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Horace Tabor
photographer unknown

Horace Austin Warner Tabor

born: November 26th, 1830
Holland, Vermont

died: April 10th, 1899
Denver, Colorado

Stonemason, farmer, prospector, postmaster, merchant, politician.

Son of Cornelius Dunham Tabor and Sarah Ferrin, Horace had three brothers and one sister. He left home at age 19 to work in stone quarries in Massachusetts and Maine, including being hired, along with his brother John, by his future father-in-law, to work in his quarry in Augusta. In 1855, Horace joined one of the first groups organized by the New England Immigrant Aid Society to populate the Kansas territory with anti-slave settlers. He pre-empted land along Deep Creek, a tributary of the Kansas River, in what is today still called "Tabor Valley," and began farming. His hard work, and willingness to help the anti-slavery cause also got him elected to serve in the "Free Soil" legislature, which sat in defiance of the so-called legitimate territorial government during an often violent period of civil unrest that came to be called "Bleeding Kansas."

Early in 1857 he returned to Maine in order to marry Augusta Pierce and bring her back to Kansas. They spent the next two years trying to make the farm productive, but succumbed to the stories of gold being discovered in the extreme western part of the Kansas Territory (now Colorado), finally leaving Deep Creek in the spring of 1859, to walk to Denver via the Republican River trail. They were accompanied by Sam Kellogg and Nathaniel Maxcy, two friends from Maine, the latter of whom had been present at the birth of and gave his name to their son Maxcy, who was by then not even two years old. It took them six weeks of struggle across a barely explored landscape; "the acme of barrenness and desolation," according to Horace Greeley, who took the same route barely a month after the Tabors.

For the next twenty years the Tabors foraged for riches among the mining camps of the eastern slope of the Continental Divide; at places called Payne's Bar , Oro City 1, California Gulch, Buckskin Joe and Oro City 2. Typically, Augusta would board, bake for and minister to the miners, while "HAW" tried his luck at placer sluicing or some other means of getting at the precious minerals that lay all around. Mostly, he was Augusta's partner in keeping store and in running the post office and bank for the various camps; "sturdy merchants," beloved for their honesty and generosity.

Indeed, in April of 1878, Horace's generosity hit pay dirt when a casual grubstake of two immigrant prospectors got him a third of the Little Pittsburgh, the first of many "bonanza" mines that Horace would own. After that, HAW Tabor's star rose quickly, even by Colorado rags-to-riches standards. In barely two years Leadville came two newspapers, a bank and a handsome opera house ALL courtesy of now Mayor, then Lieutenant Governor Tabor.

The Tabors' good fortune didn't sit well with Augusta, whose chaste New England sensibilities were short-circuited by their suddenly unlimited wealth. She continued to behave frugally and dress modestly. She still took in boarders. She refused to "paint" her face as other women did. It might be said that the seeds of epic tragedy were sown in Augusta's too cautious reaction to overnight riches. For, much as she loved Horace, her view of what life should be like when one is middle-aged and fabulously rich diverged irreconcilably from his by the close of the heady 1870s.

Horace's fame brought him the attention of many; some of whose intentions were honorable, and some not. No matter the motive, Elizabeth McCourt "Baby" Doe came into his life some time in 1880. From then on, their two names would be intertwined, through good times and ill that included an engineered divorce from Augusta, a secret marriage to Baby, a thirty-day "term" in the U.S. Senate, a scandalous wedding in Washington, D.C., the building of the Tabor Grand Opera House in Denver, the birth of two daughters, the stillbirth of a son, the eventual spectacular collapse of his fortune, and a return to hardrock mining at the age of 66. He had talked of accompanying his brother John to the newly discovered goldfields of Alaska when he was appointed Postmaster of Denver in January of 1898. Despite years of exile from the Republican party over the issue of "free silver," gratitude for Tabor's early munificence originated with Senator Ed Wolcott who championed Horace's appointment to President McKinley.

Few mere mortals have experienced the exuberant joys, the painful agonies, the uncountable riches and the unalloyed depths that describe the life of Horace Tabor. Fewer still have done so with the singular mixture of brashness, arrogance, hubris, gaucheness, naivete, stoicism, grace, humility, honesty, tenderness and genuine love that characterized this complex and greatly misunderstood pioneer. Born of frontier New England, refined in a great homestead trek, and annealed amongst the overnight boom towns in the mineral-rich west, his is a true American epic story.

Les descendants de Tabor qui vivent en France

Silver Dollar

Carl Zuckmayer

A YouTube video entitled Puppet Pals about Horace Tabor