The Legend of Baby Doe

Tabor, HoraceHorace “Haw” Tabor may not have been long on talent or ambition, but he made up for it with sheer dumb luck.  1878 found the 48-year-old Tabor running a store in Leadville, Colorado, while his loyal wife Augusta kept a boarding house.  Storekeepers at the time had the option of providing a “grubstake” for miners on their way to the wilds for a shot at fortune.  In return, the storekeeper was entitled to one-third of any riches the miners discovered.

That spring, Tabor grubstaked a pair of sorry-looking miners named August Rische and George Hook.  They didn’t seem to know much about prospecting, but the two of them wandered into the hills and, by pure chance, dug into a vein of pure silver.  Their Little Pittsburgh Mine yielded $20,000 a week.  Haw Tabor’s $60 investment earned him $2 million in the first year alone without getting his hands dirty.  In short order he became mayor of boomtown Leadville and lieutenant governor of Colorado.  Augusta, unable to adjust to her husband’s meteoric rise, became more and more reclusive.

Tabor, Baby Doe 1Enter Baby Doe.  Born Elizabeth Bonduel McCourt, and newly divorced from her slacker husband, Harvey Doe, she was blue-eyed, blond, spunky and irresistible.  In 1879 she met the newly Rich Haw Tabor.  Despite their 26-year age difference the two fell in love.  Over the next few years, as Tabor’s relationship with Augusta became more distant, his liaison with Baby Doe became increasingly public.  In 1881, Tabor quietly obtained a backwoods divorce from his wife (without bothering to inform her).  At some point he and Baby Doe were quietly married.

Eventually word of the secret divorce reached Augusta Tabor.  She hauled her ex husband into court and received a million dollar settlement.

 In 1883 Tabor was appointed to fill a 30-day vacancy as U.S. Senator from Colorado.  He and Baby Doe took advantage of the chance to stage a lavish Washington wedding, attended by no less a person than President Chester A. Arthur.  Soon, however, the gossip caught up with them.  The priest who’d performed the ceremony declared the marriage illegal because both parties had been divorced.  But since they’d already married each other earlier, it didn’t make any difference.  The wedding had been pure theatre.

That was the end of Tabor’s political career.  Although he and Baby Doe lived well for a time, and he attempted to run for governor and senator, public opinion had turned against him.

            In 1893 the final blow came when the federal government announced that it was going to stop buying silver for its currency and convert to the gold standard.  The crash ruined Tabor.  Everything he had was sold, but nothing he could do was enough to support Baby Doe and their two daughters.  In 1899 he died of appendicitis in the single room he shared with his family.  Shortly before his death, he reportedly told his wife to “hang onto the Matchless Mine.”

 Baby Doe spent the remaining thirty-five years of her life in a cabin outside the Matchless Mine in Leadville.  Still beautiful, she could have easily remarried.  She chose instead to “hold onto the Matchless.”

 In Early March, 1935, her frozen body was discovered on the floor of her cabin.  Deserted by her two daughters, she had passed into legend.  Her life has been the subject of two books, a Hollywood movie, two operas, a screen play, a one-woman show and countless other books and articles.


The Horseman's Bride The only connection this story has to my March 2010 book, THE HORSEMAN’S BRIDE, is that they both take place in Colorado.  But I wanted to give you the first look at my cover.  More about the story next month!  Or if you’d like a sneak preview, you can check it out on my web site:

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29 thoughts on “The Legend of Baby Doe”

  1. Good morning, everyone. It’s a snowy day here, a nice time to stay in, work at my computer, snuggle the cats and look forward to your comments. Have a great holiday.

  2. My daughter had to dress up and do a report on Baby Doe Tabor for Colorado history night at school. She was an amazing woman.

  3. Wish I could have heard your daughter’s report, Rebekah. It’s a fascinating story. And Baby Doe was a stronger person than her name implies. Her story is fascinating. Thanks so much for your comment.

  4. Love the cover, Elizabeth! Wow, wow, wow.

    I enjoyed learning this story last time I was in Denver. My friend took me to the new historical museum and they had an interesting display about Baby Doe.

    Did you know there’s a Baby Doe’s Matchless Mine restaurant in Dallas? Or there was. Might be closed now.

  5. Didn’t know about the restaurant, Tracy. Somebody had a fun idea for a name. A couple of years ago the opera, “The Ballad of Baby Doe” was performed here in SLC. Still kicking myself because I missed it. Her story is the stuff of legends.
    Glad you like the cover. I do, too.

  6. Hi Elizabeth, My current book is set in Colorado and my heroine’s an actress, so I’ve been doing some research on theaters. You can read about that time without coming across Baby Doe and Tabor Theater. Interestng stuff!

  7. Thanks, Anne. Hope you enjoy the book. FYI, it’s a continuation of the series that started with THE BORROWED BRIDE.

    I didn’t know about the theatre, Vicki. Your new book sounds like a winner! We’ll be watching for it.

  8. Interesting story! The husband/ex-husband/husband
    sounds like a regular piece of work, doesn’t he?
    BTW, interesting cover, kind of catches the attention, doesn’t it?

    Pat Cochran

  9. Thanks, Winnie. Glad you like the cover. I’ll confess my knees went weak when I saw it.

    And Baby Doe is an interesting name, isn’t it, Melinda? Before I researched her I always assumed they called her that because she looked like a pretty little fawn. It was fun to learn the real story. Thanks for your comment.

  10. Thanks for your comment, Pat. Uh-huh, Horace Tabor was a real piece of work. And I’m hoping that “interesting” cover will be an attention getter on the shelves. Truth be told it’s not what I would have chosen, but if it sells books, who am I to complain?

  11. Elizabeth, I’ve always heard of Baby Doe (especially the restaurant by the same name in Dallas.) They really capitalized on that story. The restaurant has a replica of an old mine underneath it. It has lots of charm. I didn’t know where the story came from though. Very interesting. Horace Tabor was a real jerk. Served him right to lose nearly everything he had.

    Ohhhhh, I love the cover of your new book!! Very sexy. Can’t wait to hear more about the story. It’s going on my list of books to buy.

  12. Gotta try that restaurant one day, Linda. It sounds like great fun. As for the Tabors, I’m just glad Augusta got her money before her ex husband went broke. She certainly deserved it.

    So glad you like the cover, Estella and Melissa. Hope you’ll like the book, too.

  13. Wow! That cover would definately draw my eyes to it on the shelf!
    The Baby Doe story sounds fasinating ( ijust couldn’t resist using that word) enough that I shall have to do some research on her.

  14. Hi Elizabeth — Oh, I just love your cover! Were you surprised when you got it? HH is certainly doing some great new looks!

  15. Baby Doe’s story is the stuff of great melodrama, isn’t it,Connie? (There, I managed not to say fascinating) 🙂

    I’m sure there’s a lot more to her story than I have here. If your research turns up something really interesting I’d love to hear.

  16. So glad you like the cover, Kay. And in answer to your question, Charlene, my first reaction to seeing it was a very big “gasp!”

    HH is really doing some amazing covers these days.

  17. Elizabeth,
    Great post. I had heard of Baby Doe, but not her story. Shame on her daughters for deserting her, but I am sure there is a story there too.
    Enjoyed the excerpt. This will be one I must read. Have read many of your books and enjoyed them all.

  18. I saw photos of her daughters as young girls, Patricia. They were beautiful – they probably married and left. I am so pleased that you went to my site and read the excerpt. Here’s hoping you’ll enjoy this story. It was a lot of fun to write.

  19. Hello Elizabeth and hello to all the other authors present.
    My name is Veronica and I’m a fan of Elizabeth and I love westerns novels
    I always follow this blog but do not comment because of , I can not write well. I apologize in advance for mistakes.
    Wow what a story! I tried to read in spite of my bad English but I would have understood quite well.
    How beautiful is the plot of “The Horseman’s Bride” and beautiful cover! I would like to know your new characters. I wonder if one day, in Italy will be published. I hope^-^
    best regards
    Veroniica Bennet

  20. Hi Veronica!
    So nice that you visited and commented. I hope you will comment more. Your English is delightful, and you should not be ashamed of it.
    It has been wonderful getting to know you. I, too, hope you’ll get to read THE HORSEMAN’S BRIDE in Italy.
    Your friend,

  21. You’re too good to me Elizabeth. My English is very sad but in my defense I know that I started a course in English. I hope to improve.

    Risk of becoming too sweet if I start with compliments to you so I just thank you and tell you that the pleasure was all mine.

    Hopefully … for Italian publications. At the time I formed a group of passionate Anobii on the Western genre. I am curious to know how many women read this kind and have overcome a certain number will be my intention to write to the Harlequin Italy.
    We’ll see …
    Ciao Veronica

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