If one looks hard enough, one usually can find any number of remarkable individuals in a town’s history; the entirely unsung people who are the backbone which keeps the town running.
One such individual in Bakersville around the turn of the last century was Edgar Clarke. Here is a short biography of him taken from ‘Where Walk the Souls of Heroes’ written by Neal E. Yates:
“Edgar was eight years old in 1867 when scarlet fever deprived him of the ability to walk for the rest of his life. He got about by a two-wheeled seat and a small sled….
A remarkable man, ‘Eddie’ Clarke was a watchmaker and school teacher, taught organ and violin, and conducted a 16-piece orchestra in 1896. He was the librarian, registrar of voters, and state representative from the 2nd District. He also served as Bakersville’s postmaster; the post office was in his home from 1893 to 1906 and hosted Bakersville’s first pay telephone. …He died in 1934 at age 77.”
In the 1800’s music was a common mode of entertainment. Music teachers, singing masters, piano teachers, and dancing masters were all common careers.
Freeborn Garretson Baker took his first and second name from a prominent Methodist minister of the early 1800’s, Freeborn Garretson. Baker was a native of Bakersville, born August 19, 1813. He taught singing schools in Bakerville, Winsted, Torrington, and other neighbouring towns. He also led concerts, probably held in the dance hall in the Bakerville Tannery, and often played the cello as an accompanist. In 1856, he moved to Wheaton, Illinois were he was the first director of music and remained a professor until his death. He was well regarded by the university, and became a Trustee of Wheaton in 1857. The 1882 Register of Wheaton College stated that: “He was beloved as a neighbor, respected as a man, revered as a Christian, and honored as an officer of the College and the Church.”
He died in Bakerville, July 12, 1879. His funeral was held in Bakersville. Ironically, until his grand-nephew stepped in, there was no music.