Join host Kari Bovee, award-winning author of historical fiction as she shares stories of strong women of history combined with mysteries of the past.
Shortly after her arrival in Denver at the age of fourteen or fifteen, a girl with mysterious beginnings, who called herself “Miss Martin” became known as Perle de Vere, a beautiful woman with red-hair, a strong will, and good business sense. Her family believed she worked as a dress designer and catered to Denver’s wealthiest women. But, in fact, she catered to the city’s wealthiest men as a favorite prostitute.
During the Silver Panic of 1893, business in Denver dried up. Miss de Vere, then at 30 years old, packed her bags and moved to the booming gold camp of Cripple Creek, Colorado. She invested her savings and bought a house on Myers street. She hired several beautiful girls and started her own brothel. Her business proved to be an instant success, affording Perle fine clothing and an extravagant lifestyle. She also knew how to protect her investment and demanded her girls practice good hygiene, dress well, and have monthly medical exams.
Perle, a discerning business woman and the most successful madam of the town, didn’t cater to just anyone. Patrons of her establishment had to apply for a visit. Once their application was approved and their wealth determined, Perle allowed them to choose their girl. Evenings at Perle’s house, called the Old Homestead, often consisted of live entertainment, socializing, cards, and dancing before the girls and their clients retired upstairs. Perle often hosted lavish parties with imported foods and plenty of champagne and other spirits.
Much of Pearl’s early life is shrouded in mystery, and so is her death. In the summer of 1897, Perle hosted an extravagant party sponsored by one of her wealthiest clients and most ardent admirerers—a millionaire from either Poverty Gulch or Denver. Imported champagne, liquor, and caviar graced Perle’s establishment, for the wildest party the town would ever see. Perle’s admirer even brought her a beaded gown imported from Paris to wear to the event.
During the evening, after much drinking and revelry, Perle and her admirer got into an argument. He stormed out of the house and Perle retired to her bedroom. Later that night, one of the girls found Perle her lying on her bed, still in her gown, her breathing labored. Unable to rouse the madam, the girl called for a doctor, but it was too late. In the early hours of the morning, Perle de Vere died. She was 27. Gossip spread that Perle’s admirer poisoned her. The coroner stated her death was due to an accidental overdose of morphine, a drug she sometimes used for insomnia. Most of the newspapers reported the same, but one reported the death as suicide.
Most likely, Perle died of an accidental overdose, as the coroner stated. But, with a story as rich as hers, and with a cast of the intriguing characters she possibly entertained, it’s interesting to speculate on what might have happened to Colorado’s most famous “soiled dove.”
If you like to learn about more wild women of the west, you might be interested in some of my historical mystery novels featuring gutsy, sassy, female leads like Annie Oakley. You can find my books on Amazon.