The year 1878 was an important one for the Tabors for many reasons. It was the year that Horace Tabor's grubstaking investments would finally pay off. Horace Tabor wanted to flaunt his success. He also sincerely believed he had a responsibility to the people who he helped through the years to play the role of benefactor and continue to invest in the town the Tabor's helped establish through their generosity and Augusta's hard work--Leadville, Colorado.
Augusta, the more conservative half of this marriage, was particularly concerned about the large diamond ring her husband wore on his finger and his need to flaunt his wealth in public. She had reason to be concerned, but it wasn't the diamond on his finger that he was flaunting in public, it was another woman, the lovely Baby Doe. Augusta had a strong reputation in Leadville and Denver. She was highly respected for her work and family ethics, but Baby Doe was also respected. Horace Tabor was torn between two women who had both earned their reputations through hard work and determination in what was primarily a man's world of mining towns in the Old West.
Baby Doe was tall, with a voluptuous build, light brown hair, and big, blue, tantalizing eyes. According to Walker's The Miners, one Colorado newspaper described Baby Doe as "the handsomest woman in Colorado" and a woman "no Colorado Venus can compare with," and one can only imagine how these news reports affected Augusta.
Augusta finally filed a complaint in the Denver courts asking for financial support. When Horace left he took the money with him and refused to pay a dime of support to Augusta and Maxcy, but Horace and Baby Doe were living on more than $100,000 a year. Augusta supported herself and her son by renting rooms in their home.
Augusta was divorced--against her will--and given $300,000 in settlement, but Augusta remained true to herself to the very end. She was dedicated to her son, lived frugally and charitably, invested well, and died a millionaire.
A Life of Luxury
In 1882, Horace and Baby Doe Tabor married quietly in a civil ceremony in St. Louis. They married a second time in Washington, D.C. in March of 1883 with a ceremony that was both public and extravagant. Baby Doe wore a $7000 wedding dress and $90,000 diamond necklace, a gift from her new husband.
In spite of his scandalous divorce and the fall of his political career, the Tabors continued to live a public life of great luxury. According to Walker's The Miners, Tabor was often mocked in the local newspapers, but accepted into the Denver and Leadville social circles because he was a generous and charitable man, investing in the improvement of both cities.
However, his huge diamond ring continued to attract a great deal of attention, though the attention was no longer favorable as his former family friends knew what had happened to Augusta and Maxcy. Nevertheless, Horace continued to spend. He purchased a lavish, Italian-style villa for Baby Doe, numerous ornate carriages, copious amounts of expensive jewelry, and commissioned five oil paintings of his young wife. In their first two years of marriage, Horace and Baby Doe had two daughters: Elizabeth Bonduel Lillie Tabor and Rosemary Echo Silver Dollar Tabor.
The Silver Crash of 1893 and the Death of Horace Tabor
In the mid-1890s, the Tabor fortunes slowly collapsed as one by one, the investments Horace made during his marriage to Augusta--and against Augusta's advice--fell into ruin. In 1893, the United States experienced a financial panic and twelve Denver banks closed in three days, including one owned by Horace Tabor. The Matchless Mine's silver vein was tapped out and the repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act in 1893 made Tabor's remaining silver investments useless.
On March 9, 1935, one of Baby Doe's neighbors noticed her fire had gone out. Concerned for her safety, he stopped by the supply shack to check on Baby Doe and discovered she had died two days earlier, on March 7th, of a heart attack. Rumors spread that she was found with a smile on her face, lying on the floor with her arms crossed in front of her chest as if she knew death was coming and was fully prepared to rejoin her husband. There are also rumors that the ghost of Baby Doe still guards the entrance to the Matchless Mine, sitting in her chair by the door, waiting for the day when the mine will once again becomes prosperous and fulfills the dreams of her loving husband, Horace.
As if her story was not legendary enough, in 1932, Warner Brothers released Silver Dollar, a movie about Baby Doe Tabor starring Bebe Daniels and Edward G. Robinson In 1956, Douglas Moore's opera The Ballad of Baby Doe starring Beverly Sills opened in New York. There was also a large restaurant chain called Baby Doe's Matchless Mine Restaurants in the 1970s. When I was in high school, the Matchless Mine Restaurant was the place where everyone went for Homecoming and Prom dates, but only a few of these establishments still remain open, including one in Denver, Colorado.
- "Leadville, Colorado History." Denver-Colorado Tourist Guide.Com. Retrieved February 9, 2011.
- "Leadville's Famous Love Triangle: Horace, Augusta & Baby Doe Tabor." Leadville.com. Retrieved February 9, 2011.
- "The Rush for Gold." The Real West. History Channel Documentary. Originally aired Nov. 19, 1992.
- Wallace, Robert. "The Halls of the Mining Kings." The Miners: The Old West. Time Life Books. New York: 1976.