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.”



1872—The Steam Valley Church of Christthe Church on the Hill was organized; sketchy records; closed for lengthy time periods

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

The church was organized in 1872 and named “The Steam Valley Church of Christ”, an arm of the Disciples of Christ. It was non-denominational in its doctrine, but established the courtesy of opening the church “to all and any other religious denominations for the worship of Almighty God when not so occupied by the congregation of Disciples”.

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

 However in the early 1950s, a group of Mennonites from Landisville in Lancaster County and a gentleman named Arthur Miller held summer vacation bible school at the church for several summers. This seasonal activity fueled the desire among some local families to renew regular church services. Mr. Miller asked Ralph and Naomi Zeager and Roy and Esther Saner if they would be responsible for starting a regular Sunday worship service. The two couples accepted the invitation.

“We started as an Independent Church with no denominational affiliation. There were regular Sunday morning services and a Sunday School. We invited speakers in for the message and sometimes I would fill in until we selected the first pastor. It seemed a healthy time for the church as summer vacation Bible School and church picnics continued,” according to Mr. Saner.

There were also various evangelistic meetings and Bible conferences, which filled the tiny church. However, the first few Sundays less than a dozen people showed up, but the Zeager and Saner families added another 10 to the 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”, the congregation 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 Bible School,” said Roy. “We never asked for outside support, we just took free will offerings from the people who attended. When the church got too small for Bible School, we rented tents for additional classrooms. No one was too old for Bible School,” said Roy. “The adults enjoyed it as much as the children.”

 Sometimes on pleasant Sunday mornings, the lawn seemed like the best place to hold classes. It was during that time of growth that the by-laws and doctrinal statement for the present Steam Valley Bible Church was formed.

March 14, 1954

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.””

March 26, 1954—The Steam Valley Church of Christ once again opened its doors on a regular basis; Ralph and Naomi Zeager and 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 (SVBC) were formed.

1962— The Zeagers left in the early 1960s and Roy Saner’s work required him to transfer to the Philadelphia area in 1962. The church continued to thrive but the congregation was unable to buy the building and grounds. So, land was obtained on the north side of route 184 near the Cogan House Elementary School and a building project was planned. The land for the current Steam Valley Bible Church building was donated by the Charles E. Sawyer Family. The new Steam Valley Bible Church building was begun!

(In April, 1965, according to the Early History of Cogan House, “the only surviving members of the Congregation of the Steam Valley Church of Christ,( Eva Alexander, George and Mabel Conn, and Ralph and Jessie Robbins) granted ownership of the church on the ‘knoll’ to the Steam Valley Cemetery Company of the Christian Church.” In 1985, a heavy snowstorm caused the roof of the Steam Valley Church of Christ building to collapse. It was eventually repaired by Fisher Builders, an Amish contractor. But the church building has since been torn down. The names inscribed on the tombstones in the adjacent Steam Valley Cemetery reflect those who once called the Steam Valley settlement their home.)


1969–SVBC building (outside) finished and 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 Ohmneiss: 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: Dave Stouffer, the church’s fourth pastor was an experienced builder. He designed and managed the construction project, doing the concrete block and brick work himself.

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

The men and women of the church provided labor for the hundreds of other details needed to complete the project and were occasionally helped by groups from the Lancaster County area. 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; the congregation numbered about sixty-five and was under the leadership of Pastor Gerald Peet. According to Pastor Peet,  “The church is an independent, fundamental and self- supporting church administered by the members which gives them a voice in the complete government of the church and its actions. The mission of the church is twofold; to evangelize those who are unsaved and to edify and build up people who are saved.” 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: new ceiling, lights, doors, heating, paint, basketball backboards & hoops

2015—new roof on church building; new siding on back of church building; Fellowship Hall steps/remodeling new youth room finished off above Fellowship Hall; new carpet throughout Activity Building; Activity Building ridge vent; Parsonage ridge vent

2016—new cellar steps in parsonage

Deacons—Richard Harris, Earl Hughes, Marlin Plank, Will Wilkinson

2018—new folding tables and folding chairs; new projector

2019—ladies’ bathroom renovated in basement of church building; some painting done on the outside of the church building; new carpet for auditorium



-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



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