Jacob Dornbirer was born in Switzerland on July 31, 1825. He came to the United States in 1855, where he settled in Fremont, Ohio. For a time he worked at the June Engine Works, where he met the Rev. Henry Lang. Rev. Lang encouraged him to enter the Lutheran ministry. In 1858, Rev. Jacob Dornbirer was ordained as a Lutheran minister, and in the same year he married Elizabeth Trott. In his early ministry, Rev. Dornbirer served at churches in Thompson Township, Bellevue, Venice, and Loudonville.
From 1879 until his death in 1891, Rev. Dornbirer was the pastor at Sandusky’s Zion Lutheran Church. While he was pastor, the church met in the former Beatty Church in Washington Square.
In April of 1891, Rev. Jacob Dornbirer suffered serious injuries when he was thrown from his buggy, by the falling of his horse. He died on April 12, 1891. Funeral services for Rev. Jacob Dornbirer were held at Zion Lutheran Church in April 16, 1891. There was such a large turnout for the services, that only a portion of those who wished to attend could be accommodated in the church. At the time of his death, Rev. Dornbirer was survived by twelve children; he had lost both an infant son and his wife Elizabeth in 1883.
Two of Rev. Dornbirer's sons became Lutheran pastors, and four of his daughters married Lutheran pastors. He was the maternal grandfather of Rev. Theodore Stellhorn, Jr., who served in the Lutheran ministry for over sixty years. Rev. Stellhorn was assistant pastor of Zion Lutheran Church from 1928 – 1949, main pastor from 1949 – 1955, and senior pastor of Zion from 1956 – 1969.
Rev. Jacob Dornbirer was buried at Sandusky’s Oakland Cemetery, next to his wife Elizabeth.