Baby Doe & Horace Tabor


Matchless Mine Shack



Mt. Olivet grave site

jellenc@ionet.net




baby doe tabor and the matchless mine

Born into a prosperous family in Oshkosh, Wisconsin in 1854, Elizabeth "Baby" McCourt was to see great wealth and poverty in her lifetime.

By 16 she was a beautiful young woman nicknamed "The belle of Oshkosh" and pursued by many young men of the town. Harvey Doe would be the one who took her eye and married in 1877.

Soon after, they boarded a train for Denver and on to Central City, where Harvey's father had mining property. We'll go west and make our fortune overnight in gold. People do it all the time out there!", said Harvey.

Baby Doe was to find that Harvey was a poor provider, being both lazy and a procrastinator. He drifted from one job to another and from town to town.

In July 1877 Horace Tabor and his wife Augusta moved to Leadville and opened a grocery and supply store. A year later Tabor grubstaked 2 prospectors and shared in huge profits from the ore discovered on Fryer Hill on the outskirts of town. He soon would become one of the wealthiest men in Colorado through this and other investments. He was elected Leadville's first mayor, first postmaster and later served as a Lt. Governor of Colorado.

Baby Doe divorced her husband after several attempts at reconciliation in 1878. She visited Leadville in 1879 and moved there in 1881. By a chance meeting at the old "Saddle Rock Cafe" Baby Doe met Horace Tabor, by now known as the "Silver King", and it was love at first sight.

Although Horace was serving as Lt. Governor at the time, and still married, he put Baby up at the Clarendon Hotel in Leadville, and later at the elegant Windsor Hotel in Denver. Augusta would soon hear about the "other woman" and reluctantly accept a divorce from Horace.

Tabor once commented to Baby Doe, "You're always so gay and laughing, and yet you're so brave. Augusta is a damned brave woman, too, but she's powerful disagreeable about it."

Tabor was offered the remaining Senate term of Henry Teller after Teller was appointed to the Cabinet of President Arthur. He and Baby married in Washington D.C. during the remaining days of his appointment and then returned to Denver. They later had two daughters, nicknaming them Lillie and Silver.

Hard times feel on the Tabors with the Silver Crash of 1893. Silver was demonetized and the mine holdings became worthless. His other investments also failed. When the crash came, Baby was 38 years old and would never again live in the lavish lifestyle Tabor had once been able to provide.

In April 1899 Horace took ill with appendicitis and a few days later, before his death told Baby..."Hang on to the Matchless Mine, if I die, Baby, it will make millions again when silver comes back". Flags would fly at half mast in Colorado and 10,000 people attended the funeral, but Tabors last holding, the Matchless, would never produce a penny again.

Baby Doe Tabor and her children moved to Chicago to live with relatives after Tabors death. She decided to move back to Leadville later but Lillie had no intentions of leaving Chicago. She and Silver returned to live in a mining shack at the Matchless to save on rent, and sold her remaining jewelry to make ends meet.

Silver began to drink heavily and became involved in a scandal with a saloon keeper in Leadville. She then moved to Denver and on to Chicago, becoming a drunkard, addicted to dope, and living with an assortment of men till she was found murdered in 1925.

As years passed, Baby, with no income and unable to buy anything would rap her feet in gunny sacks held on with twine. When sick she would doctor herself with turpentine and lard. With the help of creditors and through the kindness of her Leadville neighbors she was supplied with the bare necessities of life.

A sever blizzard hit Leadville in February 1935. Sometime after it was over a neighbor noticed that there was no smoke coming from the stack at the Matchless. When help finally arrived they found Baby's frozen body on the floor of the cabin, arms outstretched, in the shape of a cross.

So it ended for Baby Doe Tabor the "Silver Queen". One of the richest persons in the U.S. during the 1880's...to a pauper and recluse until her death in 1935.

Her body was sent to Denver and buried at Mt. Olivet cemetery next to her beloved husband, Horace.