Martinez Historical Society

Cemetery Tour of Martinez


holpinCaroline Holpin

Caroline Hipple Holpin known as "Papinta the Flame Dancer" was an Indiana native. Her husband, William, who was originally from Wisconsin, bought 100 acres in Ygnacio Valley in 1897. They had married in Chicago 10 years earlier. During their first years together they moved about often. From Omaha to Denver to Portland, then to San Francisco to Minneapolis, and back to Chicago. While in Chicago, William, a lover of horseracing and the theatre, talked his wife into becoming a performing artist. William found Caroline a dance teacher and they bought a complicated set of Mirrors called the "crystal maze" which reflected light from calcium arc lamps. During her act "Papinta the Flame Dancer" managed to keep 50 yards of silk in motion. Within a few years her exotic performances became quite popular and lucrative. She performed in the capitols of Europe, Cape Town South Africa, and then on many stages in the United States. The Ygnacio Valley property had been purchased so William could pursue his dream of raising racehorses. In March 1905, Caroline's life started downhill. While performing in Rochester, New York, she received word that William had died at their ranch of "acute gastritis". He was 35 years old. Her father-in-law claimed William and Caroline’s marriage license and other important papers had disappeared mysteriously. He claimed to be the rightful heir to the ranch. The case was in the courts for a year and a half, finally being resolved in Caroline's favor. She continued to perform. On August 10, 1907, Caroline died just after finishing a performance in Düsseldorf, Germany. Speculation was she was overcome by the fumes from the arc lamps.