Rags, Riches & Scandal – The Tabor Triangle

Silver Dollar Tabor

Silver Dollar & Roosevelt, 1910

Silver Dollar & Roosevelt, 1910

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 Baby Doe 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 Roosevelt to Leadville in 1908, called “President Roosevelt’s Colorado Hunt,” the music written by a friend in Denver.

The song was well-received in Colorado 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.

Silver Dollar Tabor

Silver Dollar Tabor

But, alas the spirited girl, began to attend the parties of Leadville 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 Chicago,Illinois. 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 convent.

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 murder.

During her time in Chicago, 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.

Rose Mary Echo Silver Dollar Tabor, 1925

Rose Mary Echo Silver Dollar Tabor, 1925

She lived with one after another ill-fit men, until one of them killed her by pouring scalding water over her naked body. Silver Dollar was 35. Baby Doe 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 otherwise.

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 Leadville neighbors, she was supplied with the bare necessities of life. However, food and clothing sent to this very proud woman was sent back unopened.

Silver Dollar Opening, 1932

Silver Dollar Opening, 1932

When 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 amount.

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.”

Baby Doe at her cabin in October, 1933, courtesy Denver Public Library.

Baby Doe at her cabin in October, 1933, courtesy Denver Public Library.

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 Leadville 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 attack.

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