The romance between
One of fourteen children, Elizabeth was the daughter of Irish parents. Her father owned a clothing and custom tailoring store in
Young Elizabeth was a beauty. Five-foot-four, with reddish golden hair, bright blue eyes and a flashing smile, she gained the nickname “Belle of Oshkosh.” Far from shy, she enjoyed male attention and dreamed of becoming a famous actress.
By then, Horace A. W. (“Haw”) Tabor had lived in the Leadville area for a number of years. Originally from New England, he and his wife Augusta came west in 1859, hoping to strike it rich in
Horace’s generosity led him to grubstake many prospectors. In spring, 1878, he backed partners August Rische and George Hook, with an agreement that he would be a one-third partner in any strike they made. The two Germans staked a claim on Fryer Hill, naming it the Little Pittsburgh. They sank a shaft and soon struck soft, black silver-lead ore. Tabor went to work with his partners, leaving Augusta to run the family store. By July the three partners were raking in $50,000 a month. Before long, Hook and Rische sold out. Tabor and two new partners consolidated claims and incorporated for twenty million dollars.
Haw Tabor’s wealth and fame grew. Elected Lieutenant Governor of Colorado in 1878, he served in that post until January, 1884. In Leadville, he organized the town’s first bank, funded the Tabor Hose Company (a fire house, equipment and crew,) built the Tabor Opera House and other properties. He also invested heavily in
The first time Baby Doe met Horace Tabor, she was sitting by herself eating oysters in the Saddle Rock Café. A performance at the nearby Tabor Opera House ended and shortly thereafter Horace Tabor walked into the café with his theater manager, Bill Bush. Both men immediately noticed Baby, and she recognized Tabor. In a little book titled Silver Queen The Fabulous Story of Baby Doe Tabor by Caroline Bancroft, Tabor is described: “He was over six feet tall with large regular features and a drooping mustache. Dark in coloring, at this time his hair had begun to recede a bit on his forehead and was turning grey at the temples. Always very well and conspicuously dressed, his personality seemed to fill any room he stepped into.”
Baby is quoted as thinking, “That’s the kind of man I could love. A man who loves life and lives to the full!” Moments later she was invited to join him and Bush at their table. Tabor soon set Baby Doe up in plush hotel suites in Leadville and
Horace managed to obtain a legal divorce in January 1883. Within weeks he was appointed by the Colorado Legislature to serve thirty days as a
After the ceremony, the Catholic priest learned both the bride and groom were divorced and he refused to sign the marriage license. The marriage caused a national scandal. The Tabors were banned from society in
Despite this shunning, Baby and Horace were happy, and they ecstatically greeted their first daughter on July 13, 1884. They named her Elizabeth Bonduel Lily. Later, they had a second daughter, Rosemary Silver Dollar Echo. Meanwhile, Horace’s political hopes waned. He ran for
Thanks to friends, Horace was named Denver Postmaster in January 1898, a post he held until his death the following year. Legend says that on his deathbed he told Baby to hang on to the Matchless Mine. Unfortunately, the once fabulous mine was now worthless. Baby spent her last thirty years in poverty, living in a one room cabin, the former tool shed of the Matchless, growing old and “mad” according to some who knew her.
Baby Doe Tabor was found dead in her cabin on March 7, 1935. She lay stretched out on the floor, looking as if she'd awaited death. Her rise to riches and tragic end inspired the opera The Ballad of Baby Doe. The libretto was written by John Latouche, who closely followed the scenario set out in Caroline Bancroft’s book.
In 1995, an Associated Press article in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune ran this headline:Old wedding gown remains museum’s most popular exhibit. Click on the headline to see Baby Doe's gown.
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Colorado silver mining plays an important role in Dashing Druid. In the following excerpt, Tye Devlin is remembering a scary scene.
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