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Baby Doe Portrait, 1935

Baby Doe Tabor, 1935 Portrait

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Baby Doe Tabor made her mark on Colorado history as the bold girl from Oshkosh, Wisconsin who ignored conventional Victorian attitudes of feminine modesty. How Baby Doe made her dreams come true may have irked Denver's high society at the time, but today she is celebrated for being an individualist-and a dreamer of the great American Dream.

Baby Doe

"Baby" Doe was born Elizabeth Bonduel McCourt on October 7, 1854 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, to Peter McCourt, Sr. and Elizabeth "Lizzie" Nellis. She was said to have been the prettiest of seven children and displayed a lively and independent spirit with a tomboy disposition and the face of a cherub. She was called "Lizzie" by her family, after her mother. In the winter of 1876, she won a Church figure skating contest, which was unheard of for a girl. The contest brought her to the attention of Harvey Doe, Jr. and the two began to court. Harvey's mother highly disapproved of the relationship due to Lizzie's being catholic, as well as "beneath" the Does economically. Despite her objections, the two continued to date and eventually became engaged. Harvey was the only son raised in an affluent family, where he had been coddled and spoiled by his mother and his four sisters. However, Lizzie thought he was a sweet man and the two were married a short time later in 1877. Harvey's father owned a half interest in the Fourth of July Mine in Central City and the young newlyweds set off on a new life of adventure. "We'll go west and make our fortune overnight in gold. People do it all the time out there!" said Harvey.

Harvey DoeIn the rough and tumble mining community, Lizzie's beauty and lively spirit brought her considerable attention from the mostly male mining population. Harvey, not accustomed to hard work, was having a difficult time making the mine profitable, which eventually forced Lizzie to don miner's clothes and work along side him. In the unliberated settlement, this caused her to become the brunt of much gossip and raised eyebrows. Gossip notwithstanding, she was still a favorite and was given the nickname "Baby" Doe - the miner's sweetheart, which followed her for the rest of her life.


Meanwhile, Harvey fell into debt, their Fourth of July Mine paid less than hoped, and their three-year marriage started to falter. Baby Doe was to find that Harvey was a poor provider, being both lazy and a procrastinator. Finally, Harvey was forced to take a job mucking in the Bobtail Tunnel, and they moved to Blackhawk, where the rent was cheaper. Lizzie was left home with little to occupy her time, no friends, and living in poverty.


Harvey worked night shifts and came home so exhausted; he did little of nothing other than write long letters to his mother. The rift between the two widened into a chasm when Harvey lost his job and began to drift from camp to camp, leaving Lizzie at home for long periods at a time. With little to occupy her time, Lizzie took long walks entertaining herself by looking longingly in the windows of the shops. Finally, she made a friend of Jacob Sandelowsky, a successful clothing merchant and part owner of the Sandelowsky-Pelton store in Central City.





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Jake Sands, as he later changed his name to, was handsome with dark curly-hair, and the two were frequently seen together at the not-so-conservative Shoo-Fly Saloon during Harvey Doe's absences. The Shoo-Fly was dance-hall and gambling establishment, full of rowdy miners looking to have a good time at the tables or the brothel, and Lizzie's lively personality was a hit with the customers.

Harvey's absences continued and he began to drink heavily. Often, Harvey's female family members would provide him with money, but, rarely did Lizzie see any of it. Unable to pay the rent, they were forced to move often. Then late in 1878, Baby Doe became pregnant, and the times grew even more desperate when Harvey again deserted the home front during her critical time of need. Baby Doe later claimed that without her friend, Jake Sands, she would have starved to death. On July 13, 1879, Lizzie gave birth to a still-born son, and Jake was there to help, making all of the arrangements and paying her expenses. Many have speculated that Jake was the father of this baby, but the answer to that question will never be known.


The only clue left behind about the baby was a handwritten note found in Baby Doe's scrapbook after her death, with dried flowers gently placed around the handwritten words on the page: "My baby boy born July 13 1879, had dark dark hair very curly large blue eyes he was lovely, Baby Doe".

After the birth of her still-born soon, Jake was readying a new store in Leadville and suggested that Baby Doe, having no reason to stay in Central City, might as well come along. Although she did pay a visit to Leadville at Jake's request, she ended up returning to Central City to try one more time to reconcile with Harvey. However, nothing had changed between the two of them. Harvey was till weak, lazy and jobless, and finally his family had come to a point that they refused to give him any more money. Harvey's hard drinking and lack of ambition did not match with Baby Doe's high aspirations and finally, in 1880, Baby Doe sued for divorce on the grounds of "nonsupport" and moved to Leadville.


Jake Sands arranged for Baby Doe to stay at a boarding house and suggested that they might want to think about marriage. Though Jake was Baby's closest friend, she wasn't in love with him and within just a couple of months; any thoughts of a life with Jake quickly vanished when Baby Doe met Horace Tabor.




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