The following article was submitted by Lois Ammerman
of Rockdale, TX for inclusion at the Genealogy
in Washington Co., PA web site in January 1998.
My mother-in-law lived in the
dwelling described below for 20 years, became very interested in its
preservation, but the money was not available from the Lutherans or the
Monongahela Historical Society.
This was her method of preservation. She is now buried in the second
location of the church, Mt. Zion Cemetery.
The history of the "Old German Lutheran Church",
located in Fallowfield Township, Washington County,
had its beginning in Pfalz - the Palatinate in Germany.
Deeply disturbed by the political unrest in Germany and
the persecution of Lutheran Church members and
inspired by the propaganda of William Penn and his
promises of religious freedom, Hans Meichior Stecher
(1710-1786) and his wife emigrated to Pennsylvania in
1732. They located along the Eastern seaboard and raised,
a large family including seven sons and one daughter.
Most of the Stecher sons saw action in the Revolutionary
Three of Hans family members came from the
extreme notheastern to the extreme southewestern part
of Pennsylvania to locate in Fallowfield Township. They
were Lewis (b. 1743). Christopher (b. 1749), and Barbara
The next documented date of 1769 places Christopher Stecher and Cornelius Weygandt in Fallowfield Twp.
At this time William Wilson of Pittsburgh, Pa. had
two tracts of land for sale in this area. Christopher
Stecher bought a one-acre plot from the "Carlisle" tract,
and Cornelius Weygandt bought a 30 acre plot nearby.
Barbara Stecher and Cornelius Weygandt were
married in 1770. They built a log cabin on their land and
started a family.
Lewis Stecher, Christopher's older brother, served
in the Revolutioary War as a Captain of the Sixth
Battalion in Northampton Co. but was transferred from
that post to the Ginger Hill area to take command of the
Frontier Rangers during the Indian troubles which lasted
from 1778-1783. Christopher served under his command.
In 1781 Christopher bought 200 acres nearer to Ginger Hill and built a mansion there.
In 1779 the second son of Cornelius and Barbara
Weygandt was born. He was named John Henry. During
this early period the religious needs of the Lutheran
settlers were met by traveling missionaries. The first one
of the pioneers to carry a Lutheran ministerial seal across
the mountains was Reverand John Stauch. He baptized
the young lad John Henry in 1794 on one of his visits to the
log cabin and he also instructed the young man in the
Several Hamilton families also moved into the Ginger
Hill area in 1783 and 1784. One of these had a son named
David who contributed greatly to the history of Ginger
As these German Lutheran pioneers moved into this
region, it became known as a German settlement. They
brought with them their language, culture and religion. So
the building of a church and school seemed imminent.
Christopher Stecher donated his "acre of ground" and
his brother Lewis, having gained much affluence,
supplied most of the material needed for the church. In
1784 the church which consisted of a two story log cabin
with a loft was completed. It was called the Evangelical
Lutheran Church but it was also referred to as the
Stecher Church. Christopher Stecher also permitted a
Presbyterian group of settlers to build a church beside it.
Another German settler who attained great
prominence in our history settled in this area in 1784. His
name was Frederick Cooper. He purchased 287 acres of
ground across from the church and up the hill behind the
Lewis Stecher came back from the War to rejoin his
brother Christopher and sister Barbara. His family
consisted of three daughters and five sons. He purchased
a 75 acre plot and a 40 acre plot of land and built a
beautiful home in 1795. He also donated 40 perches of his
land for a cemetery for the Church and community. It was
called the Old German Cemetery.
Michael Yohe, a soldier serving in George
Washington's army during the Whiskey Rebellion, liked
the region so much that after the War he moved here in
1794 with his five sons and six daughters. His youngest
daughter Margaret could have been born in Ginger Hill.
In 1800 Christopher Stecher sold the Church building
and the acre of ground on which it stood to the Lutheran
Church Societies for seven shillings and sixpence.
In 1812 the members of the Pittsburgh Local
Conference gathered at the site of the Old Stecher
Church and established the First Conference of the
Lutheran Church west of the Allegheny Mountains. The
Brethren assembled at the Weygandt homestead which
was not far from the Church. It is believed that the gavel
used by the chairman at the Joint Synod Conference was
made from the seasoned oak of the Old Weygandt
The young minister, John Henry Weygandt, was
licensed in 1812 and ordained in 1815. In 1812 he married
and built a log cabin home for his family. This union was
blessed with 13 children. John Weygandt served the
Lutheran Parish along with five other congregations in
Washington, Fayette and Allegheny Counties until he
moved to Wayne County, Ohio in 1829. He served his
Church well until his death in 1847.
In 1845 the members of the Lutheran Church decided
to build a church closer to Ginger Hill. So Christopher
Stecher donated the acreage across the road from his
home which was another part of his land that he had
purchased in 1781. The new church was finished in 1846.
It was a beautiful red brick building with enough land
adjoining to provide a cemetery. It was called the Mt. Zion
Church and Cemetery. Through the years this modest
church has housed several ministries and it is still in good
condition on the original site.
In the chapter on "Prominent People" in the
Washington County History Book the elder Frederick
Cooper is mentioned along with several sons and
daughters. His son Frederick Cooper built a large home in
the old "Dutch" settlement and lived and died there,
deeding the property to his son F.K. Cooper and Samuel
Cooper. Frederick K. Cooper and Lydia Cooper had a
daughter Nancy who apparently eloped with D.T. Irwin.
After living in Ohio for several years, they returned and
built a home on the thirty acre farm across from the
Cooper homestead. To the west was the Weygandt
property and to the north was the Lewis Stecher home.
They raised three sons, one of whom was Joseph Irwin.
After the congregation left the Log Cabin Church and
relocated in the Mt. Zion Church in 1846, Frederick K.
Cooper bought the Church and ground from the
Lutheran Society. He covered the logs with 1830 oak
siding and added a dining and kitchen area. He also
extended the floor of the loft into a full second floor. The
addition of two attractive porches and a white picket
fence cotnpleted the residence.
Joseph Irwin grew up and married Sarah McElhinny,
and Grandpa Cooper permitted them to move into the
church home. In 1884 a son was born named William
Frederick Irwin. Another son John did not survive.
William grew up and farmed alongside his father until 1907
when he married a young teacher, Grace Keath. William
and Grace moved into the home where D. T. and Nancy
had lived which was approximately one mile west of the
log church nestled on a hillside accessible by a long tree-
lined lane. Their first child William F. Irwin was born in
1917 and in 1920 their second child was born, Lloyd
In 1912 on a beautiful October day the Pittsburgh
Local Conference met at the old church, now a dwelling,
where 100 years before their fathers had gathered at the
first Lutheran Conference. That was a solemn hour when
the great-grandsons of the fathers stood in that time-
hallowed place with bared heads and listened to the same
scripture that had been read 100 years before. A large
granite marker was placed in the yard of the church home
in 1926. Lloyd Irwin, who was in attendance at the
ceremony placing the granite marker, remembers large
crowds and a picnic held under the trees following the
ceremony. The William Irwin family enjoyed their haven
on the hill for many years until the passing of Grandpa
Joseph necessitated the relocation of the family to the
Time takes its toll: first with the passing of Grandma
Sarah followed by Mother Grace in 1967 and William F.
Irwin in 1979. The church home and land willed to Joseph
by his mother Nancy and subsequently willed to William
Irwin was passed on to his two sons Lloyd and William Jr.
who still own it.
I thought I could bring this history to a close in 1985,
but in March, 1986, a situation arose which brought this
old empty church into the limelight again. A reunion was
planned by the Yohe, Stecher and Weygandt families to
be held in the summer of 1986. During the course of their
reunion, they planned to rededicate the old German
Cemetery which contained the remains of five soldiers of
the American Revolution. Many of those in a ttendance
expressed a desire to see the old church in which many of
their ancestors had worshipped. The reunion was held in
August 16 and 17. On Sunday, the 17th, a picnic was held
preceding the re-dedication, on the same grounds where
their ancestors had gathered in 1912.
Members of the families traveled from 21states; 125
people attended the reunion. Many of those in attendance
at the picnic also toured the church. Although the original
log construction was not evident from the outside inside
the logs were visible in several places. It is rumored that
this old church is the oldest log cabin church building still
standing in Western Pennsylvania.
- Old German Cemetery Records
- Mt. Zion Cemetery Records
- Stecher's Saga
- Synod of the Luthern Church
- History of Washington County
- Index of Baptisms - The German Church Records of Western Pennsylvania