Best of Ed Shannon: Part 6

Published 9:45 am Saturday, November 10, 2012

Graphic by Kathy Johnson/Albert Lea Tribune

Cross honors local soldier’s memory

Editor’s Note: This is the sixth in an eight-part series featuring some of former Tribune writer Ed Shannon’s best work. This article originally published July 26, 2006, in a special section commemorating Albert Lea’s Sesquicentennial.

The cross can still be seen at the center of the altar at First Lutheran Church in Albert Lea. -- Kelli Lageson/Albert Lea Tribune

For at least 82 years, and possibly even longer, the large bronze cross which has been a focal point of the altar at Albert Lea’s First Lutheran Church has also served as a memorial to a Freeborn County soldier who died in World War I.

The base of this cross has an engraving which says it was donated to the church by Mrs. Ameila Overlie, mother, and Nora Overlie, sister, to honor the memory of Orin Arthur Overlie who died of wounds received on a battlefield in northern France 88 years ago.

Email newsletter signup

Orin A. Overlie was born on Jan. 22, 1894, in Lerdal Township and grew up on a farm near Moscow. He attended rural schools in the eastern part of the county and worked as a farmer until he was 22 years old.

The cross can still be seen at the center of the altar at First Lutheran Church in Albert Lea.

In 1916, the Overlie family  left the farm and moved to the New Denmark neighborhood of the north side of Albert Lea. Orin went to Hutchinson and became employed by an uncle who managed a creamery. The two later moved to Crookston where they were employed by northern creamery.

Overlie was in Crookston in early 1918 when he was notified that he was being drafted into the U.S. Army. He returned to Albert Lea and spent two weeks with his mother and sisters. Then Overlie traveled on south to report for military duty at Camp Dodge, Iowa, where he was inducted into the service on April 30, 1918.

After a short period of basic training, Pvt. Overlie was shipped overseas on a troop transport at the end of June.

Upon arrival in France, he was assigned to Company G, 358th Infantry Regiment, 90th Division. On Sept. 11, 1918, Overlie was seriously wounded in the Battle of St. Mihiel, France. He died the next day in an American military hospital.

Overlie was one of 30 men from Freeborn County who were to die as a direct result of enemy action during World War I.

Orin Arthur Overlie

A special memorial service for the fallen soldier was held in late October of 1918 at the Norwegian Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church on College Street. At this service, the Rev. Edward Nervig referred to what may still be the final resting place of Orin Arthur Overlie when he said “Under the lilies of France, he lies, silently taking his last, long rest.”

In 1919, the Trinity church merged with the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran (Synod) Church located on West Clark Street to form the present First Lutheran Church. A new church building was started in 1919 and dedicated on Oct. 12, 1924. Thus, the cross on the altar that now honors the memory of a soldier who died in World War I could be considered as one legacy from the Trinity part of the merger.

Photo of Overlie courtesy the Freeborn County Historical Museum.