A mine is a hole in the ground, owned by a liar. - Mark Twain
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Horace Austin Warner Tabor (November 26, 1830 - April 10, 1899), also known as Silver Dollar Tabor and The Bonanza King of Leadville, was an American prospector, businessman, and politician born in Holland, Vermont to Cornelius Dunham Tabor and Sarah Ferrin.
After training as a stone mason, Tabor left home at age 19 to work the quarries of Maine and Massachusetts. In 1855, he departed for the Kansas Territory with the New England Emigrant Aid Company to populate that territory with anti-slavery settlers. There he farmed land along Deep Creek in Riley County, near Manhattan, Kansas (known today as Tabor Valley). In January 1856, Tabor was elected to the Free-State Topeka Legislature, but that body was soon dispersed by President Franklin Pierce in favor of the pro-slavery legislature that had been elected under the influence of "Border Ruffians" from Missouri.
In 1857 Tabor returned briefly to Maine to marry Augusta Pierce, daughter of his former employer William B. Pierce, then returned with her to Riley County. In 1859, as rumors of gold began to spread, the couple moved west with the "Fifty-Niners" to Denver (still in Kansas Territory at the time). The Tabors soon relocated to the California Gulch area where Horace sought gold until 1877, when they settled in Leadville, Colorado. There he continued prospecting while also engaging in business and politics. The couple ran Leadville's general store and postal system and, following his election on January 26, 1878, Tabor served as mayor of Leadville for one year.
On May 3, 1878, the "Little Pittsburg" mine claimed by August Rische and George Hook revealed massive silver lodes, kicking off the "Colorado Silver Boom." Tabor had provisioned the men for free, under a "grubstake" arrangement, and used his partial ownership of Little Pittsburg to invest in other holdings. He eventually sold his interest for one million dollars, and bought sole ownership of the profitable "Matchless Mine" for $117,000. With his new wealth, Tabor established newspapers, a bank, and an opera house in Leadville, and the Tabor Grand Opera House and the Tabor Block in Denver.
Also in 1878, Tabor was elected Lieutenant Governor of Colorado and served in that post until January 1884. He served as U.S. Senator from January 27, 1883 until March 3, 1883, following the resignation of Henry M. Teller. On March 1, 1883, Tabor finally legalized his relationship with Elizabeth "Baby Doe" McCourt in a public (and, to some, scandalous) wedding ceremony at the Willard Hotel in Washington, DC after securing a divorce with Augusta. This marriage produced two daughters, Elizabeth Bonduel Lily and Rosemary Silver Dollar Echo. From his marriage to Augusta, Tabor fathered one son, Maxey.
Tabor ran for Colorado governor in 1884, 1886, and 1888, without success. Then, in 1893, the repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act devastated Tabor's fortune and his far-flung holdings were sold off. Still a respected public figure, he was made postmaster of Denver from January 4, 1898 until his death the following year.
When he fell ill with appendicitis in 1899, Tabor's final request of Baby Doe was that she maintain the Matchless claim. This she did, to tragic results. After living in a shack beside the mine for thirty-six years, she froze to death one night in early 1935. Her body was found in March of that year, frozen with her arms crossed peacefully across her chest. Her story would eventually inspire many artistic pieces, by Douglas Moore and others.
When Tabor himself died in 1899, flags were flown at half staff and 10,000 people were reported to have attended his funeral. His body was interred at Mt. Calvary Cemetery in Denver and later reinterred at Mt. Olivet Cemetery, in Jefferson County, Colorado, where it now rests beside that of Baby Doe.
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