The rush to stake mining claims at Leadville, Colorado resulted in a confusing welter of overlapping and conflicting claims - and resulting lawsuits.


Horace Tabor’s Little Pittsburg claim conflicted with claims owned by mine promoters David Moffat and Jerome Chaffee. Miners working on the rival claims exchanged gunfire.

The little Pittsburg mine changed storekeeper Tabor into a millionaire, but he lost it all, and died a poor man.  Today he is remembered most for the scandal he ignited when he divorced his loyal wife to marry curvaceous blonde divorcee Elizabeth “Baby” Doe.  Their story is immortalized in the opera “The Ballad of Baby Doe.”

U.S. Senator from Colorado Jerome Chaffee was an experienced mine promoter. He had helped sell the Caribou mine at an inflated price to Dutch investors.

Chaffee, Tabor, and Moffat pooled their claims, and sold the resulting Little Pittsburg Silver Mining Company in New York.

Little Pittsburg WHJ-655

The wonderfully profitable Little Pittsburg mine became avidly traded in New York. Moffat and Chaffee ordered the mine manager to overwork the mine to boost share prices.  Company insiders sold their shares before the inevitable crash.

Leadville today is still kicking, still unruined by ski resorts or casinos, and well worth a visit.

Leadville prospectors were eager to sell their mining claims to eastern investors.


“Chicken Bill” Lovell swindled Horace Tabor by selling him a salted shaft on the Chrysolite claim. Tabor had the last laugh when he dug a few feet farther and found rich silver ore.  The Chrysolite became one of the great mines of Leadville.

Despite his swindles, Lovell never prospered, and died destitute.  His fellow Civil War veterans had to chip in to give him a decent burial in Riverside Cemetery, Denver. 


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