The Tabor Triangle – Rags, Riches & Scandal

Jake Sands

Jake Sands

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 still 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.

Horace and Baby Doe

Horace Tabor

Horace Tabor

Seemingly, it was love at first site for both of them. Almost immediately, the two became sweethearts and Horace moved Baby Doe into a suite at the Clarendon Hotel next to his Tabor Opera House in Leadville.

Although Horace was Lieutenant Governor and still married, the affair blossomed and later, he put Baby Doe up at the elegant Windsor Hotel in Denver.

Over the next few years, Horace grew increasingly estranged from his wife Augusta as his affair with Baby Doe became a matter of public knowledge. 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 powerfully disagreeable about it.”

Eventually, Horace and Augusta parted, as much from his abstinence as from hers. Baby Doe was only the catalyst for a separation that left both Horace and Augusta wanting, both locked into their worlds by the very stubbornness and individual gustiness that had sustained them through their earlier struggles braving the frontier.

Baby Doe Tabor

Baby Doe Tabor

However, when Horace asked Augusta for a divorce she refused. Horace, not to be denied,  secretly engineered a divorce in Durango, Colorado, which was later found to be illegal. It is unknown whether Horace knew this or was simply defiant, but he and Baby Doe were secretly married in St. LouisMissouri on September 30, 1882. When Augusta Tabor learned of the marriage, it was too late to contest it.

The legal divorce, which Horace continued to pursue relentlessly, was fought vigorously by Augusta, who asked for separate maintenance, claiming her husband was worth over $9 million. Tabor denied it, which was probably true, with more accurate estimates placing his worth at about three million.

After a long drawn out and much-publicized battle, Augusta did receive the $100,000 a month income, the Denver mansion, as well as other properties, though it brought her very little happiness. Augusta eventually moved to Pasadena, California where she died on February 1, 1895, a wealthy, respected and lonely woman, leaving her son Maxcy over $1.5 million dollars.

Baby Doe Tabor

Baby Doe Tabor

Meanwhile, Horace Tabor’s fame grew and through political favors, he was able to secure a 30-day appointment to Henry Teller’s vacated senatorial position in Washington D.C., where he was sworn in on February 3, 1883. And, to wind up his short stint in Congress, Horace and Baby Doe were married again on March 1, 1883, in a lavish and scandalous public ceremony in Washington, D.C.

The invitations had real silver borders with letters that were written in silver. Baby’s wedding dress cost $7,000 and Horace gave her a $75,000 diamond necklace as a wedding gift. Horace’s congressional friends, including the President, attended the wedding, but their wives refused to attend the “disgraceful” event. The scandal of the alleged divorce and marriage raged on and was front-page news across the country. It was an embarrassment to Washington, as well as other prominent figures in high social circles.

After their marriage, they returned to Denver, where Horace bought a block-long mansion for Baby Doe, but she quickly learned that not just anyone dripping with diamonds and furs could join Denver’s exclusive high society. The people of Denver inflated horrible rumors and gossip about Baby Doe’s “shameless” and “scandalous” past in Central City.

Given the scandal of the divorce and the differences in their ages, the wives of Denver’s richest men refused to accept her as one of their own. However, despite the age difference and the social shuns, nothing could wilt their blossoming marriage and they shared a loving home life for the next ten years.

On the lawn outside the mansion, a hundred peacocks strutted and the landscape was adorned with more controversial decorations, which included some nude statues that further offended Baby’s highly proper female neighbors. In response, the highly spirited Baby Doe had her dressmaker come in and make dresses for the statues. The two lived extravagantly, spending as much $10,000 a week on lavish parties, traveling, and other luxuries.

At their height, the Tabors were one of the five richest families in the country. During this time they built the Tabor Grand Opera House in Denver, and had two daughters, nicknaming them Lillie, born July 13, 1884,  and Silver Dollar, born December 17, 1889.

4 thoughts on “The Tabor Triangle – Rags, Riches & Scandal”

  1. Reads: “….moved out of their Capitol Hill mansion and into a rented cottage.” There is a photograph of this “cottage” taken in 1962. Any idea what the address is?

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