Books for the Reading: Legend of Baby Doe

by Lynn Wienck, The Chisholm Trail Bookstore

Light rain, cooler temperatures, and early morning fog comprise Oklahoma autumn. My summer togs have been exchanged for warmer wear: sweaters and wool socks. I’ve taken to reading biographies, too, in a return to nonfiction works.

Legend of Baby Doe: The Life and Times of the Silver Queen of the West by John Burke is not Oklahoma fare, however, but Colorado lore. Colorado had a share of curious and colorful characters, many of them connected with gold or silver as Colorado was rich in natural resources. The tale of Baby Doe Tabor — born Elizabeth McCourt (1854-1935) and later known as Baby Doe after her first marriage to Harvey Doe — remains fresh because it was so scandalous. Baby, after divorcing her first husband, met Horace Tabor, owner of the Matchless mine located near the small mining town of Leadville, Colorado. Horace Tabor had no finesse; he was 24-30 years older than Baby Doe (depending on which source is presented), and he was already married to Augusta Tabor. He was also wealthy. Soon Horace Tabor divorced his first wife and married Baby Doe. Horace and Baby Doe squandered their wealth.

Perhaps this biography, although it treats Baby Doe kindly, but with no punches, serves as a cautionary tale. Baby Doe’s life was certainly wild, as wild as the Wild West. And rather sad, too. I’ve seen Leadville, walked through the town, imagined the whispered ghosts of silver, and somehow it makes history live. Somehow, too, the same tales repeat themselves. The past cannot be undone, but there is always the future.

It’s time to enjoy Oklahoma autumn and perhaps, read a few more biographies, too.

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