Church History

 Steam Valley Mountain History 

  • Elevation 1704 feet
  • Why “Steam ValleyMountain”?

You decide!…

1. About 1849, a huge lumber mill was operated by steam near this site. The steam whistle could be heard for a distance of 10 miles and clocks could be faithfully set by it.

2. After a rainfall, due to the cooling effects, “steam” rises almost unceasingly from the roads.

3. Where Fry Brothers Turkey Ranch Restaurant now stands, and has stood since 1939, there once stood a pile of cans, water buckets and almost anything that would hold water. These containers were used and disposed of by people whose cars and trucks would heat up or run out of water while climbing “Steam Valley Mountain.”

SVBC History 

-1872                           The Steam Valley Church of Christ was organized; sketchy records; closed for lengthy time periods

Early 1950s                Mennonites fromLancaster County and a gentleman named Arthur Millerheld summer vacation bible school at the church for several summers

-March 26, 1954          The Steam Valley Church once again opened its doors on a regular basis;Ralph and Naomi Zeagerand Roy and Esther Saner; it was during that time of growth that the by-laws and doctrinal statement for the present Steam Valley Bible Church was formed.

1962                           The churchcontinued to thrive but the congregationwas unable to buy the building and grounds. Land for the current Steam Valley Bible Church building was donated by the Charles E. Sawyer Family. It was located on the north side of Route184 near the Cogan House ElementarySchool. The new SteamValley Bible Church was begun!

-1969                     SVBC building (outside) finishedand built with no debt. Some of the workers included:

  • LaRue Allen: Rough Carpentry, Concrete, Roofing, General Labor
  • Dalton Caldwell: Rough Carpentry, General Labor
  • Carl Hughes: Excavation, Grading, Masonry, Concrete, and General Labor
  • Cy Hughes: Masonry and General Labor
  • Bill Omnimis: Concrete
  • Bill Persun: Rough Carpentry and Concrete
  • Bruce Persun: Finish Carpentry, Built the interior wood stairs and hung all of the doors with his son Dick
  • Dick Persun: Layout, Excavation, Grading, Rough & Finish Carpentry, Drywall, Concrete, General Labor
  • Lyle Roup: Hauled all 27,000 of the Bricks for the building from Watsontown on the family truck
  • Dave Stouffer: Overseer, Bricklayer, General Labor
  • Zane Wall: Plumbing, Electrical, Concrete, Carpentry, Drywall, and general labor
  • Ben Walters: Plumbing & Electrical Work
  • General Labor: Ezra Blair, Jim Edwards, Red English, Raymond Lepley, Jim Watkins
  • Mixed mortar and carried bricks: Fred Schmouder, Ernie Yoder

There was a work party held almost every Saturday.  It was a great time of fellowship. The ladies always prepared delicious food and desserts for the people who came out to work.  There were also a number of women and teens that helped with the painting, nailing the sub-floor, the standing up of partition walls, general clean-up, etc. They were: Ethel Allen, Darrel Blair, Karen Caldwell, Sue Caldwell, Linda Edwards, Lois Edwards, Howard Fry, Jr., Ike Fry, Dan Lepley, Lucille Persun, Dawn Watkins, Dot Watkins.

-1971                           SVBC building (inside) finished; Activity Building built

-1977                           Parsonage built

-1997                           Deacons—James Edwards, Carl Hughes, Raymond Lepley and Max Peacock; President of the Ladies Missionary Fellowship—Mary Wilson

-2007                        New electrical service—breakers and box in parsonage

-2008                        Downstairs of church building painted; Fellowship Hall painted

-2009                        Commercial-grade guttering on west side of church building; new roof on Activity Building; outside of parsonage painted

-2010                         New rear doors and steps for church basement; new sound system, screen and projector;parking lot expanded; new lawn tractor

-2011                         New septic system

-2012                        Church website launched; pews padded; new bathroom upstairs; kitchen painted; Deacons—Richard Harris, Earl Hughes, Marlin Plank, Shawn Weller

-2013                        Auditorium painted

-2014                        Gym ceiling replaced and walls painted

-2015                        Steps installed in the Fellowship Hall and a room finished overhead of the Fellowship Hall; new carpet installed throughout the Activity Building.



  • Laverne Swope (Bertha)         1954-1957
  • Charles Adams (Sarah)           1957-1960
  • John Connelly (Louise)            1961-1967
  • Dave Stouffer (Ginnie)             1968-1971
  • Gerald Peet (Sharon)              1971-2006
  • Tom MacAvoy (Wanda)         2006-present

Credit: Cogan House township – The 1900s; Lycoming County, PA by Nancy E. Baumgartner 1998;
RCW Publishing Company;ColumbiaCross Roads, PA 16914; 800-333-4RCW
Obtained from JV Brown Library; 8/2/2009


The Church on the Hill

The small church on a knoll at the western edge of Steam MillRoad was once an important part of the Steam Valley settlement. Most ofthe records that tell of its original formation are recorded in the EarlyHistory of Cogan House, chapter 28.


The church was organized in 1872 and named “The Steam ValleyChurch of Christ”, an arm of the Disciples of Christ. It was non-denominationalin its doctrine, but established the courtesy of opening the church“toall and any other religious denominations for the worship of AlmightyGod when not so occupied by the congregation of Disciples”.


The church records, throughout the first half of the 1900s, aresketchy and according to the Landis/Taylor writings the building “wasclosed entirely for lengthy periods except for funerals as the congregation dwindled in numbers”.


However in the early 1950s, a group of Mennonites fromLandisville in Lancaster County and a gentleman named Arthur Millerheld summer vacation bible school at the church for several summers.This seasonal activity fueled the desire among some local families torenew regular church services. Mr. Miller asked Ralph and Naomi Zeagerand Roy and Esther Saner if they would be responsible for starting aregular Sunday worship service. The two couples accepted the invitationand on March 26, 1954 the Steam Valley Church once again opened itsdoors on a regular basis.


“We started as an Independent Church with no denominationalaffiliation. There were regular Sunday morning services and aSunday School. We invitedspeakers in for the messageand sometimes I would fill in until we selected the firstpastor. It seemed a healthytime for the church as summervacation Bible School and church picnics continued,”according to Mr. Saner.


There were also variousevangelistic meetings and Bible conferences, which filled the tinychurch. However, the first fewSundays less than a dozen peopleshowed up, but the Zeager andSaner families added another 10 tothe pews. Among the local residents in the initial congregation were Jim and Bertha Edwards, Jim and Dorothy Watkins, Dalton and Betty Caldwell, Dick and Lucille Persun, Ona Persun, and Sonja Hughes.


Using what Roy Saner termed the “pay as you go policy”, thecongregation was able to dig out the basement for additional classrooms,install electric lights and buy used pews from another church.


“We soon had local qualified teachers for Sunday School and BibleSchool,” said Roy. “We never asked for outside support, we justtook free will offerings from the people who attended. When thechurch got too small for BibleSchool, we rented tents for additionalclassrooms. Noone wastoo old for Bible School,” saidRoy.“The adults enjoyed it asmuch as the children.”


Sometimes on pleasant Sundaymornings, the lawn seemedlike the best place to hold classes.It was during that time of growththat the by-laws and doctrinalstatement for the present SteamValley Bible Church was formed.


The Zeagers left in the early1960s and Roy Saner’s work requiredhim to transfer to the Philadelphia area in 1962. The churchcontinued to thrive but the congregationwas unable to buy the buildingand grounds. So, land was obtainedon the north side of Route184 near the Cogan House ElementarySchool and the new SteamValley Bible Church was begun.


In April, 1965, according tothe Early History of Cogan House,”the only surviving members of the Congregation of the Steam ValleyChurch of Christ, Eva Alexander,George and Mabel Conn, and Ralph and Jessie Robbins grantedownership of the church on the’knoll’ to the Steam Valley Cemetery Company of the Christian Church.”


In 1985, a heavy snowstorm caused the roof to collapse. It waseventually repaired by Fisher Builders, an Amish contractor. Today, thechurch building has been torn down. The names inscribed on the tombstones in the adjacent Steam Valley Cemetery reflect those whoonce called the Steam Valley settlement their home.

The Steam Valley Bible Church

The Steam Valley Bible Church grew out ofthe faith and hard workof those families who had been attending the services organized by theZeagers and the Saners at the Steam Valley Church of Christ building.


Dave Stouffer, the church’s fourth pastor was an experiencedbuilder. He designed and managed the construction project, doing theconcrete block and brick work himself. The men and women of the church provided labor for the hundreds of other details needed to complete theproject and were occasionally helped by groups from the Lancaster Countyarea. A modern, one-story facility was finished about 1969. In 1971, an activities building was added and in 1977 a parsonage was built.


In 1997, the congregation numbered about sixty-five and has beenunder the leadership of Pastor Gerald Peet since the early 1970s. Thechurch is an independent, fundamental and self- supporting churchadministered by the members which “gives them a voice in the completegovernment of the church and its actions”, according to Pastor Peet.


A Board of Deacons that includes James Edwards, Carl Hughes,Raymond Lepley and Max Peacock, administer the church’s affairs andMary Wilson serves as President of the Ladies Fellowship, which is the missionary arm of the church. Max Peacock is the Sunday School Superintendent.


Children’s activities are held once a month from October throughMay. Prayer groups meet on Wednesday nights and each month thereare senior adult and young adult class meetings. Fellowship suppers,vacation bible school and a Sunday morning radio ministry called theBible Light Broadcast over WLYC-AMis part of the Steam Valley BibleChurch’s outreach ministry.


According to Pastor Peet,the mission of the church is twofold; to evangelize those who areunsaved and to edify and build uppeople who are saved.



The following is a copy of a letter written to Pastor John Connelly after he wrote and asked her to give him what information she could concerning that first Sunday. The date of her letter was March 6, 1967:


The first Sunday school was March 14, 1954. Roy Saner taught the adult class. Ralph Zeager the young people and Naomi Zeager the children. Ralph was also song leader and Naomi the pianist. As to whether there was a worship service the first Sunday there is some doubt. But Roy seems to remember that after the first service he said to Ralph, “I preached this Sunday, next Sunday it is your turn.”


As to those that attended and how many we are not too sure. George Corter, first Treasurer; Fanny Helsel, Marion Helsel, David and Karen Helsel, Patty Holcomb, Faye, Gary and Larry Helsel were there the first Sunday. These with Ralph’s family and ours (Saner family) would make a total of 19. However it is possible that Mrs. Gross and the Pasuellos’ were there also. Mother Helsel, who was blind, attended a few times. If she was there the first Sunday we do not remember, neither do we remember if the Grimes were there the first Sunday. Patty Holcomb was the first Secretary.


Mrs. Saner concluded her letter by saying “To think that 13 years ago these church doors were closed and now a hundred or more assemble together to worship the Lord, we are amazed. Mark 12:11 best expresses our feeling, “This was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes.”


8/2012; DVD (converted from 8mm films/videoRed English made)—show church building, psng; AB