The Blind Postman


(Adapted from an article in Issue 19 of Beehive History, a newsletter of the Utah Historical Society.)
And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity and out of darkness (2 Ne. 27:29).

The Blind Postman

Yes, it’s true—a blind postman! His name was Owen Jones, and he delivered the mail for almost twenty-five years.

Owen was born in 1819 in a little village in Wales. When he was just a small boy, he fell into the fireplace, severely burning his face and losing the sight in one eye. When he was about thirty, he lost the sight in his other eye.

At first, he was discouraged and depressed, but before long, his natural, happy disposition returned. He continued to play the violin, and he worked at developing his talents for mimicking voices and telling stories. He learned to accept his blindness without bitterness, and, like many blind people, he developed his other senses.

When the missionaries came to Wales, he and his family were baptized and decided to go to America. He and his brother and sister arrived in New Orleans in 1849 on the ship Hartley. From there they made their way to Utah. Owen settled in Brigham City, a small community about sixty miles north of Salt Lake City, where there were other Welsh pioneers.

The neighbors found him cheerful, sociable, and friendly. He often did small repairs for them, and he made chair seats of rush (a course grass), cane, and rawhide.

He never had any trouble getting around the little town. He had an excellent sense of direction, counted the steps between fences and trees, and listened to the sounds around him.

When the job of postman became available, someone suggested that “Blind Man Jones,” as he was affectionately called, could do it. He was happy for the opportunity to be useful and to earn a steady paycheck.

He did well at his new job. Each day an associate sorted the mail for him and put it in the proper order in his canvas bag. Then away he went. Carrying a long buggy whip in front of him much like blind people nowadays use a white cane, he made his way around the town, delivering the mail. If he was not sure he had the right letters in his hand, he asked homeowners to check and resort them for him.

Owen took his meals with many of the townspeople; they all enjoyed his company and loved to hear stories about his early life in Wales. He spoke English almost as well as his native Welsh, and he was often called on to translate for immigrants who had not yet learned English.

Many children remembered having him in their homes for meals and parties. Owen loved to be a part of these happy times. Sometimes the carpet was rolled up, and the children danced to his violin music. He particularly enjoyed hearing the children’s laughter as they hopped and skipped to the music.

After one evening of dancing and merriment, the host asked his son to walk Owen home. After a block or so, he said to the boy, “You’d better go back; it must be very dark.”

“But what about you?”

“Oh, I can find my way without any trouble. Remember, the world looks the same to me whether it is night or day!”

The children always watched for him, and they took his hand and walked along with him, especially when he came to a small footbridge over a little creek. He probably would have had no trouble getting across, for the bridge had a railing, but he let the children feel that he really needed their help, and they loved it.

Owen never complained, and he never seemed to feel sorry for himself. He often said, “I would much rather lose my eyesight than my hearing. I can laugh and joke with friends, play the violin, and enjoy the music. I can hear the birds and the rushing streams and the other sounds of the world around me. Those are the things that give me joy!”

Owen Jones died of pneumonia in 1894 and was buried in the Brigham City Cemetery. He never married, but he enjoyed the love and affection of all the townspeople just the same as if he had been part of their families. He was an inspiration to all who knew him because he was willing to make the most of his abilities.

“It is not so bad to lose your sight,” he once said. “After all, what counts is what is in your mind!”

We could all learn a thing or two about living from Owen.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Scott Greer