A Look Back in History: Oley Valley twin churches honors veterans

Submitted photo Recent fallen soldier and Oley graduate, Jarett Yoder, remembered at the twin churches ceremony.

Recently on the historic Oley Cemetery at Spangsville, along Covered Bridge Road, Reverend Robert Mitchell from Christ Lutheran Church and Reverend Robert Whitmyer from Salem UCC Church held a joint Memorial service at their memory garden to remember fellow Americans and area citizens who lost their lives defending the United States in all the military actions which took place in our nations history to preserve American freedoms from the American revolution until the present.

Their two congregations braved the cold winds that swept over the sacred graves, where Oley Valley families were buried with many United States flags waving in the morning sunlight. A patriotic honor guard was supplied by the Oley American Legion Post number 878 with a patriotic gun salute and appropriate sounding of taps to the both congregations gathered there to pay their humble respect.

After appropriate readings from Biblical scriptures from both pastors, Reverend Whitmyer shared a passionate poem titled, Freedom is not free! It (our freedoms) have been paid for by the brave souls, living and dead, who ultimately sacrificed so that all of us can enjoy the daily freedoms taken for granted by the grace of the soldiers who have sacrificed their lives so that freedom by and for our citizens may live forever. Thereby, being protected by vigilant American soldiers in all parts of the world, including our nations Border Patrol troops.

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A somber group of Oley Valley citizens standing at attention with the color guard flags waving wildly in the morning breeze. The historic tombstones inscribed in German made these immigrant descendants aware of the fact that the Oley Valley cemetery was a gift to the community by Colonel John Lesher whose 1750 Oley Forge Mansion was just a mile away, along the Manatawny stream, where Lesher was active in the American Revolution supplying resources for George Washingtons troops to win our American Revolution.

Reverend Mitchell, ironically, referred to the inscription of the American Liberty Bell, which to all of us brought home the meaning of what it is to be an American; that these American heroes on Memorial Day (Monday) would not have died in vain, but are forever remembered!

Colonel John Lesher is buried on the Ralph Richards farm and his grave is marked by the Berks County Historical Society, where a United States flag waves. A French Hyguenot, like so many Oley Valley immigrants, he had come to America to take advantage of freedom of opportunity and religion. It was very fitting that these two twin churches celebrated Memorial Day on a cemetery donated by Patriot Colonel John Lesher.

Just this past April, Jarrett Yoder, a graduate of Oley Valley High School in 2005 was killed fighting in Afghanistan flying in an Apache helicopter, which was still fresh in the gathering crowds mind. He was just one of the brave Oley valley lads that lost his life defending the sacred right for all Oley valley citizens to live in freedom. God bless his memory and our other natives, serving in the Armed Forces today!

That Friday there was another viewing held at the Christ Lutheran Church, besides Clarence Biebers, for Alan Weidner Yerger at age 73. He was a member of the board of the Oley Valley Heritage Association, the second board member to pass away this month. His father, Nick Yerger, was the longtime post master of Pleasantville general store on Route 73. A dedicated member of Christ Lutheran Church, Alan was laid to rest there at Spangsville in the historic Oley Cemetery bequeathed to these two twin churches by Patriot Colonel John Lesher of American Revolutionary War fame.

A famous Oley Valley French Huguenot, Lesher died in 1794 and is buried on his daughters farm where the Berks County Historical Society erected a monument to his memory along Mud Run Road in Oley Township, near to the Lesher/Bieber family Cemetery.

However, this Colonial Patriot bequethed the Protestant cemetery to the Oley twin churches on Covered Bridge Road near to his Oley Iron forge where his patriotic wealth backed the American Revolution.

Richard H. Shaner is director of the American Folklife Institute in Kutztown.