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Life in Washington Co., PA "Little Washington" 
1700s to Present


The Ten Mile Church of the Brethren in Marianna, Washington Co., PA
And the daughter church, South Pigeon Creek Dunkard Church (now defunct)

Building a Church from a Long-time-Congregation

By the late 1820s-early 1830s, the Brethren had been sharing worship in each other's homes for more than 80 years. No records exist for their earliest preachers, but undoubtedly the well-known Leatherman, Arnold, and Wise and Shidler preachers were involved in Washington County. The Leathermans, Arnolds, Wises and Shidler (Shidelers) were some of the very earliest Brethren to move to the county (before 1750). In the earliest years, the congregation included roughly 20 x 40 miles, and included part of Greene and Fayette counties. It is sad that nothing was written of these early preachers and congregation members, whose faith spurred them to travel sometimes a great distance to worship and share their faith together in Love Feasts. For a time the Brethren met at Shider's and later at Martin Spohn's home, which he had built about 1775 with an open-floor plan on the second story to accommodate worship services.

In 1832 the members of the Ten Mile Congregation built the brick church that still stands today on a high hill overlooking Marianna and just a quarter mile or so from the ruins of the Spohn home. Again no records exist, but from Church Minutes concerning the second church (South Pigeon Creek Dunkard, built in 1859-60) show discussions about their plans for a second church beginning the year before. Therefore, one can assume that similar discussions started in early 1830-31 (or possibly long before), with the actual construction beginning possibly in 1831, and the dedication in 1832. There are no records of membership at this time (or earlier - the earliest Minute Book starts in 1845). The first record of membership has no beginning date with the next entry that says only "members before 1838." According to Mrs. R. Friend, who had personally seen the book, "The 'Church Book of Names' is a ledger book 14 1/2 inches long and 6 1/4 inches wide, which lists names of each church member, but with no information other than a check mark to indicate whether the member, at the time of the writing, was dead, had removed from the congregation, or had been excommunicated. All names are in long hand with no indication as to when they were written or by whom, but large blocks of names appear in a single handwriting, followed by another block in a different handwriting. The handwriting is obviously very old, and the last notation was entered Feb. 23, 1901."

First Page - in pencil long hand  

"Organized by Elder HELFT
Jacob GARBER minister
Daniel Spohn
Sally Spohn
Israel Bigler
Catharine Bigler
Andrew Wise
Samuel Thomas
Henry Tanner Minister
Joseph Grable Sr.
Barbary Grable
Jacob F. Spohn
John Spohn
Anna Spohn
John Miller, Sr.
John Miller, Jr.
Abraham Miller
John Miller
Nancy Miller
John Lane
Hannah Leasor
Robert Guttery and
Peter Swihart
Joshua Swihart
Rebecca Swihart
Ezekiel Swihart
Elisabeth Swihart

Second page and following pages in ink long hand
"Members received prior to the year 1838"

John Spohn, Sen. Elder
Mary Spohn
Margaret Weaver
Barbary Grabill
Barbary Grabill Pigeon Creek
Susanna Moore

Peter Shidler
David Wise Sen
Elisabeth Staley
George Wise Sen
Margaret Wise
Elisabeth Zimmermon
Samuel Grabill
Mary Grabill
Daniel Grabill
Abigail Grabill
John Anthony
Elisabeth Anthony

Jonathan Garber
Elisabeth Garber
Jacob Shidler
Elisabeth Shidler&
Magdalena Eller
Catharine Knight
Nancy Booher
Matthias Tombaugh
Rachael Tombaugh
John Leatherman
Eleanor Totten
----- Allens [note: no first name]
Rebecca Hartsock
Elisabeth Arnold
Daniel Gayman
Mary Swihart
Elisabeth Swihart
Susannah D. Camp

"Members received in 1838
Maria Hill
Elisabeth Shidler withdrew
George B. Shidler " "

[This is not the complete list of the Book of Names. The book lists the membership from 'a recent time before 1838' up to Feb. 23, 1901. Although these early entries don't reflect it, many of these men were also preachers or deacons in the church. It seems to me that names in the list may be husband, with wife listed below the husband - instead of left to right -- but this is not proven. For examples: John Anthony and Elisabeth __ Anthony were married; Mathias and Rachel (Wise) Tombaugh were married.]

From the Church Minutes which start much later, we see the life within a normal Brethren community. They dealt with issues of faith and community. As in other congregations, "committees" on two or three were elected to counsel individuals believed to not be living the in accordance with Brethren ways. Otherwise, the congregation members worked and lived as they had for numerous years, as peaceful farmers, blacksmiths, millers and weavers.

Many years later, the church was concerned with accommodating members in the "North part" of Ten Mile Creek area, which is along the branch known South Pigeon Creek. (A bit confusing but factual.) The Minutes show discussion about building a second church for these members, which was completed in the fall of 1860 in what is now North Bethlehem Township, Washington Co., PA. The church, a 40 foot by 60 foot frame structure, was built by the members of the Ten Mile Church of the Brethren in West Bethlehem Township to accommodate its Brethren members living north of the National Pike (now Highway 40) as indicated by an entry on page 12 of their minute book, made prior to 1850 but exact date unknown: "The church decides that a tax shall be laid on all the members of the church, in proportion to each one's valuation, sufficient to cancel the acreage on the Pigeon Creek Meeting House, D. Lane, J. G. Grable, and S. Moore appointed to attend to this business." According to an article from The Washington, Penna. Daily Reporter newspaper, Thurs., Aug. 9, 1906, p. 6: "Sketch of Ten Mile Brethren Church," by Rev. Virgil C. Finnell, then-pastor at Ten Mile COB, "Dec. 4, 1854 the members "decided to meet in social services" and in March, 1859(?), the first Sunday school in the congregation, was organized. (next paragraph in the article) The church continued to grow and in the spring of 1859, Brethren John Leatherman, Daniel Ward and S. W. Tombaugh were elected members of the building committee for a new church in the north, or Pigeon Creek (e.g. South Pigeon Creek), end of the congregation. The date of the dedication must have been in the autumn of the same year and the first communion service to be held in it was Oct. 20, 1860. Before the passing of another decade their elder, Bro. John Wise, had moved from the congregation and being without able leadership the work began to show signs of decay."

The congregation alternated services and council meetings between the two churches, until a Spring storm caused lightening to hit the frame building (date not known, but it was shortly before the building was torn down. . Excerpt of letter (not dated) from Uncle Alvie Z. Lane to his niece Ruth Lane McGary: "That church picture (*) looks like the one of Pigeon Creek It had a shingle roof. The foundation I would think it was made of rock and wood. No trees around it." [See photo of church in links at bottom of this page" Mabel Ross, deceased, late Secretary at Ten Mile COB, wrote that the South Pigeon Creek Church and furnishings were sold April 24, 1913 per Minutes Book p. 99, and the building was torn down about 1917. By then, the congregation had again experienced a decline after Elder John Wise had moved from the State.

Pigeon Creek Dunkard Church building had originally faced the former Leatherman Lantern Road, now called Leatherman Bridge Road, but in some long-forgotten year, the building had been "turned" so that the front faced to the side (or towards the National Highway/The Pike/Route 40 East). The lot sits a little over 2 miles from the National Road, where three of the original cornerstones can still be seen (although covered by thick poison ivy and poison oak vines!). The church front (facing to the side) opened on a small front lot that was accessed from the road by a short, sloping, grassy ramp cut through the stands of trees. My grandmother said they would drive the wagons up into the lot and park in front of the building, or the hearse-wagon would bring a body in for the funeral and burial. Those on horse-back would go along the side of the church (closest to Leatherman Lantern Road) where there was a hitching post.

Although the church no longer stands, its small cemetery, now known locally as the Leatherman Cemetery or the Tombaugh Cemetery (which are two prominent families buried there and who have very visible monuments), is still accessible. Burials were made in the cemetery along the farthest back fence on the far side of the church, and behind the building (i.e. on the left side of the lot), many in unmarked graves. Also among those buried at South Pigeon Creek Dunkard Cemetery are Reverend Daniel Lane, wife Anna England, and Margaret Hazlett Lane. The first wife of Elder Samuel Wishert Bail, Maggie Berkley Bail, and Samuel's siblings who all died at young ages from tuberculosis are buried nearby the Lane graves. As well, Mary Jane Lane Bail, daughter of Daniel and Anna, is buried with her husband, Reuben Bail In front of the Lanes, just beyond a few trees, is John Flowers who died young, the son of Mary and Samuel Flowers (who we assume are buried there too), and at least 2 or 3 of his sisters. Directly behind the church, in originally unmarked graves along the side fence-line, lies James Polk Lane and wife, Jane Catherine Denman Lane; James P. was one of Daniel Lane's sons (the other, Robert J. Lane, Sr. is buried in California). In front of James P. and Jane C.'s graves are buried Jane's brother, George and wife, Laura (unknown maiden name). Other burials are listed in my second Lane book, The Preacher and His Kids: Descendants of Reverend Daniel Lane of Washington County Pennsylvania. (Focusing on the family of Daniel Lane and Anna England Lane; with a short history of known information of the LANE family in Frederick Co., Md. [until 1809],and in Washington Co., Pa. [from 1809 on], then spreading across the nation [early 1900's], by Ruth Elizabeth Lane McGary and Judith Ann Florian, With Catherine Louise Caldwell. (Contact the webmaster for information about the book.)

Directions: To locate the site of the Pigeon Creek Dunkard Church Cemetery (Leatherman Cemetery) and former Church, go east on Highway 40 out of Washington, Pennsylvania . Go past the Lone Pine crossroad (Highway 519) for exactly 0.95 mile . Turn left (north) off of Highway 40 and then "jog" right (on the old highway) . . . turn left (north) at the first road which is Highway 62155 . . . go for 1.1 miles north on Highway 62155. The cemetery is located on the right side of the road, but it will be necessary to climb up the steep embankment to see the gravestones that are located at the back of the lot.

Links to help you learn more about Washington County Pennsylvania,
 the Church of the Brethren, and Brethren families of Washington County PA.

Index to Church of the Brethren files, especially in Washington County PA

Cemetery Precautions: Avoid Exposure to Poison Oak / Poison Ivy


This page was last updated on Saturday, December 05, 2015 02:02

Judith Ann Florian
Girard, Ohio 44420

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