Colorado Legends: Horace Tabor

Horace Tabor was known as the richest man in Colorado.  He was born in Holland, Vermont in 1830. He trained to be a storekeeper and stonemason, and at the age of 19, he left Vermont for the stone quarries of the northeast. In 1855, he signed up with the New England Emigrant Aid Company to populate the new Kansas Territory with settlers who wanted to know what was west of the Mississippi.

After some farming in Kansas, Horace Tabor returned to the Northeast to marry Augusta Pierce, daughter of his former boss.

As gold fever spread in the west, 1859 found the Tabors moving to Colorado, which was still part of the Kansas Territory at the time. Miners were in great numbers, they needed supplies.  So in 1861, Horace and Augusta Tabor opened a store at an outpost called Buckskin Joe.

It wasn’t long before the store made a good profit and Horace decided to relocate to Oro City in search of gold. In 1877, the Tabors moved to Leadville, Colorado to do more gold prospecting.  Horace and his wife opened a general store and post office in the town.

He became active in politics and became mayor of Leadville in 1878 for one year. While running the store, Horace outfitted a couple of gold miners, August Rische and George Hook, for free on a grubstake agreement. Tabor accepted partial ownership in Riche and Hook’s holdings.

The men were working their “Little Pittsburgh” mine at the time, and in 1878, the Little Pittsburgh revealed a very rich vein of silver, not gold. The Colorado silver boom began.

Horace used his holdings in the mine to invest in other areas.  He and his wife were very rich.

He finally sold his share of the “Little Pittsburgh” for one million dollars and bought a very profitable mine called “The Matchless”.

Horace Tabor brought distinction to the town of Leadville.  He built a bank, the Tabor Opera House, and created a newspaper. He also built the Tabor Grand Opera House and Tabor Block in Denver.  Horace became a very powerful man both financially and politically.

In 1878, he was elected Lieutenant Governor of Colorado and served til 1884.  He served as a U.S. Senator for 3 months from January 1883 until March 1883 to fill in because the previous senator had resigned. You would think that with all this wealth, the Tabors would be happy.

Well, Augusta was.  Horace had a wandering eye and it fell on the lovely Elizabeth “Baby Doe” McCourt. He pursued her relentlessly, much to the town of Leadville’s surprise, not to mention Augusta’s.  After 25 years of marriage, Horace divorced his wife and married “Baby Doe”.

Tabor ran for governor of Colorado many times but didn’t win.  In 1893, the Sherman Silver Purchase Act was repealed and Tabor lost his fortune and his investments were sold.

Although he was almost penniless, he was still a respected figure in Colorado.  Horace died on April 10, 1899, of appendicitis. His body is buried at the Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Jefferson County, Colorado.