Author: Isabella von Oppen

Author: Isabella von Oppen (died 1919)

Alternate Name(s): Caroline Henshaw (legal name?); Julia Leicester (alias?)

Biography: A rather perplexing mystery of identity. In the 1871 census, Isabella von Oppen, age 36 and U.S.-born, is listed as the wife of Frederic von Oppen, the Prussian-born manager of the Colt Firearms Company. Isabella von Oppen wrote the single book, No Fatherland (1872), a novel set in England, Germany, Mexico, and the United States. By 1881, Frederic had remarried. Some historians identify Isabella von Oppen with Caroline Henshaw, the one-time mistress of Samuel Colt (1814–1862) and the wife of his brother John (d. 1842). Samual brought Caroline to the U.S. where he left her pregnant. John, convicted of murder, married Caroline on the eve of his execution. Supposedly, Caroline moved to Germany under the alias of "Julia [Isabella] Leicester." There, she met and married Frederic von Oppen in 1857. The couple moved to London where Frederic took a position as the manager of Colt's London branch. After separating from her husband in the 1870s, von Oppen moved to northern Ireland passing herself off as a widow and working as a journalist. There she died in 1905 in Armagh. Such a romantic history should be viewed with some skepticism.

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References: British Census (1871, 1881); Irish Census (1901); Ireland Civil Records; M. William Phelps, Devil's Right Hand: The Tragic Story of the Colt Family Curse (Lyons Press, 2012); Times (20 May 1857)

Fiction Titles:

  1. No Fatherland.  2 vol.  London: Samuel Tinsley, 1872.

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