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Berne pays homage to its settlers

October 18, 2010

APPLAUSE ... People in crowd attending Sunday's ceremony in Berne applaud the Settlers Monument at its unveiling. Jerome and Barbara Lehman, who underwrote the cost of the monument, stand beside it. (Photo by J Swygart)

    A Settlers Monument paying homage to Anabaptist immigrants from Switzerland who settled in Berne in 1852 was unveiled Sunday during dedication ceremonies at the Muensterberg Plaza and clock tower site.
    The six-foot-tall limestone carving — perched on a 12-foot base — depicts a man with his hands outstretched and a woman holding a baby. They are dressed in attire which would have been common in the 1850s.
    Featured speaker for the event was Jerome Lehman of Terre Haute, who along with his wife Barbara underwrote the cost of the monument. Lehman's ancestors were among those first Berne settlers.
    Lehman told a crowd of some 100 visitors gathered at Sunday's dedication that he has been an ardent supporter of Berne's attempt to honor its Swiss Heritage through the clock tower plaza since its inception.
    "When I first heard of the plans to build the clock tower, I began to think, 'What can I do to help?'" said Lehman. His answer came in the form of a statue "dedicated to those early settlers of Berne who endured such great hardships to practice their religious beliefs."
    Lehman said it is hard for modern day Berne residents to comprehend the journey of those 1850 immingrants, who spent more than six weeks on a ship to arrive in a new land, then traveled cross-country to settle first in Wayne County, Ohio, before trekking farther west to settle in Berne.
    "May the Settlers Monument always remind visitors to this site of our Mennonite ancestors and the sacrifices and hardships they endured for us," said Lehman. "It is with deep gratitude and reverence to all my ancestors who suffered hardship to settle in the Berne area that my wife and I underwrote the Settlers Monument."
    David Baumgarter, president of the Berne Community Development Corp. which has served as the driving force behind the Muensterberg Plaza project, said it is his hope that "this and future generations can take inspiration from this monument for years to come."

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