A question was asked of me a couple of days ago: What if The Matchless Mine were to burn down? The thought took my breath away. I couldn’t even imagine that happening to The Matchless Mine, but it could.
We recently had a fire over at the base of Mount Elbert; fortunately, that was quickly extinguished. Last year, we saw so many fires throughout Colorado destroy homes that had existed for decades or longer. I know how I would feel if The Matchless were to burn down. I would be heartbroken knowing that 144 years of history was gone. It is a priceless structure and could never be replaced. Of course, a replica cabin could be built that would commemorate the location, but that would only preserve the memory of The Matchless Mine itself. Although there are not many real treasures left on the site, there are some that could never be replaced.
Many visitors who make The Matchless Mine their destination each summer bring friends and relatives with them. Some of these visitors have read books about the Tabors, and some have never heard of them before, only stopping by out of curiosity. I have talked with many locals that have stories about their relatives that had encounters with Elizabeth “Baby Doe” Tabor in their lives. This site is an artifact symbolic to a history that would be forever lost to them.
I was told that at one time the building alongside the number five shaft burned down. I have found no evidence to support this legend.
I visited Leadville/Lake County Fire-Rescue and spoke with them about what would happen if The Matchless Mine were to catch fire. I was reassured that they would be able to take care of any situation that might occur there. I noted that if The Matchless Mine was in the path of an oncoming wildfire, I would be right there alongside them helping in any way I could.
I was told that the most recent fires in the area were of course the aforementioned fire at Mount Elbert, which was quickly extinguished, a fire at Twin Lakes, and the terrible fire at Hayden Flats which was so easily seen from Lake County.
A couple of years ago, when the fire season was so extremely frightening, Stephen Whittington, executive director of the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum (the owners of The Matchless Mine), hired a crew to perform fire mitigation procedures at The Matchless Mine in the form of cutting back trees and whatever else could be done to prevent the mine from falling victim to an advancing wildfire.
I feel certain that if something — a lightening strike, a careless campfire, a tossed aside cigarette, or any other source of ignition — were to create a blaze that endangered The Matchless Mine that the citizens of Lake County, like myself, would do all in their power to save our historic structure.
Brenda Miller is a Leadville local who works at The Matchless Mine.