boom." His precious Matchless Mine is the most famous of all he had investing in.
Horace Tabor and his wife, Augusta, owned a general mercantile store in Leadville. Profits from his store allowed Tabor to invest in silver mining operations. In 1878, Tabor "grubstaked" with two eager prospectors (supplied tools needed in exchange for stake in claim) which quickly netted him over $2,000 a day in profit. That was the Little Pittsburg Mine. “Chicken Bill” Lovell attempted to swindle Tabor by dumping a wheelbarrow of rich silver ore into a barren pit at the Chrysolite Mine to sell for a large price. The joke was on Lovell, as just a few feet deeper, one of the richest lodes in the area made a fortune for Tabor.
Tabor had stakes in many claims around the Leadville area, all with other investors. In September 1879, The Matchless Mine went up for sale, and anxious to own a mine completely on his own, Tabor bought it. The mine, however, had been sold a number of times, as it historical did not produce. Embroiled in many lawsuits, Tabor ended up paying over $30,000 just to clear the title,a s well as $117,000 for the sale price.
Faithful in his investment, Tabor ordered the mine reopened, but immediately faced flooded shafts. By June, the water problem had been resolved and the mine began operation. By the first of the year, the mine was producing no less then $2,000 a day in profit from silver.
Tabor's success made him a powerful man and politician in town. In 1879, he opened the Tabor Opera House, once billed the finest theatre between St. Louis and San Francisco and hosted such acts as Harry Houdini, John Phillip Sousa and Oscar Wilde. He also established the Bank of Leadville and the Tabor Grand Hotel. He built a lavish mansion in town and lived the high life. In 1880, Tabor met Elizabeth Bonduel McCourt Doe and one of the most scandalous affairs ensued. Tabor left his wife for "Baby Doe" and in 1883 his second marriage was legalized.
The repeal of the Sherman Silver Act in 1893, and a series of bad investments cost Tabor his fortune. He desperatley tried to maintain possession of the Matchless Mine, but lost that too to foreclosure. The "Silver King" now worked for $3 a day hauling slag at the local mines, and took a position as postman, in hopes the silver market would return and allow him to once again control the Matchless Mine.
Tabor died of appendicitis in 1899 before he ever got his beloved Matchless back, leaving behind his wife, Baby Doe, and their two daughters, Silver Dollar and Lilly, flat broke. Baby Doe managed to get permission to live at the tool shack beside the Matchless Mine shaft until she died of a heart attack in March 1935. Her frozen body was found in the shack when neighbors noticed no smoke from her chimney for a period of a week.
Now, visitors can explore the Baby Doe cabin and look at the Matchless Mine. Tours are available, last one leaves at 4:00 pm.
The Tabor Opera House
The Tabor Opera House, once billed the finest theatre between St. Louis and San Francisco, was opened in 1879. The 3-story stone, brick and iron building cost $40,000 to built, making it one of the most costly structures in Colorado history. Leadville, sitting at 10,430 feet above sea level did not have such materials needed for construction. All the material had to be hauled over the high mountain passes by mule and wagon...a very tedious and expensive task. The Opera House was built in an incredible 100 days!
Tabor's life became one of the greatest scandals of the time, when he left his wife to marry Elizabeth Bonduel McCourt Doe (Baby Doe). The repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act in 1893 spelled ruin for Horace Tabor and many others who profited from the mining riches of the area. He lost his fortune, including the opera house. Now destitute, Tabor died penniless and Baby Doe froze to death in the small shack at the Matchless Mine.
Many well known personalities performed on this stage, including: Harry Houdini, John Philip Sousa, Oscar Wilde and Anna Held. The Opera House has been beautifully preserved for visitors to come and experience the granduer left from this once booming town.
Healy House Museum and Dexter Cabin
On the corner of Harrison Avenue and 10th, the Healy House Museum and Dexter Cabin stand to reflect the wealth of the era. In 1879, James V. Dexter's, a successful mining investor, lived on this property in a log cabin. This little cabin was actually lavish, filled with collectibles and reflecting the riches of the mining industry. Dexter's Cabin still stands here, restored for visitors.
The Greek revival house, now called Healy House, was built in 1878 by August Meyer for his bride, Emma. In 1893, the repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act ended the booming economy, and many of Leadville's wealthiest became destitute. Meyers house then became a boarding house, home to some 21 people by the year 1900. Dan Healy was a boarder at the house with his cousin, Nellie, who taught school.
The Colorado Historical Society has restored the house and the adjacent Dexter's Cabin, to reflect the lifestyle in the booming silver-mining town. The Healy House is furnished in period and includes many items once owned by Horace and "Baby" Doe Tabor, local silver-boom royalty turned rags.
In 1970, the Healy House and Dexter Cabin were added to the National Register of Historic Places for their architectural significance. The Society has also restored the gardens in honor of Emma Meyer, complete with native plants, idetified for educational purposes. Visitors can stroll through the gardens and visit the House and Cabin during its operating season.
Season is May through October. Individual, group and school tours available. Admission is:
Seniors (65+): $5.50
Children (6 -16): $4.50
Children (under 6): Free
Colorado Historical Society members: Free