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Aug. 29, 2023

Dancing 'til Dawn: The Love Story of John and Maude Rohling

Dancing 'til Dawn: The Love Story of John and Maude Rohling

John Phillip Rohling and Maude Elizabeth Mitchell Rohling were married on March 2, 1899. The two had been sweethearts as teens, but in reality they grew up together in Black Hawk, Colorado, which was one of the towns connected with the first gold mines established in 1859 when gold was discovered in the area. 

Maude was the oldest of five children born to Noah and Martha Mitchell who had moved to Black Hawk in 1879. Maude was born on September 19, 1880. John's parents, Phillip and Louisa Rohling had immigrated to the United States from Germany first settling in Indianapolis, Indiana before making the move to Black Hawk in 1881. Like the Mitchell's, the Rohling family also had five children. Not long after relocating to the town, Phillip Rohling established Rohling's Dry Goods, one of the most successful dry goods stores in town. The children for both families attended school in the four-room school house ontop of the hill overlooking the town.

Maude and John were very active socially after they married at the ages of 19 and 20. John was a member of the fraternal organization the Knights of Pythias as was Maude who was secretary of Fern Temple 14 of the Pythian Sisters. 
Families in Black Hawk regularly hosted parties and other get togethers the couple often attended. In addition the town hosted an annual May Day celebration and Fireman's Ball. The couple loved to dance and attend the many dances hosted at the Fritz in Black Hawk and the dance halls in the neighboring communities; the Armory in Central City and the Cannon in Nevadaville. Often well-known orchestras from Denver were employed to play at these dances. A cover charge was paid to attend from 9pm to 2am. After 2am, the orchestras were generally willing to continue playing for hourly donations which meant couples often danced until dawn! John and Maude were such good dancers they won several awards during such events. 

Of course, life wasn't all dances and parties. When the couple first married John worked as a boiler builder at the mills in Black Hawk where ore was processed from the gold mines. By 1910 he was employed as a salesman at his father's dry good store. WWI put a temporary stop to gold mining and the population of Black Hawk and the county in which it resides, Gilpin, saw a steep decline. By 1918 Phillip Rohling closed his dry goods store and John and Maude moved to Denver, Colorado where John worked as a machinist for Swift Packing Company for the next twenty-eight years, retiring in 1946. 

Life in Denver was just a social as life in Black Hawk had been. In October 1929 Maude's parents, Noah and Martha celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Maude threw an elaborate party for them on October 31st, which turned out to be one of the snowiest nights of the year, but the party was a success with more than fifty guests attending. In 1968, John's health began deteriorating and the couple moved to an assisted living community of sorts called Beverly Manor. John passed away there on June 7, 1969, just three months shy of his 90th birthday. The couple celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary that March. Maude would continue to live at Beverly Manor where she celebrated her hundredth birthday on September 19, 1980. John and Maude never had any children, but they had many nieces and nephews and grandnieces and grandnephews who they doted on and who loved the couple in return. Maude passed away on February 9, 1984 joining John in their enteral heavenly dance.

In her 103 years of life Maude saw many changes in the country and around the world. She lived to hear about the assignations of three U.S. presidents, experienced WWI, WWII, the Korean war, the Cold war, and the Korean war. She would have read about the Wright Brothers and their success at flying and witnessed how those small planes became large military and commercial flying machines. She witnessed the advent of automobiles, electricity and indoor plumbing in every home, radio, movies, television and even computers! She turned forty years old in 1920, the same year women in the U.S. were granted the right to vote. When she was born in 1880 her mother was wearing corsets and long skirts, she herself most likely wore a corset and a bustle when she married in 1899. She witnessed the jazz age and flapper dresses, the golden age of Hollywood, poodle skirts in the 50s, mini skirts in the 60s and colored hair and mohawks in the 80s! 

From a modern perspective it's mind-blowing thinking about all that Maude and John witnessed in their lifetime and how willingly they seemed to embrace it all and truly live their lives to the fullest. 

Photo: Grave of John Phillip and Maude Rohling located in the Knights of Pythias Cemetery near Central City, Colorado.