Frank Beslin: ‘the blind editor’
Frontier Historical Society
Courage and perseverance have a magical talisman, before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish into air. – John Quincy Adams
As Frank Beslin sat in the darkness, he could hear his audience entering Aspen’s Methodist Church. Through the smell of cigars, the rustling of skirts, conversation, and the cadence of steps, Beslin gauged his audience and estimated the number in attendance. However, whether the turnout was to be small or a full hall, the message of his lecture would remain one of inspiration and personal perseverance.
For the sightless Beslin, his remarks of June 11, 1887, recounted his experiences of the past six years. With this lecture, he relived the moment of March 6, 1881, when a mining explosion near Leadville took him to the brink of death and robbed him of his eyesight. In the months following, charities in Leadville took up the cause of his support, but Beslin, age 25, rejected becoming a ward of charity. Instead, he returned to Cherokee County, Iowa, tapped into his skills as a printer and established a newspaper, the Cherokee Enterprise. He married and started a family but was lured again by the call of Colorado, coming to Gilman in 1886 to establish another newspaper, the Gilman Enterprise.
Lecturing and the printing of newspapers supported Beslin and his family. Beslin, though, had that pioneering spirit, and undoubtedly while in Aspen that June of 1887, he was researching a little community just beginning to boom. That community was the newly formed Carbondale near the Roaring Fork River.
Settlement in Carbondale began to bustle in the autumn of 1886. When the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad announced plans to construct a rail line in 1887 to Aspen, speculation and building began, driven by agriculture and coal mining. Frank Beslin knew from time spent in mining camps that money was to be made on the ground floor of speculation.
In November 1887, Frank Beslin, his wife Jennie, and son Meade, came to Carbondale. By mid-November, Beslin’s first copy of his new newspaper, the Carbondale Advance, described as a five column folio, was issued. Beslin set all of the type for the paper, using the feel of the letters, while another person read aloud the copy. He also did customized printing and printed books. Beslin soon became regionally known as “the blind editor”.
Jennie Beslin, Frank’s wife, attended not only to the family but to their financial affairs. On April 4, 1888, she purchased four lots from the Carbondale Town and Land Company in the heart of the new town, at today’s 64 North Third Street across from today’s Miser’s Mercantile. But finances were difficult. In November 1888, printing of the Carbondale Advance was suspended, and Frank began again to lecture. In May 1889 a benefit ball was given on behalf of Beslin and his family. Knowing that the newspaper would not be profitable, Frank sold all of the paper, presses, type and furniture associated with the Carbondale Advance to Henry J. Holmes for $650 on June 3, 1889, with Jennie officially listed as the paper’s seller. Holmes would then establish a new newspaper in Carbondale, The Avalanche, printing his first edition in July 1889.
The Beslin family left Carbondale for Salt Lake City in October 1889. He established another newspaper, The Great Salt Laker, receiving praise from those within his profession. In 1891 he heard of a Philadelphia doctor who was attempting to restore human eyesight using the transplant of rabbit eyes, and went on the lecture circuit again to earn money for the transplant. However, he did not follow through with the plan.
In time, he completely abandoned the publishing of newspapers. Frank Beslin returned to Colorado, settling near Montrose to farm and raise chickens, and to continue to speculate in mining. Despite his lack of sight, he built a house with his own hands and attempted to build another when he relocated to Florence, Colorado, in 1901.
Reinventing himself in 1907, Frank Beslin graduated from the American College of Osteopathy in Kirksville, Missouri. He eventually settled in Aberdeen, South Dakota where he practiced with his son, Meade, who graduated in 1908 also with a degree in osteopathy.
By the time of Frank Beslin’s death on March 27, 1915, Henry Holmes had moved his Avalanche newspaper from Carbondale to Glenwood Springs. In 1928 the Avalanche merged with the Glenwood Post, the forerunner to today’s Glenwood Post Independent.
Frank Beslin did not allow a physical disability to hinder him. His perseverance is a model in overcoming obstacles, leaving a legacy in two communities and proving that anything is possible no matter the challenges.
Willa Kane is former archivist of and a current volunteer with the Frontier Historical Society and Museum. “Frontier Diary,” which appears the first Tuesday of every month, is provided to the Post Independent by the museum, 1001 Colorado Ave., Glenwood Springs. Fall, winter and spring hours are 1-4 p.m. Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. For more information, call 945-4448.
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Update at 9:45 p.m.: I-70 is open westbound at MM 114, West Glenwood. Eastbound remains closed at MM 105, New Castle, for an estimated 5-7 hours.