A blind pianist: Sir Edward Baxter Perry
Camden has, or had, many famous and unusual people. This week I want to write about a world renowned pianist, Sir Edward Baxter Perry, who spent many summers here and chose Mountain View Cemetery as his final resting place.
His summer home was named “Baymount,” pictured. It is located just off Mountain Street on Spring Street and there used to be a path up the mountain in back of the house. In Robinson’s "History of Camden and Rockport," he mentioned the building boom of summer homes in 1871 — stopped with a business depression in 1893, but started up again three years later. He mentioned many of the summer homes built then and “Baymount” built for Mr. Perry was among them. It was many years ago when I climbed the mountain from that trail, so I am not sure that it is still used. Sir Perry’s home looks today very much like it did more than 100 years ago.
Edward Perry was born in Haverill, Mass., Feb. 14, 1855. He studied music in Germany. His mother, also pictured in this article, was Mrs. Katherine Perry. He had two sisters and a brother. There is no mention of his father, but his stone has the name of Nettie H. Perry born in 1860 and died in 1917, whom I assume to be his wife. His obituary in The Camden Herald was just a small item and listed only his survivors.
In 1898, he was decorated with the Order of Chevalier de Melusine in Persia. He was also instructor at Hood College, in Frederick, Md.
What I found most interesting about this man was not just his talent and being considered the leading blind pianist of this country, but also his attitude. He once gave a recital for the blind at Knabe Hall, but also told them of their many ways of usefulness. He talked to his audience indicating” the opportunities open to the blind who tried to help themselves instead of sitting all their days in a rocking chair.”
Sir Edward declared that the physical defect was merely an incident of life, minimizing it in other ways. He stated:
”The greatest difficulty that the blind must contend against in this world is the natural reluctance of persons who have their eyesight to consider the blind as competent to do anything. The public consider the man without eyes ‘outside the pale as, in the world but not of the world’. It is not that we cannot do the work of others, but that others will not admit that we can do it. There are dozens of good self-respecting ways for the blind to make a living. I wouldn’t advise a blind person to study astronomy. It is proper to recognize one’s limitations, but it is unnecessary to exaggerate these. I tell you to stick and you will win.”
Mr. Perry’s words of encouragement seem to bring new light on many a despondent face. His words of encouragement bought a loud applause.
His recital was arranged by Maltilda Ziegler Magazine for the Blind. The raised type and in the point alphabet used by the blind, so the audience could easily follow Mr. Perry There were two selections by Mr. Perry, entitled “Aeolienne” and “Ballade of the Last Island.”
He played with such skill, it nicely demonstrated his point that the blind are qualified to make success in certain lines of work.
Sir Edward Baxter Perry was well known in Camden to all who loved music and he was an inspiration to many. In Williams' "History of Camden," he mentions that on July 19, 1916, there was a benefit concert for the Y in the opera house by Sir Edward Baxter Perry and the event netted $100.
Perry and his sister, Miss Hopkins (a sister with a different last name leads me to believe maybe her mother was married twice) of Lebanon Valley College, Annville, Penn., had arrived only hours before to open up his Camden summer home, when he died at age 69 of a sudden heart attack on June 13, 1924. He was survived by two sisters in New York and a brother in California. His will was probated in Rockland Probate Court on June 17, 1924. Adelbert Miles was then Judge of Probate and Henry Payson was Register.
Sir Edward Baxter Perry was buried in Section 1, Lot 14 at Mountain View Cemetery by P.J. Good , Undertaker. Probably no one today remembers him, but he is one to be admired for his talent, independence and attitude.