Lena Alma Allen Webster Stoiber Rood Ellis (1862–1935) was the “Bonanza Queen” of Silverton. Known as “Captain Jack” or “Jack Pants” to the miners who worked for her, she was a tough boss who worked in conjunction with her second husband, Edward G. Stoiber, at the Silver Lake Mine. He managed the mine and she managed the miners, outswearing them and ruling with an iron first. She has become a mythicized figure in Colorado history, often sensationalized for her four marriages and her colorful life, which did not correspond with cultural expectations for elite women at the time.
Lena Alma Allen was born on April 2, 1862, to Mary Jane and George Washington Allen in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Little is known about her childhood. Lena Allen’s first husband was Frederick Charles Webster, a Yale graduate and successful lawyer. They married in Minneapolis on August 7, 1877. The Websters moved west to Colorado after their marriage and settled in Leadville, then at the start of its silver boom, where Frederick Webster served as city attorney. The marriage did not last, and the couple divorced on April 9, 1887. Frederick Webster moved to Montana, while Lena remained in Colorado, supporting herself for a time by working at Joslin’s Dry Goods in Denver.
After relocating to Silverton, Lena Webster met Edward George Stoiber, a mining engineer. The couple wed on March 29, 1888, in Illinois. Stoiber was originally from New York, where he was born to German immigrant parents in 1855. After attending Columbia College in New York, he began working in the mining industry by the late 1870s. He relocated first to Leadville, then to San Juan County. By 1885 he was working there with his brother, Gustavus. Around that time, the brothers purchased the Silver Lake mine near Silverton. About two years later, the brothers had a disagreement and divided their mutual assets. Edward retained ownership of the Silver Lake mine.
Marriage and Mining
Edward and Lena Stoiber spent their honeymoon at the Hotel de Paris in Georgetown. The couple then settled in Silverton. It was in this first residence that Lena Stoiber became known for constructing “spite fences.” She had disagreements with her Silverton neighbors, and to spite them she built a two-story fence around her house to obstruct her neighbors’ views.
Her neighbors were probably not surprised to learn that Stoiber was also a tough mining boss. While her husband managed the Silver Lake mine, she managed the miners. There are many outlandish stories about her time overseeing the Silver Lake miners. Some of the tales are myths, but Stoiber was in fact notorious for going from bar to bar to round up her miners and send them back to work. She also held parties and arranged entertainment for them, managed their boardinghouse, and helped look after their families. Owing to her impressive work in the mining industry, in 1894 Stoiber was named an associate member of the American Society of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers—a high honor, particularly for a woman of her time. The Stoibers were tough bosses, but they were respected by their employees and their mining interests saw great success.
During the Panic of 1893, which shuttered many mines, the Stoibers approached the crisis with clear heads and were able to survive by reducing the cost per ton and continuing to produce profitable low-grade ores. Thanks to their frugality and business savvy, the Stoibers retained their mine and their wealth. In the late 1890s, they decided to build a new house near their mine. Their three-story brick residence, called Waldheim, was completed in 1897 and had all the modern conveniences: electricity, plumbing, and a furnace.
When Lena Stoiber wasn’t busy managing the Silver Lake miners, she was actively involved in the Silverton community. During the holiday season, she would deliver presents to every child in town. In 1898 she hosted a group from the Denver Woman’s Club at Waldheim as part of their biennial meeting.
Around 1901 Edward Stoiber sold Silver Lake to the American Smelting and Refining Company. After the sale, the Stoibers relocated to Denver and began to travel the world. Lena Stoiber remained active in local charitable organizations after the move to Denver. She furnished rooms at the YWCA home and was a trustee and incorporator of the Colorado Cliff Dwellings Association in 1900. She played a major role in the movement to establish Mesa Verde as a national park in 1906.
In Denver the Stoibers planned a large mansion at Tenth and Humboldt Streets, next to Cheesman Park. Edward Stoiber never saw it completed, as he passed away suddenly after contracting typhoid fever while abroad in Paris. After his death, Lena Stoiber continued with the existing plans and her new mansion, Stoiberhof, was finished in 1907. Later, the property boasted another spite fence. To honor her late husband, in 1906 Lena Stoiber established the Edward Stoiber Prize at the Colorado School of Mines to honor the best senior thesis involving the concentration of ores and the separation of metals. The prize was awarded annually until at least 1916.
Stoiber continued to live alone at Stoiberhof until January 1909, when she married Hugh Roscoe Rood in Vancouver, Washington. A lumber baron from Seattle, Rood was president of the Pacific Coast Creosoting Company. After their marriage, the Roods split their time between Washington and Colorado.
In 1912 the couple was in Europe when Hugh Rood decided to sail back to the United States. Lena decided to stay behind in Europe, while her husband booked passage home on the Titanic. He perished when it sank on April 14, 1912. Apparently in disbelief that her third husband had died, Lena Stoiber Rood placed advertisements in newspapers searching for her husband. Rumors swirled that he had survived the sinking, but he was never found.
After the death of her third husband, Lena Stoiber Rood sold Stoiberhof to Verner Z. Reed and spent some time in Paris. In 1918 she married for a fourth time to Commander Mark St. Clair Ellis of the US Navy. The couple did not have a happy marriage and separated after only a year. After their separation, Lena began spending most of her time in Europe. She bought a villa in Stresa, Italy, and remained there for the rest of her life.
Lena Alma Allen Stoiber Rood Ellis passed away on March 27, 1935 in Stresa, Italy. Her body was brought back to Colorado and buried with her second husband, Edward Stoiber, in his mausoleum at Fairmount Cemetery. Her name is not inscribed on the mausoleum.
Stoiber left a large estate upon her death and had no direct heirs. In her will, she named her siblings, nephews, Stoiber family members, employees, and friends as inheritors. Shortly after her death, a woman named Magdalena Domínguez came forward with a claim that Stoiber had adopted her and that she was therefore heir to the Stoiber estate. According to Domínguez’s story, Lena Stoiber agreed to adopt Dominguez as a child and to bequeath Domínguez a share of her estate upon her death. Domínguez took her claims to court, but in the end there was no evidence of an adoption and her claims were dismissed.
Myths have surrounded the life of Lena Stoiber since her death. Supposedly, she once refused an offer to become the Queen of Serbia. She has also been painted as a “black widow” since two of her husbands died and many believed that her first husband also died or disappeared instead of relocating to Montana. The truth seems to be that Lena Stoiber stood apart from her contemporaries as a modern woman who pushed the boundaries of what was considered appropriate for a woman of her time.