Tag Archives: Colorado history

Little Girl Lost: The Story of Colorado’s Silver Dollar Tabor

c 2021 by Jan MacKell Collins

Portions of this article originally appeared in Colorado Central magazine.

The story of H.A.W. and Baby Doe Tabor is an integral part of Colorado history: The demure and cherubic Baby Doe managed to spirit Tabor away from his wife in Leadville, leading to a scandalous affair, a subsequent marriage and riches beyond anyone’s wildest dreams—until the couple lost everything following the Silver Panic of 1893. How does it feel to go from unimaginable wealth to equally unimaginable poverty? In the Tabor family, youngest daughter “Silver Dollar” clearly knew, and was most affected. Had she not succumbed to her inner demons and suffered a tragic death in a Chicago apartment, Silver might be remembered on an entirely different level.

Born in 1889 in Denver, Silver was already named Rose Mary Echo when politician Williams Jenning Bryan visited the Tabor home. After commenting that the child’s voice had “the ring of a silver dollar,” the Tabors added “Silver Dollar” to the baby’s name. The unusual news escaped Denver’s Herald Democrat, which simply reported in December, “Baby Tabor’s nose is out of joint. A wee sister put in an appearance on Tuesday, and the ex-Senator is the proudest man in Denver.” The paper was referring to the Tabor’s oldest child, Lily, who was born in 1884 and would forever remain in the shadow of her infamous sister. But while newspapers shunned the Tabors, the family home on Sherman Street was both lively and loving. One of Tabor’s servants, Jennie Roadstrom, would remember that it “was not hard to work for” the lady of the house, who “was not extravagant in her dress” and loved Jennie’s tomato soup.

The year after Silver Dollar was born, the government enacted the Sherman Silver Purchase Act which made the already-wealthy Tabors even wealthier. For three glorious years, the couple spent their money on diamond-studded diaper pins and gold-leaf baby albums for their daughters. They hosted fancy parties and took equally fancy vacations. But that all came to an end in 1893, when Congress repealed the Silver Purchase Act, making silver virtually worthless. Tabor got the memo and but outright ignored it and literally went broke overnight. Lily, who remembered well her beautiful wardrobe and expensive  toys, would come to resent her parents’ foolish decisions and eventually extricated herself from the family. Silver Dollar, however, would spend the rest of her life trying to recapture the proverbial golden ring.

The now-impoverished Tabors eventually relocated to a “modest home” on Tenth Street, where the wistful Silver wrote to Santa Claus and “her fairies,” apologizing for misbehaving while asking for presents which never arrived. By the time H.A.W. died in 1899, the family had moved several more times and even lived in Denver’s grand Tabor Opera House for a time. They say the only thing left in Tabor’s pocket when he died was a single silver dollar, bearing an engraving of his whimsical daughter. Afterwards, Baby Doe and her daughters struggled even more, balancing their time in Denver with trying to work Tabor’s Matchless Mine in Leadville. But Baby Doe couldn’t afford to hire anyone to help her, and the grueling work at the mine proved fruitless.

Lily finally successfully appealed to her uncle, Peter McCourt, to send her back east. Silver, meanwhile, continued moving around Denver with Baby Doe. The girl endeavored to become a writer, penning a song in 1908. The tune, “Our President Roosevelt’s Colorado Hunt” was written in honor of Theodore Roosevelt but was dedicated to Silver’s father. In 1910, Silver personally presented the song to the former president himself. She also had written a novel the year before, Star of Blood, which failed to do well. On the side, Silver also appealed to the courts in a vain effort to regain some of her father’s property which had gone into receivership, including her father’s Matchless Mine in Leadville. She even appealed to railroad tycoon David Moffat to return the money her father had paid to him against a loan, but to no avail.

Although Silver’s pleas for money were for naught, she did continue trying earn a living by writing poems for the Denver Republican. In 1911, she and Baby Doe managed to visit Lily, who had married and now lived in Chicago. Silver reported back to local newspapers that she found the city “big and ugly,” and that she had no intention of going back. For the next three years the girl continued bouncing between Denver and Leadville with Baby Doe. Then, in 1914, Silver turned to a new vocation: acting. That fall she moved to Colorado Springs and secured a part in The Greater Barrier, a silent film produced by the Pikes Peak Film Company and starring veteran actress Josephine West.

Much of The Greater Barrier was shot at Colorado College and Garden of the Gods. While the uncredited Silver only appeared in about three scenes, her beauty might have been enough to propel her career further. But it didn’t. Instead, Silver found herself back with her mother in Denver during 1915 and 1916. Baby Doe dotingly called her “Honeymaid,” but soon realized that Silver Dollar, as the girl loved calling herself, had grown into a bit of a wild child. As mother and daughter struggled to find some sort of common ground, Silver finally took off—for Chicago, the city she had once criticized as artificial and full of hypocrites. But Chicago had theaters where the starlet might yet find fame and fortune, so off she went.

Without her Colorado friends about her, Silver’s life soon began spiraling downward. Shedding her birth name altogether, she said she was actress Ruth LaVode in the 1920 census, and that her mother had been born in France (Baby Doe was actually born in Wisconsin). Rumors floated back to Baby Doe that her daughter was supplementing her so-called acting career by occasionally working as a prostitute, also that her lifestyle now included a lot of drinking and drugging. By the time Silver tried out for a “motion picture play” at a Chicago theater in 1922, she was calling herself Ruth Norman. When that didn’t pan out, she tried marriage to one W.J. Ryan in 1923. It too, failed.

Sadly, the bevy of other men Silver dated were less than respectable. At some point she wrote on the back of a photograph of one of her suitors, saloon man Jack Reid, “In case I am killed arrest this man for he will be directly or indirectly responsible for my death.” Of course Baby Doe denied knowing any of this, although she did receive no less than five letters from her daughter during 1925—the last year of Silver Dollar’s life. The final letter read, “My Dear Mama, Please write to me as I worry so about you. I have dreamed about you and Papa so often lately. Please let me know how you are. Your loving child, Silver.” The return address was that of Rose Tabor, giving no clue that Silver was masquerading under different names and had moved five times during the year, just one step ahead of the landlord.

At her last apartment, 3802 Ellis Avenue, Silver became known as an eccentric alcoholic who sometimes answered her door in the nude. Was anybody surprised when, on a Saturday evening in September a tipsy Silver accidentally spilled a pot of boiling water on herself and subsequently died? Perhaps not, and few actually even cared—including Lily. As for Baby Doe, she refused to believe Silver Dollar was dead at all, but insisted her daughter was living in a convent. In the end, kindly neighbors paid for Silver’s funeral expenses and she was buried at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in the Chicago village of Alsip. Not until 1957 did historians Caroline Bancroft, Tom Peavey and Bert Baker locate Silver’s grave and donate a proper headstone. It is about all that is left of her, for even the low-end apartments houses where she lived during her time in Chicago are gone.

Early Town of Cache Creek, Colorado Still a Prospector’s Pick

c 2017 by Jan MacKell Collins

Portions of this article originally appeared in Colorado Central Magazine.

Hike along Cache Creek outside of Granite today, and you are certain to run into folks all along the water. These aren’t your average outdoor enthusiasts; rather, the folks scrambling along the riverbanks are on a mission. They are looking for gold, which can still be found over 150 years after being discovered.

Cache Creek’s name is derived from the French word, “cacher”, meaning “to hide”. One story goes that around 1854, French trappers hid their pelts there, while another claims that explorers Kit Carson and Lucien Maxwell hid their supplies in the vicinity as they fled some Native Americans. Because of its odd spelling, Cache Creek was sometimes referred to as “Cash Creek”.

Around 1860, placer gold was discovered along Cache Creek in what was then Lake County. They said that nuggets “big as eggs” were being found west of the creek around Lost Canyon. By late 1860, miners could be found panning for gold all through the area. Within seven years, some 49,000 troy ounces, or $200,000 of gold, would be found.

A series of small mining camps sprang up, but it was the community of Cache Creek which served as a supply town and the place to glean information about mining opportunities. In spite of being labeled “poor man’s diggings” by the Salida Mail, Cache Creek blossomed. Notably, it was the first real town in today’s Chaffee County, with a population of about 300. Prospectors could make up to $20.00 per day.

Even future silver millionaire H.A.W. Tabor tried his luck at Cache Creek. With him were his first wife, Augusta, as well as family friend Nathaniel Maxcy, miner Sam Kellogg and the Tabor’s son, also named Nathaniel Maxcy. The men made their own sluice boxes, but had trouble extracting the gold from the black sand deposits. Augusta was assigned the tedious job of using a magnet to procure the gold from the sand. Contrary to some accounts, Augusta did not run a boarding house or store at Cache Creek; within a month the party moved on to California Gulch some twenty miles away before making their fortune.

Meanwhile, Cache Creek’s supply stores served such smaller camps as Bertschey’s Gulch, Gibson, Gold Run, Ritchie’s Patch, and others. Supplies were hauled to town by horseback and mule from a trail skirting the Arkansas River over two miles away. The homes of Cache Creek consisted mostly of log cabins. A cemetery was established in 1860 after the death of a young man from pneumonia. A year later, when the town of Granite sprang up two and a half miles away on the Arkansas, its residents also began using the cemetery. In spite of the convenience of Granite, however, many miners and their families preferred living near the diggings around Cache Creek.

On August 2, 1862, the post office was established as “Cash Creek”. Cache Creek also incorporated, on January 10, 1866. Alas, the place was simply too far away from the Arkansas River trail. In October of 1866 the nearby town of Dayton established its own post office. A new mill was built near Cache Creek, but the Dayton post office was  moved to the new county seat of Granite in November of 1868. Cache Creek’s population began to falter, and the post office closed on February 27, 1871.

By 1872, much of the area around Cache Creek was owned by the Cache Creek Mining Company. In Cache Creek proper, only ten cabins remained occupied. Most of the residents probably worked for the company, which employed sixteen men on both day and night shifts, who could mine upwards of a pound of gold per day, per man.

When Chaffee County was formed in 1879, the new boundary ran between Lake Creek and Cache Creek and directly through Cache Creek Park. In 1881 the Gaff Mining Company, in business since 1865, built a new two mile long bedrock flume. The outlook was good, there being gold “disseminated through all the ground which is free from bowlders [sic] or large rocks, and is easily washed.” Thus far, upwards of $800,000 in gold had been mined.

Next, in 1884, the Twin Lakes Hydraulic Gold Mining Syndicate, which had purchased the Cache Creek Mining Company, installed a tunnel between Cache Creek and Clear Creek. The tunnel cost over $40,000, but gold production nearly tripled. Over fifty men were now employed by the Syndicate, and gold production from May to November that year totaled almost $100,000.

By 1902, Cache Creek was quickly fading as new methods of mining downplayed the value of placer mining. Still, the Salida Record noted Cache Creek as “a neglected resource” of placer deposits. More people might have panned the creek but for a complaint, issued in 1903 by Canon City some 100 miles away along the Arkansas River. Canon City charged that the water was “polluted with quicksilver from the Cache Creek placers.”

Articles about the issue appeared in local newspapers for years. The Cache Creek Placer closed in 1909, but the pollution problems continued well into 1911. This ugly turn of events was Cache Creek’s final undoing, and by 1929 nobody was mining the creek anymore. In more recent times, however, gold panning has once become a popular hobby in the area, and with good results.

Cache Creek’s empty buildings are long gone, but the historic cemetery remains. The graves consist of many residents from Cache Creek, but also Granite and other places. They include pioneer families, but also victims from some of the more violent crimes in Granite. Judge Elias Dyer, who was murdered in 1975, was initially buried there before being moved elsewhere. Other victims, such as  David “Scotty” Hornell whose neck was broken in 1887 during a fight with saloonkeeper and mine owner Enos Shaul, and railroad employee Pat Casey, whose throat was slit in 1888 by Niccolo Feminello, remain. Feminello, in fact, made history as the first man hanged in Chaffee County.

Other burials include that of miner Joseph Scheller who was killed in a mine cave—in in 1895, leaving behind a widow with five children. Deaths in 1898 included eighty-year-old Elizabeth Ball of Balltown and Nancy Bruner, wife of a Lake County constable. The deaths of these early pioneers shows the variety of people making up the area’s population. Some of those interred at Cache Creek have ancestors who still visit their graves today.

The townsite lies below the cemetery, where scant ruins identify buildings which appear in older images of Cache Creek. Walk behind the gate with the sign explaining about Cache Creek, and follow an old road down to access the town. From the townsite, you can also see the remains of a major flume up on the hill across the creek. This is all that remains of Cache Creek.

John Nixon and the Terrible Thanksgiving Turkey

Turkey and boyc 2015 by Jan MacKell Collins

For those who have occasionally suffered through a quite memorable yet hardly endearing Thanksgiving holiday, take heart. Even historic and quaint Cripple Creek, Colorado is not safe from the perils of a good dinner gone bad. Take for instance, John Nixon’s own Thanksgiving in 1912.

What a lovely memory, the Cripple Creek Thanksgivings of old. Gazing nostalgically down Bennett Avenue, especially in the weather of late, it is easy to paint a vintage picture. Imagine watching one horse sleighs pulling passengers bundled in warm furs and frilly coats. The delighted faces of loved ones as they greet long-absent family members. The loving preparation of a giant turkey feast, with recipes passed from generation to generation. Is it possible, revelling in retrospect, to imagine a more grand picture?

Such wonderful pictures were no doubt travelling through John Nixon’s mind as he made his way down Bennett Avenue the day before Thanksgiving. A cozy room, permeated with the smell of delicious food, was an attractive alternative to crowded and cold downtown Cripple Creek. As the wind bit through his wool coat, John gathered his scarf and lowered his hat. Quite possibly he wished he had collected his Thanksgiving turkey earlier, when the day was still sunny. Now here he was, tired and chilled, scampering to purchase that which was most important to tomorrow’s dinner.

This Thanksgiving promised to be the best in many years, for this time, Mrs. Nixon asked for a live turkey to obtain the freshest meat. Ever anxious to please his wife, John Nixon had agreed to butcher the bird at home. Now, as hurried down Bennett, John hoped his wife’s prediction was true. He hated to think the task before him was actually for naught. He wasn’t much for working harder than he had to, and his resourcefulness at easing the work day was something commented on by the Missus.

John smiled at these thoughts as he paid the butcher for his bird and produced a large flour sack from his pocket. In the interest of convenience, the sack would serve as ample transportation for the turkey’s trip home. John deposited the turkey, head first, into his flour sack and bid the butcher a happy Thanksgiving.

Sadly, it was not long before man and bird had a misunderstanding. The turkey, who did not necessarily find his position comfortable, began giving forth a terrible squawk. Within a matter of seconds, the bird was making such a racket that people on the sidewalk were staring. Being a respectful sort with regard to unnecessary noise and courtesy to those around him, John Nixon made a split-second decision. In one swift move, his fingers groped the outside of the bag until they located the turkey’s neck. Grasping said neck firmly, Nixon succeeded in squeezing it until the bird was quiet.

It seemed the logical and polite thing to do, and John complimented his decision silently as he proceeded down the road. But if John Nixon thought his actions were justified, a nearby Humane Officer did not. Almost immediately, the officer appeared at Nixon’s side and demanded, “What are you doing to that bird? Are you choking that turkey?”

Now John Nixon, already weary of his burden, began to rethink his actions. That bird was making a fuss! Something had to be done! Deciding once more he was in the right, Nixon replied defiantly, “I am not choking the turkey, but I will if he doesn’t shut his chop!”

Apparently Nixon’s answer was less than satisfactory to the officer, who next wanted to see the turkey. The unhappy creature was obligingly brought from the flour sack. Upon examination, the officer assessed the turkey’s neck was “dislocated” and arrested John Nixon for none other than animal abuse.

The sight of the Humane Officer with John Nixon in one hand and a flour sack full of disgruntled turkey in the other must have been startling. A small crowd began to follow the trio, uttering hurried whispers and pointing fingers. The unusual spectacle was accompanied by even louder squawks as the turkey made his position clear.

So loud did the gobbles and squabbles become that even the Humane Officer began having trouble concentrating. In fact, so terrible was the noise that upon reaching a hardware store, the officer instructed Nixon to wait while he went inside. The officer returned with a borrowed axe as more people gathered to await his next move. They didn’t have to wait long. According to the Cripple Creek Times, “the crowd was treated to a real interesting execution right on Bennett Avenue.”

If the crowd was surprised, they must also have been relieved at the sudden quiet which followed the turkey’s demise. While they were exchanging glances and looking from the officer to Nixon and back, a lone yellow dog appeared at the front of the group. Without so much as a look of guilt, the mutt took up the turkey’s head and headed for a nice, quiet spot. It was an exclamation point at the end of a long, confused statement.

When he finally managed to avert his eyes from the departing dog, the officer gazed uncertainly at the crowd. The accusing and bemused looks he received in return made him weigh his next step carefully. Since the object of his concern was no longer among the living, there was no longer a legitimate crime in progress. And since it was, after all, Thanksgiving Eve, what harm would come from letting Nixon go home to his family? Before the amused crowd, the Humane Officer released Nixon from custody. The thankful man gathered his expired turkey into his flour sack and once again made for home.

If there is a moral to this story, the reader must come to his own conclusion. Perhaps it has something to do with a bird in hand and letting feasting dogs lie. Were John Nixon here today to relate the tale himself, he likely might say that nostalgia ain’t what it used to be.

Ghosts and Goblins of Colorado

c 2015 by Jan MacKell Collins

Ghost

When we of the living world think of ghosts, our minds naturally conjure up visions of some ethereal figure in an old-fashioned costume. Colorado is rife with tales of such sightings, along with a handful of psychics who have met a misty apparition or two themselves. More often than not, the ghostly subjects of today seem to date to just a century or so ago. But what of those people from the Victorian era itself? Were they not safe from the perils of witnessing supernatural phenomena? Indeed they weren’t.

For over a hundred years and then some, Coloradans have had the same fascination with the afterlife as their descendants. In a time before medicine and safety, death was all too frequently a visitor in many a household. Funerals were an everyday part of Victorian life, and their ceremonies were carried out with vigor. Robert Latta, a visitor to Cripple Creek at the turn of the century, recalled seeing a funeral procession making the rounds of the local bars. The parade was led by a brass brand playing “There’ll Be A Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight”. The transparent participants laughed and danced their way through every saloon along Bennett Avenue, stopping at each one for a drink and a toast. “They were ‘celebrating’ the funeral of one of their friends,” Latta remembered, “and were carrying his coffin with them. It was the noisiest funeral party I ever saw.”

Naturally not every death was taken so lightly, especially if the deceased decided not to remain so. In 1894, a miner was killed by an explosion at the Mamie R. Mine in the Cripple Creek District. A few nights later, several of the dead man’s co-workers watched in horror as their comrade suddenly rang the bell and disembarked from the hoist bucket alone. Slinging his bloody and shredded arm over his shoulder, the ghostly miner smiled at the men before ambling off into the night. The chilling tale would be repeated around the district for years, followed by new stories as they developed in Victorian imaginations.

Another time in Cripple Creek, a gentleman claimed to have seen a funeral procession on the edge of Mt. Pisgah Cemetery. Upon arriving at the graveyard, however, the man saw no sign of a funeral gathering. Further checking confirmed there were no funerals taking place that day. With the number of clairvoyants calling Cripple Creek home, it is no wonder such stories and their frightful counterparts began appearing out of nowhere.

Cripple Creek was not the only place to suffer such eerie events. Many of Colorado’s first ghost stories date back to the early 1800’s and before. As early as 1832, for instance, a ghost known as John Fagan was terrorizing travelers between Denver and Bent’s Fort. One day in 1879, the Central City Daily Register reported on a miner who arrived at the bottom of a local mine shaft and found the dead body of another miner. The man put the body in the hoist bucket, only to have it arrive up top empty.

That same year, Denver’s Rocky Mountain News printed the story of a recently built house in which no one could live. The newspaper hired a reporter to spend the night in the house. During the course of his stay, the reporter was visited by the ghost of a young woman who claimed her murdered body was interred with the walls. An investigation revealed the girl’s body, just where she said it would be.

In 1881, Dr. Hartmann of Georgetown wrote of a seance at which he and his spiritualist friends summoned dead loved ones and attempted to grab a ghost. Six years later, a visitor to Breckenridge suffered repercussions from drinking from a spring haunted by an Indian maiden who died in captivity. And in 1889, engineers along the Rio Grande Railroad were chased by a phantom train over Marshall Pass. This time, the apparition at the helm of the ghost train left a chilling message written in the frost of the other train’s window: “Years ago a frate train was recked as yu saw—now that yu saw it, we will never make another run. The enjine was not ounder cantrol and four sexshun men wore killed. If yu ever ran on this road again yu will be recked.”

By 1890, folks all over the state were having more supernatural experiences than ever before. A 70 year old man claimed to have received a letter from his dead daughter. In March of 1892, prospectors were spotting an ethereal dragon near Gray’s Peak. Later that year, three prisoners escaped from the Gunnison jail after a phantom set them free. A seven foot ghost was spotted at a station house in Lafayette in 1893. And in 1894, a lengthy conversation between a spirit and mediums cleansed a Denver house for occupancy.

It is true that many of these early tales were probably explainable, such as blaming an inept jailer or real estate shark. Other stories make one wonder as well, such as the 1887 report of a prostitute who went straight after seeing the ghost of her mother. Prostitutes seemed, as always, to be of particular interest to ghost seekers. There is the story of two men who resolved to capture the ghost of harlot Lizzie Greer for loitering near a Dissecting Room in Denver (physicians could sell the indigent deceased to a dissecting room for experiments, thereby covering their own costs). In 1886, Annie “Dutch Annie” Busch’s spirit was hanging around the city jail long after she did herself in at the end of a rope.

It is interesting to note that of all the ghost stories from the past, none seem to survive today except in the annals of the newspapers from whence they came. Have the lost souls found peace and moved on with time? Or did they ever really exist to begin with? In the end it doesn’t really matter; ghost stories are among the best of all stories, true or not. Even so, the prospect of ghosts haunting the earth for centuries leaves one final question: If a live person who once saw a ghost is deceased, does that ghost still see ghosts?

Frozen Together in Time on Pikes Peak

c 2015 by Jan MacKell Collins

Frozen Skinners

It was the height of tourist season that August day in 1911, when Mr. and Mrs. William A. Skinner learned a hard lesson about the perils of hiking unprepared on Pike’s Peak in Colorado.

The couple were first spotted at the printing office of the Pike’s Peak Daily News, a tourist paper with advertisements and lists of people hiking the peak that day. Eighteen year old Alex Gress, a guide who led burro parties to the summit, was walking over to the printing office when he noticed Skinner and his wife. The editor of the newspaper, a Mr. Wilson, was trying to talk them out of continuing on their quest to reach the summit. It was already late in the afternoon, and the couple were without a proper guide.

Later, Gress remembered the woman’s argument against postponing the hike. “I came all the way from Texas to climb Pike’s Peak,” she said, “and that’s just what I’m going to do. Nothing’s going to stop me.”

When the Skinners first set out to conquer Pike’s Peak earlier that day, the weather was pleasant and sunny. By the time they reached the News office, however, snow clouds were looming on the horizon and Mr. Skinner looked rather peaked from the already strenuous hike. Both husband and wife were 50 years old, and neither had dressed adequately for the sudden storms which overtake Pike’s Peak year round.

Mrs. Skinner was certainly determined. She not only refused offers of a rental coat, but also Mr. Wilson’s invitation to spend the night at his cabin. Resisting her husband’s pleas to give up the hike, Mrs. Skinner pushed doggedly on with her devoted husband trailing behind her. The last anyone saw of them was at Windy Point, about two miles below the summit, around 4 p.m. Mrs. Skinner was hiking several yards in front of her husband, who appeared on the point of collapse even then.

Over two feet of snow fell during the night. Even after Alex Gress safely guided his group to the summit, the party had to wait several hours after sunrise before the visibility allowed them to trek back down. Little did the group know as they descended the trail that they were walking right by the Skinners. By then the couple was nearly buried under a foot of snow and well beyond help anyone could provide.

When the bodies were spotted the next day, it was 6 p.m. before they could be retrieved. Mrs. Skinner, lying face down, had crossed her hands over her face. Close by was Mr. Skinner, his face upturned to the skies. The couple were taken back down to Manitou, where their bodies were shipped back to Texas for burial.

Of the personal belongings found with the Skinners, two items in particular were worthy of note. One was a set of accident insurance policies, each with a clause prohibiting payment if death came due to overexertion in Colorado. The other was a letter from a friend back in Texas, whose jovial warning rang true in the most chilling fashion: “I hope you are having the time of your life in Colorado, and that you will not freeze to death on Pike’s Peak.”

McCourt, Colorado: Founded by Baby Doe Tabor’s Brother

c 2015 By Jan MacKell Collins

Peter McCourt's luxurious home in Denver.

Peter McCourt’s luxurious home in Denver.

Biographers of Colorado silver king H.A.W. Tabor and his second wife, Elizabeth “Baby Doe”, have been exploring the scandalous Tabor family for decades. What most of them have missed, however, is the tiny part Baby Doe’s brothers, Peter and Philip McCourt, played in the history of the Florence & Cripple Creek Railroad and the Cripple Creek District.

Eizabeth, Peter and Philip were born into a family of seven children in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The McCourts were not a wealthy family; Elizabeth’s marriage to a local boy named Harvey Doe was probably welcomed as a way to ease the financial burdens on the family. Harvey and Elizabeth moved to Colorado in 1877, where Harvey tried his luck as a miner. The McCourts saw the marriage as a good sign: one less mouth to feed, with opportunity for success in the family.

The rest is well known Colorado history. The Does initially settled in Central City, but Baby Doe wasn’t the type of gal to settle down as a miner’s wife. Ultimately she took a trip by herself to Leadville, where she met and eventually married the millionaire Horace Tabor in 1882. The relationship was scandalous even by today’s standards as Horace left his wife Augusta and their son, Maxey, in favor of the delightful and gorgeous Baby Doe.

Some of the McCourt family, including Baby Doe’s parents, a sister and her brothers Peter and Philip, accompanied the new couple to Washington D.C. for the marriage. Later, Baby Doe used her husband’s riches to move the family to Denver. The McCourts were given lavish homes and other extravagant gifts. Peter, Baby Doe’s favorite brother, was bestowed with the job of managing the Tabor Grand Opera House in Denver. Philip was hired as treasurer.

For the next several years, things were grand for the Tabors and McCourts. Tabor and his bride were the epitome of eccentricity, shocking high society with their outrageous lifestyle and unbridled spending habits. Baby Doe’s family took full advantage of her wealth. Peter was especially a familiar sight at the Tabor Mansion, holding court over weekly poker games with comrades from other elite Denver families.

One night, in the midst of the party, Baby came storming into the room. She was rightfully upset, largely because the wives, sisters and daughters of Peter’s poker buddies were in the habit of snubbing the Tabors and their over the top behavior. Peter’s embarrassed guests quickly left, and the two siblings had it out. They made up later, but it is said their relationship was forever changed.

When talk of the repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act—wherein the federal government had standardized silver coinage—started, the Tabors were so lost in their own wealth they hardly blinked. In fact, the couple was well known for their lavish spending habits—including buying diamond-studded diaper pins for their babies, and once even purchasing 100 peacocks for their daughter’s birthday party. So much money had indeed made the couple downright giddy with power, and out of touch with reality. For Tabor and his bride, there seemed to be no end in sight.

In 1893 Peter and Philip McCourt, aware of the ramifications the Sherman repeal was about to bring, began scouting for safe investments. True to everyone’s predictions, the government stopped buying silver and the value of the once precious metal plummeted. Horace Tabor lost everything nearly overnight. Among his assets to go were the Tabor Grand. Peter was out of a job, but had wisely managed to save his money. Baby Doe appealed to Peter to help the falling Tabor empire, but Peter was unsympathetic. “I haven’t any money to spare,” he told her, “and even if I could, you’d only throw it away on some silly extravagance.”

Possibly to escape the woes and shame of his sister, Peter decided to check out the Cripple Creek District, which was in the infant stages of a gold boom. Amongst the developments in the district was the Florence Free Road, established in 1892 by Thomas Robinson. The road, which ran through today’s Phantom Canyon, was to eventually reach the Wyoming state border. Soon after the Salaman Stage Line debuted on the Florence Free Road, plans next began for the Florence and Cripple Creek State Line Railroad. Peter McCourt arrived in about 1893, where he was immediately inaugurated into the Elk’s Lodge. The move is not mentioned in most Tabor biographies, and information about Peter’s correspondence with the family is scant. It is known, however, that Peter soon developed an interest in the railroad coming up Phantom Canyon, then known as Ute Canyon.

Work on the Florence and Cripple Creek Railroad began in late 1893. Within the year Peter was establishing a small railroad station, supplemented by a nearby quartz mine staked by himself. His partners were brother Philip, C.A. Bass of Denver, and Dr. John Whiting of Cripple Creek. Plans were in the making to erect a small stamp mill. There were also two placer claims covering the water in Ute Creek, now known as Eight Mile Creek.

McCourt Camp was located at an altitude of 6,483′, situated 13 ½ miles from Florence and 20 miles from Cripple Creek. The F & CC tracks had passed McCourt by March of 1894. Within a few months they had extended as far as Wilbur a few miles up Phantom Canyon, and regular passenger service began. Upon arriving at Wilbur, passengers were transferred to a stage for the remainder of their trip to the Cripple Creek District as the railroad continued extending towards the District town of Victor.

Just a few months later, the railroad was nearing completion with several stops and two tunnels along Phantom Canyon. Upon leaving Florence, the train would pass a reduction works later called Cyanide, Russell (originally called Alabaster), McCourt, Adelaide (originally known as Robinson), Glen Brook, Wilbur and Alta Vista. The next stops were Victor, Eclipse, Arequa, Anaconda and finally, Cripple Creek.

No sooner had the F & CC been completed when a flood in August of 1894 washed out a good bit of the railroad. The southbound train had just passed through Glenbrook when a flash flood came crashing around the corner behind the train. The train raced the flood for the remaining 13 miles to Russell. Behind the train, stations, bridges and tracks were washed out. At Adelaide, two men and a woman drowned in the flood waters.

McCourt Camp was not affected by the flood, and the railroad repaired the damage at a cost of a million dollars. More stations, namely Vesta Junction and Wilders, were established along the route, but Peter McCourt had enough. By all indications, he closed up the Western Union telegraph office at McCourt, forgot about his claims and returned to Denver. There he leased the Broadway Theater, which he ran very successfully for many years. Philip apparently tired of riding his brother’s coat tails and eventually pursued a career as a professional gambler.

Little else is known about McCourt. Some years after the camp was abandoned, a nearby prospector was delighted to find good ore in Ute Creek. It was only after he staked his claim that he discovered the ore was the result of a derailment of the railroad, during which the ore spilled into the stream.

There is nothing to suggest Peter ever returned to the Cripple Creek District, but he did continue to make the occasional headline. After Horace Tabor died in poverty in 1899, Peter was known to send money to Baby Doe’s daughters, Elizabeth and Silver. When Elizabeth tired of life at the Tabor’s depleted Matchless Mine in Leadville, Peter willingly paid her way to Oshkosh.

From then on, Baby appealed to her other daughter, the flamboyant Silver Dollar, to write her uncle when they were in need. Peter accordingly financed some trips to Denver, where Silver Dollar and her mother could spend the winter in warmer quarters than at their shack at Leadville. Eventually Peter bought Silver Dollar’s way out of Colorado forever, mostly in an effort to keep her safe from her own crazy mother.

Unfortunately, Silver Dollar Tabor led a life more scandalous than Baby Doe’s. In between bouts with alcohol and failed relationships, Silver Dollar met President Theodore Roosevelt, published a novel, tried her hand at songwriting and worked briefly as an actress for Alexander Film in Colorado Springs. In 1925, she died from an accidental scalding in Chicago. Her sister Elizabeth refused to claim the body, but Peter sent $300 from Denver for a proper burial. Newspapers in Chicago and Denver jumped on the benevolent act. “Saves Girl From Pauper’s Grave,” blazed one of them, “Silver Dollar Tabor’s Body to Be Cared For. Uncle Pays Funeral Bill.”

When Peter died in 1929, his passing was hardly recognized by society. Baby Doe Tabor died six years later, and this time it was Philip who paid for his sister’s body to be brought from Leadville for burial in Denver. If Peter had been alive, would he have helped? Maybe. When he passed away, Peter included Baby Doe in his will, but she refused the bequest. Her comment at the time was probably more prophetic than she knew. “Living, he forgot me when misfortune came;” she once wrote, “dead, he can give me nothing.”

The Time Capsule of Crystola

IMG_1956

She was a classy lady, I thought to myself.

Standing there in the middle of this small, little old cabin, I saw some semblance of a comfortable home. It was there alright, nestled quietly under the dust and mess that comes when a place is abandoned. In the dim light, I strained to identify the lumps and objects laying about. Gradually, by leaning towards the light coming through the once sunny windows, the shapeless objects on either side of them became curtains. Square shapes in the shadows formed into tables and chairs. The odd piles on the floor became rugs, now covered with dirt and curled up at the edges. An assortment of papers, books, bric-a-brac and other interesting items lay scattered about.

There in the living room was a desk. The drawers still held stationary and an assortment of greeting cards for every occasion. Papers and file folders lay on top, looking as though someone had recently looked through them. But the amount of dust on them indicated otherwise. There were books too, and many were first editions. There was a lamp, also a comfortable reading chair.  A vase stood in one window, waiting for a bouquet of fresh spring flowers that never came.

Except for the dust and dirt, the tiny kitchen had been left neat as a pin. Some silverware was scattered about, but enough pots and pans remained in the cupboards for me to know that at one time, everything here had its place. A woman’s presence had kept everything orderly, from the hot pads hanging from a wall hook to the flowered little dishes above the sink.

The bedroom was, of course, most telling of all. In the closet were dresses, as well as a garment bag containing a fur coat. Clothes lay on the bed, apparently placed there as she packed to leave. I knew she was going, because a packet of old letters said so. They were lovingly tied in a bundle with a faded pink ribbon, and most of them were from a man. His return address bore an “APO, New York” address, telling me his mail came through a central Army post office because he was overseas. The letters were interesting, telling of this man’s adventures but also saying how much he missed her. He couldn’t wait for the day they would be together, he said. As that day grew closer, the letters became even more emphatic.

The last letter lay loose, placed purposely on the bedside table. Either it had not been tied into the bundle with the others, or it fell out. I turned it over, and saw the envelope had never been opened.

I held onto the letter as I wandered back to the living room. My imagination fairly ran wild thinking about what it might say. Why didn’t she open it? Should I open it? Who was this lady, anyway? My fingers ran over the papers on the desk. Some bore the classic archaic letters of an old typewriter. There were forms in the folders, also hand-outs and a resume which told me her name. The resume also revealed that at one time, she was Dean of the Women’s College at Colorado College.

“Aha,” I said aloud, and nodded. This explained a lot. The funky little cabin had originally been built by pioneers long ago. Later, this place and several others were offered as a retreat for college professors. Had she come to the retreat and left for an emergency? Was she on sabbatical, or perhaps retired? All of her things were here; why had she left them behind? And what became of the mystery man who promised to love her forever?

I looked again at the unopened letter in my hand. The answers to my questions may be inside. With a sigh, I carefully tore the envelope open. A single sheet was enclosed, folded with the ink on the other side. As I turned it over and began reading, my heart fairly sang for this woman, now long dead and who never knew me. “My dear,” read the letter. “If you don’t get this letter, it is because you are on your way to meet me in New York. I cannot wait for the day I can hold you in my arms, my sweet, and we will begin our lives together at last.”

After some minutes, I put the letter back in the envelope and laid it carefully on her papers. Looking around one last time, I smiled at her fortune and the fact that yes, dreams really can come true. Closing the door behind me was like closing a good book, one that you want to go back to again and again. But I knew the story would never be told the way it was that day.

Cousin Helen, Kate Horine, Buffalo Bill and the Weird Stuff-O-Meter

c 2015 by Jan MacKell Collins

Kate Horine trunk

This is a story whose end should really be the beginning, and the beginning ends with Kate Horine.

Kate L. Horine’s name was neatly painted on an old traveling trunk that my boyfriend happened across at the dump, near our home in Colorado. An elderly man had the trunk. It was full of leaves and dead branches, and from all appearances the man was set on throwing the trunk out along with the foliage. My companion intervened. Since you aren’t allowed to bargain at the dump for other people’s garbage, they secretly agreed—out of hearing range of the garbage police—to meet up down the road. There, my companion paid the old man a few bucks for the antique trunk and the two went their separate ways.

As all old trunks are, this one is really cool. It was manufactured by Meek Trunk & Bag Co. in Denver. Throughout its life, it has suffered various dings and scratches along random journeys. Gone are one of its leather handles, the storage tray and most of its paper lining. Indeed, the trunk was certainly well used, but still quite sturdy and full of character. On the inside of the lid, someone scrawled a cryptic note in pencil long ago: “3/4 sheets buffalo bill June 11 Boone Co.” There were no other clues, so the trunk nobody wanted was subsequently brought to my home, put in storage, and semi-forgotten about.

Over the next few years or so, I wondered from time to time about that trunk and the woman’s name painted on it so long ago. I meant on several occasions to do some research on her, but never managed to do so. Time gradually filled up my storage space with boxes, old furniture, gardening tools and other items, and the trunk got shoved to the back of the room.

After six years or so, I was finally cleaning out the storage area and unearthed Kate’s trunk (as well as five newborn kittens who just celebrated their 11th birthdays—but that’s another story). This time I made good on my mental note to try and find out who Kate L. Horine was. I found out some interesting things: she was born Kate Loomis in Indiana in about 1868. By 1910 she had married to a man named Horine, been widowed, and had moved to Boone, Missouri, where she lived through at least 1920. Also in 1920, she had a 17-year old daughter, Mary K., living with her.

By 1930, Mary K. had moved to Clovis, New Mexico. As for Kate, there was surprising twist: it turns out she had a brother and a sister, with whom she was living in Fairplay, Colorado—just a little over an hour away from where her trunk had surfaced. I yearned to know more about this woman.

Quite by coincidence, my research coincided with news about my boss’ cousin, Helen Johnson. Cousin Helen, as she is affectionately known, had just recently received the coveted “Hospitality Team Member of the Month” award from the casino she where worked in up in Black Hawk. Helen also lived in Fairplay, in a house built in 1872 by her great-great grandfather. In nearby Alma were Helen’s cousin and my boss at the time, Erik Swanson. Erik and Helen’s family came to the Fairplay Mining District in the 1870’s. It was Erik who pointed out that Helen received the award. It was also Erik whom I thought might know of Kate L. Horine, so I asked him if he knew anything about her.

He certainly did. It turns out that Kate Horine was Cousin Helen’s grandmother.

When we figured this out, the Weird Stuff-O-Meter (which measures all things strange and wonderful that have no plausible explanation) went into the red. According to both Helen and Erik, they used to play with Kate’s many trunks in the attic of Helen’s house as children. The trunks contained clothing from the Victorian era that Helen surmises belonged to her great grandmother. It even survived a fire in the 1930’s. Helen and Erik held very fond memories of their playtime in the attic.

Even more amazing was the revelation that the Cripple Creek District Museum, where Erik and I worked at the time, had a copy of a painting rendered by Kate. It is a portrait of a donkey and was a favorite artifact among visitors. “You know, she did some beautiful paintings of columbines,” Helen recalled. “She did some wonderful stuff, not only of flowers but some great scenery. She did some characters, too. She was really a very talented artist.”

So, how did Kate’s trunk get away? “My mother did a major renovation in 1952,” remembered Helen, “and there were things in the attic she had that disappeared. So it might have been taken then. But my sister Emily might have taken it, and she lived in the city where the trunk was found for years, so that may be how it ended up there.”

How the trunk bounced from Emily to an elderly stranger at the dump, however, remains a mystery, as does the odd message about Buffalo Bill scrawled on the lid. The best guess is that Kate scribbled his name and a date she might have seen his Wild West Show while living in Missouri.

Once its history was revealed, there was no question the old trunk needed to be returned to its happy family. My companion was glad to trade it to Erik for another trunk he had, one with no family attachment. I think he said he was going to sneak Kate’s trunk into Cousin Helen’s livingroom with a big bow on it. However he did it, Helen now has her grandma’s trunk safe in her care once again. And at the very least, Kate Horine’s trunk is living proof that inanimate objects can indeed talk.

Parts of this article first appeared in the Colorado Gambler magazine in 2004.

Kit Carson, Indian Fighter

Kit Carson

c 2015 by Jan MacKell Collins

As historical enigmas go, Kit Carson remains a most controversial figure. Wagon driver, interpreter, trapper, Indian fighter, commander and scout, Carson lived more in his 59 years than most of us can expect to live in our lifetimes. His numerous escapades gave Carson his place in history, making some love him and others hate him.

Christopher Houston “Kit” Carson was born on Christmas Eve, 1809 in Kentucky to a large family. In 1811 the Carson family moved to Missouri, where Carson was taught at an early age that Indians were different and therefore dangerous. Carson had no use for the little schooling he received. But his life became more complicated after the death of his father in 1818. Young Kit became a hard-to-manage teenager, especially after his mother remarried four years after her husband died. After bouncing between the homes of his mother and a brother, Carson found himself a ward of the court.

Carson learned his first trade in 1824 as a saddle maker. By 1826, however, the 16-year-old could no longer resist the idea of going West and joined a caravan headed for Santa Fe, New Mexico. In accordance with Missouri law, local newspapers published a wanted poster for the young boy’s return. But those who knew Kit knew what he wanted; the reward for his return was a mere penny, and no one took up the hunt.

On the trail to Santa Fe, Kit experienced first hand encounters with various Native American tribes, who mostly turned out to be mischievous thieves. Raised to believe that such savages were not trustworthy, Carson set about learning all he could about the Indian way of life. He soon discovered it was easy to trick or frighten most tribes into retreat or submission, but he also made many friends among the Indians.

Upon reaching Santa Fe, Carson took up quarters with Mathew Kinkead, a well-known settler in the area. Within a few short years, Carson learned various trades as a camp scout, wagon driver, cook, and Spanish interpreter. Three years after his arrival in New Mexico, Kit finally took an apprenticeship as a mountain man and explorer with Ewing Young. The two traveled with a party to California. Kit’s uncanny sense of direction helped the men overcome many a dangerous moment on the trip. Carson was duly paid a considerable amount of money for the expedition.

In 1831, Carson returned to the Rocky Mountains. His skills enabled him to work as an independent trapper for Rocky Mountain Fur Company. Such a job led to extensive travel all over what is now New Mexico and Colorado. Carson spent the winter of 1832 at the present day town of Fountain south of Colorado Springs, where his party built several log cabins.

Kit Carson’s escapades and adventures grew steadily. But it was not until 1833 that he earned the title of Indian Fighter, after winning his first apparent battle with some Indians who had stolen horses from his camp. The trappers in Carson’s party tracked them down, reclaimed their horses and fought the Indians, killing most of them.

Carson’s gruff new reputation as an Indian fighter was countered by his marriage to an Arapahoe girl called Waa-nibe in 1835. Carson coincidentally killed the girl’s rival before marrying her. Waa-nibe meant “Singing Grass” or “Singing Wind”, but Carson affectionately called his first wife “Alice.” Within two years, the couple had a daughter and named her Adaline. When Waa-nibe died after giving birth to a second child, Carson took Adaline to Missouri and left her with relatives. Eventually Adaline moved to California and married twice before dying in 1860.

Following Waa-nibe’s death, Kit remarried to a Cheyenne woman named Making Out Road. The two lived at Bent’s Fort, but the union was short lived. One day Making Out Road placed all of Kit’s belongings outside their lodge—the Cheyenne version of divorce. Undaunted, Carson worked as a guide and topographical explorer for the John C. Fremont Expedition from 1842 to 1844. Carson’s travels took him all over New Mexico, but also up Ute Pass between what is now Colorado Springs and Cripple Creek.

Between expeditions Kit Carson married an influential Spanish woman named Maria Josefa Jaramillo in 1843. He purchased an adobe home in Taos as a gift for his new wife, of whom he was very fond. Carson often called Josefa “Chapete”, his pet name for her. The couple would have several children together. Josefa’s sister, Maria Ignacia, was married to Charles Bent of Bent=s Fort. Bent was also Territorial Governor of New Mexico. Bent and Carson, along with Ceran St. Vrain, were destined to have many business dealings throughout the rest of their lives.

Kit Carson’s dedication to children extended far beyond his immediate family that now included the Bents. Several periods of his life indicate he took in the children of friends who died, including Indians. When Charles Bent was killed during an Indian uprising at Taos in 1848, Carson took charge of three of his children, Estefana, Teresina and Alfredo Bent. For the rest of his life Carson maintained a fatherly relationship with the children, even overseeing Estefana’s marriage to rancher Alexander Hicklin when she turned 15 years old. Until his death, Carson visited the couple often at their ranch at the base of Greenhorn Mountain, located south of Pueblo.

Carson was eventually hired as commander of Fort Garland. During the Civil War, he served as Brigadier General of the New Mexico Volunteers. Following the war, Carson returned to Fort Garland and met with Ute Chief Ouray to discuss the white man’s invasion of Indian lands. By this time, however, Kit Carson’s adventurous years in the Rocky Mountains were taking their toll. In 1867 he moved with Josefa to Boggsville, and the couple settled into retirement. Just a year later, Carson died from an aneurism caused by an accident years before. He died at Fort Lyon, just weeks after his beloved Josefa also died, during childbirth.

Going by his memoirs, it is obvious that Kit Carson preferred the treeless prairies and colorful canyons of southern Colorado. Although there is little to mark his presence here, one landmark does remain near Wetmore, south of Florence. Supposedly, a sizable rock still rests near the side of the road where Kit carved his initials with those of Josefa Jaramillo. It was his own romantic tribute to the woman who saw him as more than just an Indian fighter.

The Old Bench

c 2015 by Jan MacKell Collins

Miniature Parsons bench

One day, I might yet find a photograph of the Parsons bench as it sat in my home. I find it ironic that the closest image I could find is this miniature bench, made for a doll’s house.

Many, many years ago, my friends Rob and Kathy had this bench. It was a simple little Parsons bench, hand-hewn over two centuries ago by some craftsman who merely wished to sit down. Made of cherry wood with only wooden pegs holding it together, this sturdy little chair held less than two adults. Children seemed more comfortable there. The legs and back dowels were hand turned with three rings in the center. Only the sloped arms of the bench gave it any sense of feminity, the hand rests curving gently to meet the palms.

I had never seen this bench until Rob and Kathy announced they were realizing their life-long dream of building a house. They asked if during the construction phase, would I keep the bench for them? I was reluctant at the idea of keeping someone else’s furniture, and the dilemna of where to put it in my cramped A-frame rose often. The bench finally found repose under my front window, next to the pellet stove.

Few people sat on the bench, largely due to my placing obstructing items like quilts and pillows on it. It was an antique. It was fragile. And it didn’t belong to me. So I dusted it often and moved around it carefully. When the rest of my house looked like a tribe of gypsies had moved in, the bench was kept out of harm’s way.

In the meantime, Rob and Kathy completed their house but had yet to reclaim the bench. Fate was on their side, for they woke up one night to discover their new-built house was on fire. As the family stood in the yard and watched their memories burn forever, the bench was probably the furthest thing from their minds. But it was first thing I thought of when I heard the news. How lucky, we all said later, that I had kept the bench. The family moved into a trailer far too small for them, and we assured each other that the bench would remain safe in my care until such time it could go to its proper home.

During the next few years, we lived our lives and met occasionally, always speaking of the bench and reminding each other of its presence. During that time, I experienced the break-up of a relationship that made me see things in an entirely different way. As I worked at getting my life on track, Rob and Kathy had their own miracle. Their third child was stillborn, but after fifteen minutes he was revived and grew up to be a healthy, happy and charming little boy.

Eventually, the nightmare of their burned out house faded and Rob and Kathy were able to buy a rambling 1912 farmhouse. By then, due to space restricitions, the bench had made its resourceful way to my bedroom. Not only was it useful as something to throw clothes on, it also blocked the view to the horrendous depths of my closet. Over the last seven months I had it, I learned to dance around it while remembering how fragile and special it was.

Finally the day came when, during what seemed like a random conversation, Rob casually informed me that he and Kathy were ready for the bench to come home to them.

After having the little bench in my life for so many years, I tried not to react like an adoptive parent confronted by the natural mother. But I did feel a wee bit sad as I pulled the bench out to the livingroom one evening to polish it up for the last time. I buffed it carefully, taking note of the simple wood pegs, the seat’s uneven underside and scars left by buttons and heels over the years. Even by the mellow light of the fire, the wood’s rich luster came out to smile at me one more time. Soon afterwards I wrapped it carefully in a blanket, carried it down the long set of stairs to my driveway, and tenderly put it in my jeep for transport.

Rob and I met up, fittingly, at an historic tavern nestled in the woods at a halfway point between our respective homes. It seemed like a truly historic moment. We reminisced about that five year space of time when the bench lived with me, and marveled at the way our lives had changed in such a short time. We told those around us our story, and they gathered to admire the bench before Rob carefully carried it out to his car. I penned a quick note to Kathy and thanked her for the unique memory.

On the way home, I pondered over that bench, missing it but knowing this was best, and that the bench was returning to the place where it belonged. My last thought about it was the absurd knowledge that out of the two hundred years this enchanting piece of furniture had existed, I had only known it for five of them. Nearly two decades have passed since I returned the bench, but to this day it is still the most favorite piece of furniture I have never owned.