Austin Warner Tabor
born: November 26th, 1830
died: April 10th, 1899
Stonemason, farmer, prospector, postmaster, merchant,
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
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
de Tabor qui vivent en France
A YouTube video entitled Puppet Pals about Horace Tabor