photo courtesy of the Denver Public Library, Western History
Baby Doe Tabor is a colorful legend in Colorado. She rose from rags to riches by tempting the rich and powerful Horace Tabor away from his wife of 25 years.
She thought she had it all, only to die frozen and penniless in her cabin at the site of the "Matchless Mine".
Her husband had owned and obsessed about about the mine til the day he died, telling Baby Doe to "hang on to the Matchless, Baby."
What is it about Baby Doe Tabor that caused an uproar in Colorado and across the country before and after her death?
She was born Elizabeth McCourt in 1854 in Wisconsin. Elizabeth was a beautiful child and became a stunning young woman.
She caught the eye of a local man, Harvey Doe and became Mrs. Doe in 1877.
Elizabeth's father-in-law ran a lumber business in Oshkosh and became a rich man with the help of a gold strike in Colorado to start his lumber mills.
The lumber industry started to decline in Wisconsin and the elder Doe decided to go back to Colorado and search for more gold to bolster his riches.
He, along with the newlyweds, traveled to Denver. Elizabeth fell in love with Colorado and loved the "romance" of the gold mining towns.
She became smitten by all the new found wealth in the territory.
Doe Senior found a mine and purchased it. He appointed his son to work the mine to find gold deposits for the family fortune.
The excitement of more wealth set a fire under Elizabeth. She became discouraged when her husband didn't seem very interested in working the mine.
So she put on pants, shirt and boots and started helping Harvey in the mine.
Soon her actions were the talk of the town of Central City and Black Hawk. She became an embarrassment to her husband and their marriage began to fall apart.
Elizabeth soon received her nickname, "Baby". It isn't exactly known how, but it is rumored that as she walked down the streets of town, miners would comment that she was a "beautiful baby".
In 1880, Baby Doe divorced her husband, the Doe Senior bought out her share in her ex-husband's mine and off she went to search for more excitement.
She heard about a large silver strike in Leadville, Colorado and moved there to be part of the silver boom.
Horace Tabor was a rich and powerful man. Everyone knew him and his wife, Augusta.
He was also obsessed with wealth. It caused problems between him and his wife, but what better match to Baby Doe than someone who thought like her.
Horace was pulling out about $1 million dollars a year from the Matchless Mine and he threw it away hand over fist.
But the more he threw away, the more the mine produced. And the more problems he and his wife had. His affairs with other women added to the mix.
Enter Baby Doe. She was on the hunt for Horace Tabor and soon hooked up with him.
He was immediately attracted to her and she would turn up anywhere Horace was. An old west stalker.
She soon became his mistress and after a couple of years, Horace finally divorced his wife of 25 years and married Baby Doe Tabor.
She was where she wanted to be. Unlimited wealth, a rich and powerful husband and anything her little heart desired.
Baby Doe's wedding was held in Washington, D.C. at the Willard Hotel. Many senators, congressmen and the President were invited.
All of their wives refused to attend because of the scandal caused by Baby Doe's relentless pursuit of Horace and his divorce from his first wife.
Baby wore a $7000 wedding dress and Horace bought her a $90,000 diamond necklace to wear with it.
Even though polite society rejected her in D.C. and Colorado, she languished in obscene wealth and Baby Doe Tabor became known as the "Silver Queen".
Returning to Denver, Horace built her a dazzling mansion on Capital Hill. It took up the entire block.
A dozen servants met her every need. She had many oil paintings of herself commissioned and they hung in prominent locations in the manse.
Baby Doe and Horace had two children, Lillie and Silver Dollar. The girls were christened in $10,000 layettes fastened with gold and diamond pins.
The children wore extravagant clothes and jewels as their everyday wardrobe, and were driven around in expensive carriages with footmen in livery.
Baby Doe was living large, but it would soon come to an end. In the 1880's Colorado's silver boom was showing signs of slowing down. The government was instituting gold, not silver, as currency.
In 1893, Congress repealed the Silver Purchasing Act of 1890 and the value of silver dropped dramatically. So did Tabor's fortune.
Overnight, the Tabors' were penniless. They moved from their mansion to a shack.
Horace found work as a laborer. Then, as favor from a political friend, he was installed as Denver's postmaster.
This was short lived. Horace died, in 1899, a year after his promotion.
Baby and her daughters moved back to Leadville, hoping the Matchless Mine would one day start producing again.
Living in poverty, Baby's daughters left their mother and moved back to Wisconsin to be with family.
Baby hardly left the cabin at the mine. When she did, she walked the Leadville streets in rags.
She wouldn't accept charity, but benevolent townspeople would send food and clothing out to the cabin so she could survive.
In the winter of 1935, a neighbor passing the cabin didn't see smoke from Baby's chimney. He knocked on the door. Didn't get an answer. He went inside.
He found Baby Doe Tabor dead, frozen to death. The Baby Doe Tabor legend is one of Colorado's finest tales. Also the most tragic.
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