Settlers Monument unveiled in Sunday ceremony
Approximately 200 individuals gathered in the shadow of the Swiss Clock Tower to dedicate the second Swiss monument in the Muensterberg Plaza on Sunday afternoon. As the clock chimes sounded at 2 p.m., a large group of Swiss ancestors, friends and family members huddled at the base of the plazaâ€™s newest addition, the Settlerâ€™s Monument.
The monument depicts a Swiss family arriving in the 1850â€™s to find freedom of religion and new land in what is now Berne and the surrounding area. The mother is holding a six-month-old child, symbolic of generations of Swiss ancestors that would follow and build up the newly carved community.
Floyd Liechty, master of ceremonies for the event, read scripture from Joel 1:2, 3, â€œHas anything like this ever happened in your days or in the days of your forefathers? Tell it to your children and let your children tell it to their children and their children to the next generation.
â€œNo matter what city or country your ancestors may have descended from, let this Settlers Monument be your sign of remembrance for your family history,â€ said Liechty. â€œBring them to this sight and tell them your familyâ€™s history to be repeated forever in their hearts and minds.
â€œThis monument today depicts a young family first arriving on American soil from the old country,â€ added Liechty.
Jerome Lehman told those present that he and his wife, Barbara, who totally donated the funding for the monument, had as their goal to remind Swiss ancestors living in the area what a sacrifice prior generations had made in order to establish the foundation for the community that is enjoyed now.
â€œMany Swiss families handed down their Swiss heritage and language generation to generation,â€ said Lehman to those present. â€œWe celebrate their heritage annually during the Swiss Days.
â€œMay this Settlers statue always remind those that visit the Berne Clock Tower of all our Mennonite ancestorsâ€™ sacrifices,â€ added Lehman. â€œAnd may we forever remember the hardships they endured for us.â€
Liechty, who spearheaded the fundraising for the monument noted that the podium used for Sunday afternoonâ€™s dedication had been that first used by Peter S. Lehman, the first pastor of the First Mennonite Church.
â€œGreat is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father,â€ sung those attending the ceremony. â€œThere is no shadow of turning with Thee; Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not; As thou has hast been, Thou forever wilt be.â€
Rev. Wayne Steury, representing the South Adams Ministerial Association, read from the book of I Chronicles concerning King Davidâ€™s praise to God for the land they had been given.
â€œTherefore our God, we thank you and praise your glorious name,â€ read Steury. â€œTruly we commemorate the devotion of the settlers who came here. They came for a new start in America; they came for religious freedom and fertile farmland. They came with courage, patience, loyalty, hard work and they knew Jesus as their Lord and Savior.â€
David Baumgartner, representing the Berne Community Development Corporation, emphasized that the statue is a sign of continuing progress for the Muensterberg Plaza. He noted that it all started with the clock tower, now the monument, and then other aspects to be developed.
â€œLike the clock tower, I am excited to see this monument,â€ said Baumgartner. â€œI remember when it (monument) was a tiny sketch, then a small model and now a limestone carved statue.
â€œThis rendering of a young couple in 1852 represents a group of people who came to this area from Switzerland who stopped to view their new plot of ground and who stopped to first of all thank God before they started developing it,â€ added Baumgartner.
â€œWhen I first heard of plans to develop the Swiss Clock Tower, I said to myself, â€˜this is something we really need,â€™â€ said Lehman. â€œThe first three times I saw the clock tower in Bern, Switzerland, I was stationed in military service in Italy. I talked over the possibility of this (monument) with Barbara and she backed it whole-heartedly.â€
A sense of reverent hush settled on the crowd at the close of the dedication when Lehman unveiled the statue to present to those who were present.
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