It was a dark and stormy night (no, really – that’s what the 1894 newspaper report says!) and a woman in Brigham City was hesitantly feeling her way along a water ditch, seeking a way to cross. “Hello!” came a voice from the darkness, calling her by name, “what are you doing here this time of night?” “I have been to the entertainment,” she said, “and I am trying to find my way home, but I am quite lost.” “Well, you will never get home this way. You are going away from home. Come with me, and I will show you the way.” And so he did.
On another night, after another entertainment, the man walked toward home, accompanied by his host’s son. After a while he sent the boy home. “You’d better go back; it must be very dark.” “But what about you?” asked the boy. “Oh, I can find my way without any trouble. Remember, the world looks the same to me whether it is night or day!”
Owen Pierce Jones was blind.
Jones had fallen into a fire when he was a small child still living in his native Wales and lost the sight in one eye. As a young man in his 20s, hard at work in a Welsh slate quarry, an accident had cost him the sight in his other eye. He was 34 years old when he emigrated to Utah in 1852, walking behind a wagon the entire way.
After a short time in Salt Lake City, Jones moved to Brigham City to be near other Welsh pioneers. There he built a rich life for himself, and for the people among whom he settled.
Jones loved literature and often asked friends – adults and children – to read to him. He supported himself through working at several callings: He wove rush seats for chairs; he owned a fanning mill and at harvest time would follow the threshers to fan and clean the grain; he was a talented violinist and singer, and played for dances and parties. He was, neighbors said, “very much for helping himself and others so far as he could.”
Perhaps the most extraordinary of his employments was the one he carried out for the last 25 years of his life: Jones carried the mail in Brigham City.
Jones knew the town and its people so well that he needed no help in getting around town, although children often took his hand to “help” him across bridges, for which “service” Jones rewarded them with candy and coins.
A tourist who visited Brigham City in 1875, soon after Jones had begun to carry the mail, described Jones’s remarkable system: “He has a great number of pockets in his clothes, and a very retentive memory. The postmaster sorts the letters and papers, reading the names to him, when he deposits them in his several pockets, and away he starts through the city, with the [newspapers] and letters, delivering them at the various houses and workshops, and I was told that he very rarely makes a mistake.”
Writing in 1894, another witness confirmed that he would arrange the mail “so that he could commence at a certain point and going in a certain direction his letters or papers would come in rotation.” Yet, “if he met anyone on the street asking him for a letter or a paper he knew where to find it, for he remembered where he put it.”
His neighbors said they “never heard him complain or say that his lot was hard.” Rather, “when others would feel inclined to complain and find fault,” Jones would “check them and encourage them to be patient.”
Jones, who never married or had children of his own, caught a cold late in 1893. The cold turned to pneumonia, and on Jan. 3, 1894, Jones died. His funeral was attended by friends from one end of the Territory to the other.