Legend of the Yellow Rose

A Tailing Tale

By Maggie Magoffin

Twenty-year-old Philip Penrose rode into Central City on an old mule named Daisy on an unusually warm day in June 1862. After months of traveling, he nearly burst with delight as he made his way through Black Hawk Pointe, passed noisy stamp mills, up the muddy incline toward his destination.

Philip’s friends, Patrick and Thomas, who had journeyed to Central City more than a year earlier, had written to him about the opportunities for wealth and success in the mining camps and encouraged him to join them.

Philip had been anxious to make the journey with his friends when they left Cornwall, England; however, at the time, his wife, Jenna, was pregnant with their first child and unable to travel.

A year after his friends’ departure, Philip still yearned to travel to America and embark on a new life. Jenna also believed they could make a success of such a change, but she did not think it wise to travel with a young child with all the uncertainties and challenges. Therefore, she sent her husband on his way to make a home for them in Central City. Once Philip established himself and built them a house, Jenna and the child would join him.

Philip arrived in Central City with little in his pockets but an attitude of hope and enthusiasm. However, after more than a month searching for work, he found no employment, and he had not seen Patrick or Thomas. A miner told Philip he thought they were working at the Pat Casey Mine in Nevadaville, so Philip mounted his old mule and rode up the hill to find his friends and hopefully a job.

After months of traveling and then finding no work, Philip had grown discouraged and unsure if he had been wise to make such a journey. He missed Jenna and their little son; and he missed his homeland, family and friends. The trip to the mine in Nevadaville was his last hope of finding a job and settling in the Kansas Territory before accepting defeat and returning to Cornwall. With even less money in his pockets than when he arrived, and little hope of finding work, he had no idea how he could even manage the return trip.

On his way to Nevadaville, Philip’s heart lifted as he rounded a bend in the road. On a hillside next to a roughly constructed cabin grew a small bush of yellow roses that reminded him of the roses Jenna grew around their cottage back home, and so he rode up to the cabin to get a closer look.

A woman opened the door as he approached, and she invited him to stop and chat awhile. She told how her husband and she had been among the first Cornish settlers in the area, and how she brought the cuttings of the roses from their home in Cornwall. Her husband worked at the Pat Casey Mine; and she told Philip funny and touching stories about the man, Pat Casey, and how he’d helped them and many other Cornish people get settled.

After an hour or so of encouraging Philip with her stories, she gave him directions to the mine and sent him on his way with a small bunch of yellow roses.

As the story goes, Philip found his friends and spent several days in Nevadaville. Mr. Casey did not need any workers; but he advised Philip, since he was a carpenter by trade and not a miner, to return to Central City and go the Bentley & Bayard Sawmill.

Philip did as Pat Casey instructed him and found employment with Bentley & Bayard. He earned a good living and built a small house on a hillside overlooking Central City. The woman from the cabin near Nevadaville gave him cuttings of her yellow roses, which he planted all around his new home.

One year after arriving in Central City, he was finally able to send for Jenna and his son. He wrote several letters telling his wife to come to join him, but he never received a reply and Jenna never came.

Philip became well known for his carpentry skills and prospered; but his heart remained in Cornwall, and his days were long and lonely. The rose bushes around the little house grew large and strong, however even after three years, they never bloomed.

Finally, on the morning of June 20, 1866, as Philip walked out of his little house, the smell of licorice overwhelmed his senses as every rose bush drooped heavily with yellow blooms. That morning his step was swifter and his heart was lighter as he walked down the hill toward town. He smiled and waved at the passengers in a passing stagecoach, and then stopped in utter surprise when a familiar smile greeted him. She shouted, “Philip – Philip – It’s me!” She pulled a young boy across her lap and pointed at him. “It’s us! We made it!”

It seemed throughout the rest of Philip Penrose’s life; many times when things seemed dark and hopeless, the yellow roses growing on the hillsides of Central City brought him hope that all would be well.

The Yellow Rose

Early settlers in the United States, regarded roses as a necessity of life, as their petals were often used for medicinal purposes. The Harrison yellow shrub rose, still today growing on the hillsides around Central City, is an 1830 cross between two European roses. This rose, which puts all its energy into a single flush of flowers, was brought to Colorado during the gold rush days of the 1860s. The miners planted the Harrison rose throughout the hills of Central City and it is the only rose which blooms at that elevation of 8,500 feet.

The yellow rose puts on a spectacular show each June as the bright yellow flowers cascade from long, arching canes amid the aroma of licorice. The soft grayish-green foliage has a delicate appearance that belies the rose’s durability and tenacity.

The Central City Opera makes the familiar rose part of their annual tradition for their festival at the opening of the opera season. In addition to many arrays of the yellow roses, Flower Girls and young debutantes dance with their fathers in front of the Opera House as a string trio plays The Yellow Rose Waltz, music especially created for the occasion.

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