Isabel Patterson Springer was, in 1911, what today we would call a gold digger – as well as a few other choices names.
Isabel was a beautiful,young divorcee from St. Louis when she met the widowed John Wallace Springer, a wealthy businessman from Colorado. Despite the twenty year difference in their ages, the couple (or at least John) was smitten and they within months of their meeting, returning to his Colorado mansion.
But while love can by a lot of things, it can’t buy fidelity – especially for a young socialite who was used to having plenty of attention.
Whether it was loneliness or just being outright uncaring, Isabel reignited an old flame: Louis Sylvester “Tony” Von Phul.
While Isabel was an early 20th century gold digger, Von Phul was a player. Isabel was only one of many married women Von Phul was balancing but, considering she was a past romance, he did make somewhat more effort with her. What he did not realize (or maybe he did) was that she was had other men in stable, including Harold Francis “Frank” Henwood.
No one may ever be certain whether it was Isabel pitting two lovers against one another or if she was truly seeking help to end her affair with Von Phul, but what is certain is it turned into a bloody murder at Denver’s Brown Palace Hotel and a story which has continued to be shared through and fascinated the generations.
Author Dick Kerk recounts the convoluted tale of Isabel Springer and her dueling beaus in his 2003 book Murder at the Brown Palace: A True Story of Seduction and Betrayal.
I had read a short synopsis of the case in previous books, but not so detailed as this one. I did, however, feel it was a bit jumbled. The story would often be covering a particular scene and would veer off into another. This made it very difficult to understand the time frame in which events were occurring and such.
BUT… I still recommend it: (1) it focuses solely on this case and is very detailed and (2) the author, along with his agent, purchased a headstone for Isabel after learning that she had lain for many decades in an unmarked grave. What’s not to love about that? Their gesture truly touched me and told me the author cared for the subject about which he wrote.
Yes, you want to read Murder at the Brown Palace. And since you’re aware it jumps around, maybe you’ll be prepared and better able to keep track of an otherwise awesome story.