St. Jacob’s started by German immigrants

FEARING TWP.-In the mid-19th century several German families settled in the hills of Washington County, which were no doubt reminiscent of the terrain in their Bavarian homeland. Here they established schools, churches and graveyards, including the St. Jacob’s Church and Cemetery on Stanleyville Road in Fearing Township.

Donna Betts, 81, of Fearing Township is the last surviving member of St. Jacob’s Church.

“St. Jacob’s closed in 1942, and the cemetery was turned over to the township trustees in the early 1990s,” she said. “It’s still an active graveyard. I have a plot there.”

The small wood frame church, surrounded by the graveyard, is located on a hillside overlooking Stanleyville Road, about a mile west of Stanleyville.

A plaque erected in front of the church building indicates immigrant families from the Palatinate area of West Germany founded St. Jacobs as The German Presbyterian Church in 1857, and the facility was constructed on one acre of land that had been purchased for $15.

“Rev. Daniel Hirsch conducted the dedication service and served as the first minister of the church,” the plaque reads.

Hirsch was born in Homberg, Germany in 1815 and was educated as a school teacher. He served as a schoolmaster in the village of Altenkirchen for several years, but in the late 1840s became identified with a rebellion against the Bavarian monarchy.

“The democratic movement was put down by the Bavarian government, and Hirsch was blacklisted and fired from his job, so he came to America,” said local historian Kurt Ludwig of Marietta, whose German ancestors were among those early settlers.

Hirsch and his family left Germany in 1850 and traveled down the Ohio River to Washington County where they joined the community of other German families and he once again began serving as a teacher.

“But he was eventually called to be a pastor by the Berg Church congregation (also located in present-day Fearing Township),” Ludwig said, noting that Hirsch studied on his own to become a minister.

At that time the Berg Church was known as the First Evangelical German Church in Fearing Township.

Hirsch pastored at Berg between 1852 to 1872, Betts said, noting that he also ministered at St. Jacob’s Church for six years after he dedicated the facility in 1859.

Frederick Charles Trapp ministered at St. Jacob’s for several years, then Hirsch returned as pastor from 1873 until he retired in 1881. Hirsch died in 1893 and is buried in the Berg Church Cemetery along with his wife, Philippine Weiss, who died in 1907.

The original St. Jacob’s Church building was destroyed by fire and the present building constructed sometime after 1872, according to records compiled by historian Millie Covey Fry. She said in 1881 the church’s congregation was comprised of 19 German families, including five of the original families that established the church in 1857.