J. Melvin Affleck gave his family quite the scare in 1913 when he disappeared one night. On May 22, 1913, the Cañon City Record reported on the events. Fourteen young men responded to an alarm that was sounded 20 minutes to 11:00 PM from the electrical power plant. The men were equipped with lanterns by the fire department and made their way to Fremont Peak where Affleck had headed to take photos that morning. Two hour later, the men reached the peak where they encountered the father of Affleck and another man, also engaged in a search. They had discovered the bicycle abandoned by the Soda Springs about 8:00 PM and become concerned. No trace was found of the 21-year-old, who searchers thought may have fallen and been injured. After searching until 3:00 AM, half the group stayed at the peak to continues the search in the morning while the rest made their way down, keeping an eye out for Affleck. About 4:00 AM, Affleck was finally discovered, returning to town on a freight train.
The young man had arrived at Soda Springs that day and been about to embark up to Fremont Peak when he saw a slow-moving freight train and decided to hop on board to take photos in the Royal Gorge. While he had been able to board with no incident, once in the Royal Gorge, the train was moving too fast for him to disembark without injury. The train didn’t stop until it reached Salida and Affleck was unable to return to Cañon City until long past midnight. Upon pulling into the city, he saw all the lanterns and discovered the uproar he had caused. Everyone was pleased that it was simply a small mishap and not a great tragedy that had occurred.
Affleck later became a well-known photographer in Cañon City and continued to take plenty of photos of the Royal Gorge. A photo he took at the bottom of the Royal Gorge showing the bridge and a Rio Grande train was well-known and became almost synonymous with the railroad. His shop was originally located at 424 Main Street before moving to 521 Main Street.
Affleck was born April 9, 1892 in Missouri where he spent some time before moving to Kansas. In 1909, his family moved to Cañon City and were among the early residents of Lincoln Park. Affleck served in World War I and was among the first of the American Forces to land in France. At the time of his death, two of his sons were serving in World War II. Affleck passed away on July 18, 1944 at the age of 52.
May is National Photography Month! The museum will be highlighting early local photographers in upcoming blogs. Follow the links for more blogs.
The information presented in this article is compiled using research conducted by the Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center.