The fourth of eleven children, Elizabeth Nellis McCourt was born September 26, 1854 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Her parents were Irish Catholics, and during the time of her childhood, quite rich. Lizzie's father owned a clothing and custom-tailoring store which burned to the ground twice, along with his home, in the great fires of 1874 and 1875. He never recovered financially.
Nicknamed "The belle of Oshkosh," Lizzie was described as high-spirited, was five foot four inches tall, had bright blue eyes, naturally curly reddish light golden hair, even teeth, a curvy body and a peaches and cream complexion. It's no wonder that Harvey Doe was so taken by her. Mrs. Doe, Harvey's mother, being of the Protestant faith was not too happy with Harvey's choice of a "Romanist and Papist" for companionship, however, and turned a cold shoulder to Lizzie. Proud as she was, this only added to Lizzie's interest in Harvey, and soon she found herself in love. Though Harvey had no means of support, he proposed marriage, saying his father would help them. Father Doe was part owner of a gold mine in Central City, Colorado, and offered his interest in the mine to Harvey and Lizzie if they would develop and work the mine. The combination of love and adventure was all too exciting for Lizzie to refuse, and the couple was married.
Mr. and Mrs. William Harvey Doe, Jr. began their honeymoon with a train trip to Central City, where they met with Father Doe and worked through the arrangements and legalities of the Fourth of July mine. Father Doe left the paper work with Harvey to record and went back to Oshkosh. Three weeks past and Harvey still had done nothing. On September 6, 1877, Lizzie fetched the buggy out herself, hitched up the team and drove Harvey to the Court House to have the agreement recorded. The next day she packed him up and sent him to work at their mine.
Harvey was not used to physical work and put in long tiring days. The quartz lode he was working was very low grade, and Harvey was depressed and discouraged. Things were not at all what Baby Doe had expected. Loneliness and poverty seemed to be her lot in life. To occupy her time, she made long visits to the dry goods store looking at bolts of cloth and conversing with the owner, Jacob Sandelowsky. They had much in common after all the years she had spent helping her father with his store, and they became good friends. As things at the Fourth of July mine worsened, Harvey took a job mucking in the Bobtail Tunnel. She and Harvey started to grow apart, and when he lost his job at the Bobtail and began drifting from one job to another, their relationship became even more strained. There was not enough money for food, and Lizzie found out that she was going to have a baby. She also discovered that Harvey had unpaid bills of over $2,000.00, and out of desperation, she solicited Father Doe's help. Harvey began to spend time in the bars feeling sorry for himself, and Lizzie began to hate him for his weakness. Trying to improve their financial state, she put on miners clothes and began to sink a shaft on the Troy Lode that Harvey had bought early on from the Hinds brothers, even though she was in no condition to do so. Seeing such a beauty in work clothes, the miners in town made fun and nicknamed her "Baby," and tales spread to other camps miles away about her. Jake, Baby's store owner friend, tried to help out, too, by giving groceries and other merchandize to her and Harvey. Soon, Harvey and Lizzie were constantly quarreling, much of the time about Jake. Harvey went so far as to insinuate that her baby belong to Jake and in her anger she through a rock, hitting him in the neck, scratching him badly. She didn't see him again for months. Jake became her benefactor and protector. When her baby son was born July 13, 1879, Jake made all the arrangements and paid the bills. The child was still born. Harvey and Lizzie patched things up that autumn and moved to Denver where Harvey ineffectively looked for work again. Lizzie sold the rest of her furniture and clothes to keep them fed. In March 1880 Lizzie saw Harvey enter a sporting house after they had argued, giving her grounds for the quick divorce she so wanted by then. Jake helped her to resettle in Leadville and had hoped they would go into business together. He even suggested marriage.
Baby Doe found the excitement of the silver mining town and her new freedom intoxicating. She had heard tales of great riches and of great men, especially Horace Tabor, the Silver King, (and a married man) and wanted very much to meet him. One night , as Jake gambled and left Baby Doe to entertain herself, she felt hungry and ventured into the Saddle Rock Cafe for oysters. Just after she had finished ordering, Mr. Tabor and his friend Bill Bush entered the cafe. It was love at first sight, any after only a few short minutes the waiter brought Baby Doe a note inviting her to join Mr. Tabor at his table. They spent the evening talking and when asked she explain rather tearfully how she had come to Leadville. She spoke of both Harvey and Jake. Horace asked if she wanted to marry Jake, and she replied no, but that she felt obligated because of all the money he had spent helping her. At that moment Horace wrote her a draft for $5,000.00 to pay off her debts and to buy what she needed. He referred to it as a grubstake. She was awe-struck. Baby Doe seldom saw Jake again. He refused the $1,000.00 she offered him, but did except the gift of a diamond ring. Horace Tabor then arranged for a suite for Baby Doe at the Clarendon Hotel.
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