Tabor Triangle - Page 3
For Horace and Baby Doe, the years following their marriage were a
constant whirlwind. The
were yielding millions of dollars in silver, especially the Chrysolite and
Matchless Mines. The Matchless Mine alone, produced over 9 million
dollars. The Tabors continued to enjoy their expensive
parties, distant travels, and lavish nights at the newly built Tabor Grand
Opera house. In addition, campaigns for political office (not to mention
jewelry, furs, and gowns of the finest silk and lace for Baby Doe and
their two young daughters) occupied much of Tabor's time and money. The
grew by the day and being too vast to count, allowed the
The generous Horace Tabor
opened his wallet for investments in more silver mines, new companies
that needed capital, and some risky deals that did not land a dime in
profits. The ten golden years between 1883 and 1893 were filled with
endless possibility for Horace and Baby Doe.
The Matchless Mine in 1853, courtesy Denver Public Library.
on his arm, Horace Tabor's plans to turn Denver
into the "Paris of the West" seemed within reach. Baby Doe's dreams matched her
husband's - an adventure of grand living and great civic
accomplishments. However, like all good things, it ended all too soon.
The fairytale ended in 1893, when the
country moved to the gold standard. Silver, Horace's main holding,
along with parcels of highly mortgaged property came crashing down,
along with the Tabors' lifestyle. Horace, failing to listen to
the advice of others and diversify, faced ruin. In the interim, and
adding to the crisis,
also made a number of unsuccessful, if not unwise, investments in
foreign mining ventures that failed. He lost huge amounts of
money in Mexico and South America.
However, regardless of the now destitute
condition of the
Horace never lost faith in the future, and until his dying day, he
always found work of some kind, hoping to recapture his lost wealth.
Baby Doe and Horace, along
with their young daughters Elizabeth "Lillie" and Rose Mary "Silver
Dollar" moved out of their Capitol Hill mansion and into a rented
cottage. At age 65, Horace was shoveling slag from area mines at
$3.00/day until he was finally appointed postmaster of Denver just a
year before his death.
remained optimistic about regaining
Tabor's lost fortune, but it
never panned out.
Many people who disliked Baby
Doe predicted that she would divorce
he ever lost his fortune. However,
Baby Doe was loyal and devoted to her husband until the end. In April,
1899 Horace took ill with appendicitis and a few days later, before
his death he was said to have told her ..."Hang on to the Matchless
Mine, if I die, Baby, it will make millions again when silver comes
back." However, this statement was later disputed as being made
up by a writer who wanted to sell her books. Flags were lowered
to half mast in
and 10,000 people attended the funeral. Baby
Doe, just 45 years old, would never again
live a lavish lifestyle.
Cottage where the Tabors moved after having
their fortune., 1962
Still beautiful and relatively young,
Baby Doe could
easily have remarried. She chose, instead, to "hold on to the Matchless,"
continuously seeking funds to "work" it. With her two children in
tow, Baby returned to
and took up residence in the one-room, 12 by 16-foot structure that
originally served as a tool shed at the Matchless Mine. Her elder
daughter, 15-year-old Lillie, so resented the place, she boldly stated
that she was leaving, and borrowing the money for the train fare from her
uncle, she went to Wisconsin to live with her grandmother, ceasing
all contact with her mother and sister.
Lillie Tabor, 1886, courtesy Denver Public Library
Silver Dollar Tabor, 1889, courtesy Denver Public Library
Silver Dollar, a 10-year-old tomboy, initially thrived on the adventure of
living and working at the mine. She liked to write poetry and
encouraged this endeavor, actually helping her to get a couple of songs
published. One of these included a song to celebrate a visit by Theodore
in 1908, called "President Roosevelt's
Hunt," the music written by a friend in Denver.
The song was well-received in
and a long article regarding Silver Dollar's "budding career" was printed
in the Denver Post. In 1910, the song was actually sung for Mr.
Roosevelt and Silver Dollar got to meet the man.
alas the spirited girl, began to attend the parties of
and started to drink heavily. After a heavy night of partying, she became
involved in a scandal with a local saloon keeper and
Baby Doe sent her to Denver, where
she thought she would be better off.
Silver Dollar obtained a job at a local newspaper and wrote a western
novel called The Star of Blood. But neither adventure was
successful. Then she tried her hand at publishing a small periodical, but
her life was spiraling downward and after a couple of years, she decided
to move to
There, she planned to make one last stab at making a career of writing and
if that proved unsuccessful, she told her mother, she was going to join a
Baby Doe never saw her again, but
received sporadic letters, until an article appeared in the Denver
paper, which outlined the details of Silver Dollar's grizzly
During her time in
Silver Dollar had continued on a path of destruction, getting
involved with drugs, continuing to drink, and joining a burlesque
show for a period of time.
lived with one after another ill-fit men, until one of them killed
her by pouring scalding water over her naked body. Silver Dollar
denied the entire story, stating that Silver Dollar was safely in
a convent. Though she probably knew it was true,
Baby Doe would never admit
Baby Doe, who stayed at the cabin
for her remaining 35 years, was a proud woman who routinely refused
charity of any kind. Periodically she would trudge into town for
supplies, which she paid for with chunks of "valuable" ore she picked
up around the property, unaware that the sympathetic shopkeepers who
accepted her samples as payment probably dumped the worthless rocks as
soon as she left.
Contrary to popular belief, she did not "hold on to the Matchless as
it will pay millions again," as some have incorrectly reported were
Horace Tabor's deathbed words. The Matchless Mine had long since been
lost to foreclosure and had failed to produce, even with several new
attempts on the part of the new owners.
Baby Doe was living in the tiny
cabin only due to the generosity of the current owners of the
worthless mine, where she scribbled page after page of her
increasingly paranoiac and, ultimately delirious thoughts.
As years passed, Baby Doe, with no income and
unable to buy anything, would rap her feet in burlap sacks held with
twine. When sick, she would doctor herself with turpentine and lard.
With the help of creditors and through the kindness of her
neighbors, she was supplied with the bare necessities of life.
However, food and clothing sent to this very proud woman was sent back
a movie about
Baby Doe Tabor came out in 1932,
the promoters offered to pay her and her expenses if she would attend the
premier in Denver. She refused, and in fact, would never see the movie
because it was about her old life. A year later a friend, who was a
priest, and two lawyers tried to talk her into suing the movie producers
for libel, promising her that she would receive $50,000. Again, she
refused, this time stating that she didn't need the money because the
Matchless Mine was getting ready to provide her with many more times that
However, the movie did bring
her publicity, which resulted in her receiving several sympathetic
letters, often including money. This money, she accepted, as it did not
fall under her definition of "charity."
On February 20, 1935,
Baby Doe literally struggled to get
to town for a few supplies, and a grocery delivery man, had given her a
ride back from town, checking to make sure that she had food, water and
wood. She wrote in one of her endless diaries: "Went down to
from Matchless - the snow so terrible, I had to go down on my hands and
knees and creep from my cabin door to 7th Street. Mr. Zaitz driver drove
me to our get off place and he helped pull me to the cabin. I kept falling
deep down through the snow every minute. God bless him."
He was the last person to see her alive. The snowstorm continued to rage for several days before it finally
cleared. Neighbors, who had routinely kept an eye on her, became
alarmed when they didn't see smoke curling up from her chimney. On March 7, 1935, the two of them slogged through the 6-foot snow
drifts and discovered the tiny, 81-year-old-woman dead and lying
frozen on her cabin floor. Later reports said she had suffered a heart
Her body was sent to Denver and buried at
Mt. Olivet cemetery next to her beloved husband, Horace. The
cabin at the Matchless Mine, where she spent so many solitary years,
was ransacked by souvenir hunters who made off with many of her
things. Photographs of the cabin after her death depict a
slovenly mess, but
though a bit of a pack-rat, was said to have neat and tidy, the mess
created by those who invaded her home after her death.
After her death, 17 iron trunks that had
been placed in storage in Denver were opened, as well as several gunny
sacks and four trunks that had been left at the St. Vincent's Hospital
All that was left from the
fortune were several bolts of unique, untouched and quite exquisite
cloth, several pieces of china, a tea service and some jewelry,
including a diamond and sapphire ring. The famous watch fob and chain
given to her husband,
at the opening of the $700,000 Tabor Opera House in Denver was also
found, along with several memorabilia pieces.
became a legend, the subject of a two books and a Hollywood movie.
Eventually her story would find its way into two operas, a stage play
(in German), a musical, a screenplay, a one-woman show and countless
other books and articles.
Baby Doe at
her cabin in October, 1933, courtesy Denver Public Library.
The last man to enter the mine, in 1938,
reported there was still abundant silver, but not enough to justify
the expense of bringing it out.
The Matchless Mine and
one-room cabin, with its plank floor and small pot belly stove, has
been restored as accurately as possible. Old newspapers, similar to
those she used for insulation, cover the walls, providing an
atmospheric backdrop for historic photographs of the Tabors and other
memorabilia that contrasts
two very different lives.
Most of the period furnishings were added later but a few authentic items
remain, such as a delicate white silk scarf from the good years and the
magazines, which show a pretty woman with a rosebud mouth and a fuss of
curls, her looks enhanced by expensive jewelry.
Baby Doe's Cabin Interior after her death in
1935, courtesy Denver Public Library
Baby Doe's Cabin, August, 2003, Kathy Weiser
Baby Doe's later life is
represented by a worn leather satchel that sits in the corner of the room
and appears in a photo taken only a few years before she died. Her most
prized possession was a framed statue of the Virgin Mary, which hangs on
the wall above a narrow, quilt-covered bed.
Baby Doe, who turned to religion
and a sort of mysticism as time went by and her isolation grew, also used
a calendar on display to keep track of the dates on which she said she
communed with spirit voices.
Such objects add a haunting air as you soak up the ambiance of the small
cabin, which was formally dedicated as a public historic site in 1953. The
surrounding images add to the effect as knowledgeable guides spin a true
story that helps bring the era and the cabin's former occupant to life.
The 365-foot Matchless, located in an area called Fryer Hill, was
permanently covered when the cabin was opened to the public. But you can
peer down into the mine's grim, shadowed belly or look up at the wooden
head frame to contemplate a rusting iron bucket used to lower miners
starting a grueling 12-hour shift, for which they were paid the grand sum
of $3 a day.
The cable and pulley system that controlled the bucket were located in the
nearby hoist house, which also holds a blacksmith shop with the mine's
huge, original bellows. The hoist house also displays an intricately
detailed scale model of the Matchless, which had seven levels, or shafts,
to bring in fresh air.
Outside the small cluster of buildings, the sun brightens a deceptively
mild-looking landscape, where winter temperatures have been known to drop
to 50 degrees below zero.
The Matchless Mine and
cabin, located 1.2 miles east of
on East 7th street, is open 9 a.m.- 4:45 p.m. daily Memorial Day through
Labor Day and by appointment the rest of the year. Call 800-933-3901 for
more information. The
area chamber of commerce maintains a Web site at
today still holds many memories of its glorious past as well as the impact
the Tabors had on this colorful community.