Photograph by S. Chisenhall.
Every so often, an individual comes along and leaves a lasting impression on everyone that he or she meets. One of those individuals was a gentleman by the name of David Gordon Oester. David, or 'Gord' as he preferred to be called by his family and friends, was born on November 27, 1937 to the late Lewis and Ruth Oester. He was raised in the small rural town of Springs, Pennsylvania and had a solid religious upbringing in the Springs Mennonite Church. When he was of age, Gord left for a short time to serve in the United States Army. Upon returning to his hometown in the Casselman Valley, Gord provided for his family by working as a truck driver. In his spare time, he became an active member of the North American Hunting Club and the NRA. He also volunteered with the Salisbury American Legion, the Salisbury V.F.W. and the Springs Historical Society.
AN ICON OF THE SPRINGS FOLK FESTIVAL
Despite all of his work and activities in the community, Gord was best known for his contribution to the Springs Folk Festival in southern Somerset County. During the annual two day festival, Gord offered Flintlock Rifle demonstrations on the Alta Schrock Nature Trail; a four acre trail that he helped to construct for the festival in 1983. To authenticate his presentations, Gord started to dress like a true frontiersman. With a weather beaten cowboy hat, deerskin vest and chaps, Gord quickly became the most recognized demonstrator at the festival. It was a role that the gentleman clearly embraced, and one that would last for well over twenty-five years. During this time, Gord could be found sharing his knowledge of the Long Rifle in the woods beyond the festival's main building. Using a fairly large flat rock as his stage, the demonstrator would begin to load his rifle for a small audience. For safety reasons, Gord avoided using real musketballs. Instead, he would stir up some laughter by telling the crowd that he was using wads of cloth material that he had cut from his wife's draperies. Once he had given a brief explanation on preparing the firearm, Gord would then angle the barrel into the trees behind him. This was immediately followed by the tremendous roar of the gunpowder exploding. Occasionally, the blast would startle unsuspecting people who were preoccupied with other artisans on the forest trail. More often than not, Gord's demonstrations would conclude with smiles and the clapping of hands. The 'Frontiersman' graciously accepted the applause as a cloud of white smoke drifted up into the canopy of colored leaves.
GONE... BUT NOT FORGOTTEN
Curiosity filled the crisp morning air at the 2010 Springs Festival when those in attendance noticed that the 'Mountain Man' was not there to make his yearly appearance. There was some disappointment as festival patrons passed by the empty rock that served as a demonstration area. Conversations about Gord could be overheard along the forest trail. Many were simply wondering why the older gentleman wasn't at the festival. As it would turn out, most people wouldn't learn the answer to that question until the following year when they returned to Gord's Rock. Next to the flat rock on the forest trail was a post with a wooden plaque attached to it. It was a memorial to the man who had spent many years talking to people from that very spot. Sadly, the plaque revealed that David Gordon Oester had died on Thursday, July 1, 2010.
Now it is certain that David Gordon Oester probably never heard of a place called Dead Man's Hollow or the DMH website. However, his dedication to preserving the local history of his community and his love of educating people has earned him the respect of everyone affiliated with this website. For that, we wanted to acknowledge him with this tribute. Hopefully the deafening sound of his Flintlock Rifle demonstrations will continue to echo in the memories of those who had the opportunity to meet him.