First Presbyterian Church of Hokendauqua dates its origin to the
year 1854. At that time the Thomas Iron Company was started and
seven members of the First Presbyterian Church of Catasauqua,
then under the pastoral care of Rev. Cornelius Earle, came here
to reside. Anticipating the growth of the village, a preaching
service was commenced and seven persons were dismissed from their
Church on, July 15, 1855. The original members were Samuel and
Rebecca Thomas, Dr. Walter W. Walters, William and Mary James,
John McIlhenney and Thomas McClintock. Thus the First Presbyterian
Church of Hokendauqua was organized. Samuel Thomas and Dr. Walter
W. Walters were ordained as elders. This action was formally ratified
by the Third Presbytery of Philadelphia. The name of the church
was entered upon the roll and Rev. Cornelius Earle was appointed
to serve it as Stated Supply. Later, by a new geographical division
of the Presbyteries, the Hokendauqua Church fell within the bounds
of the Fourth Presbytery of Philadelphia.
The First Presbyterian Church of Hokedauqua
The main church building was finally completed and dedicated
on September 26, 1869
James A. Little
of Hokendauqua 1869 - 1917
the same time, a Sabbath School was formed to care for the children,
and the threshing floor of a large barn, owned by the Thomas Iron
Company was used for the Church and Sabbath School services. The
pulpit and pews of the old house of Worship at Catasauqua were
placed in this barn for the worship services. The barn was later
destroyed by fire. On application to the Court of Common Pleas
of Lehigh County, a charter was obtained on November 8, 1855,
under the style and title of the First Presbyterian Church of
Hokendauqua. Samuel Thomas, David Thomas, Dr. Walter W. Walters,
Samuel Kinsey, Jacob Mickley Jr. and, Charles D. Fuller were chosen
to serve as trustees.
Believing the village would grow rapidly around the Thomas Iron
Company, the company resolved not to sell lots to outside parties
hoping to exclude drinking saloons and other haunts of vice from
the neighborhood of their works. Owing to this policy the growth
of the village and the church was retarded for a long time. Soon
after Rev. Earle commenced to preach here, Rev. Irwin of the Old
School Presbyterian Church of Catasauqua also entered on the ground,
and thus the division that had wrought so much injury elsewhere,
operated to the injury of the Church at Hokendauqua. This was
kept up by his successors until the reunion of the two Presbyterian
Assemblies in 1869, healed the breach and allowed the Presbyterian
elements of the village to unite in the support of this enterprise.
This Church suffered for years for the want of a suitable place
of worship. Forced to meet in a room that was unattractive, and
inconvenient of access, the people around it hardly knew of its
existence. Those who most carefully studied the philosophy of
these things and the condition of matters here were satisfied
that a Church edifice was very necessary. But alas while God's
claims are strongest, the world's clamor is ever the loudest.
Hence, though long talked of and much needed, action was for one
cause or another, deferred. At length in autumn of 1866, it was
felt that the matter must not be postponed any longer. Rev. Earle,
who had been in charge from the beginning, urged that the two
morning and evening services he held at Catasauqua, sufficiently
taxed his strength and he desired to be relieved from the afternoon
service at Hokendauqua. And further, that to secure this and justify
the calling of a Pastor to the latter place, measures should be
taken to give more character and importance to the post, and foremost
among these was the erection of a neat and attractive House of
August 24, 1866, a committee was appointed to solicit donations.
The result of the first effort among the people was subscriptions
to the amount of $2,300. An appeal was made to the directors of
the Thomas Iron Company and they very generously gave three lots
of ground, together measuring 150' x 150' and $3,500 in cash.
Thus encouraged it was felt the time had come to "Rise up and
Build" and the Rev. Earle, Edwin Mickley and Theo. H. Green were
appointed to a Building Committee. A place on the committee was
urged upon Mr. Samuel Thomas, President of the Thomas Iron Company,
which he declined because of the pressure of official duties.
He however consented to act as advisor and until the building
was completed, was the real head and front of the committee.
corner stone was laid on a Sunday afternoon, August 11, 1867,
with the appropriate ceremonies, a large audience being present.
At the appointed time, 2:30 o'clock, the Sabbath School, numbering
215 members including teachers and scholars, marched in procession
from their old quarters to the ground and opened the exercises
with singing, led by the Choir of the Presbyterian Church of Catasauqua.
Rev. James Wood of the First Presbyterian Church of Allentown
preached a sermon from Genesis 28:22 - "This Stone which I have
set for a pillar shall be God's House." Rev. Cornelius Earle,
the Pastor, laid the corner stone and read a Historical Statement.
Prayer was made by Rev. James S. Tewers of the Old School Church
of Catasauqua. A hymn was read by Rev. Best of the Methodist Church
and Benediction pronounced by Rev. Arthur Bogdan, a Nestorian
Priest of Belgrade, Servia.
Many things conspired to delay the completion of the edifice.
The Lecture Room was first opened for service and dedicated to
the worship of God on Sunday, May 3, 1868. Rev. Earle presided
and preached the dedication sermon. The main church building was
finally completed and dedicated on September 26, 1869. At that
time Rev. James A. Little, the pastor-elect, presided over the
dedication. The church was quite impressive with its original
attractive spire that had an elevation of 131 feet and base of
600 feet above sea level.
1911 Church Improvements
Including a magnificent portrait of the Savior adorning
the wall in the rear of the pulpit.
Rev. James A. Little at the pulpit
James A. Little was elected at a Congregational Meeting on April
19, 1869, at a salary of $1,000.00 per year. The building of the
parsonage began in 1883 and was completed in 1884. The house became
known as the "Sunny Side Manse" because it was exposed on all
sides to the light. The previous Parsonage was on the opposite
corner, north of the Church. Rev. James A. Little and his family
moved into the new parsonage on Good Friday, 1884. Rev. Little
died on February 2, 1917, having served the congregation for nearly
The Sunday school was known as the "Snow-bird" Sabbath School
so called from the children shaking off the snow from their clothes
in coming to the Sunday-school on cold winter days. According
to the records in the year 1872 there were 26 teachers and 333
enrolled members in the Sunday school. A fine service has been
rendered through the years in the work of the Sunday-school of
this Church. It was said that the parents and children all came
to the Sunday-school and they stayed for Church "from the oldest
down to the crying baby".
In 1911, after many improvements were done to the church, a Rededication
was held, The auditorium and the vestibule were refrescoed, all
the woodwork was repaired and repainted, the new $1,800 pipe organ
altered, the pulpit furniture remodeled and several other minor
alterations made. A lighting system, comprising gas and electric
attachments, modern in every respect, was installed. The choir
gallery was enlarged, around which a brass railing was built.
A magnificent portrait of the Savior adorned the wall in the rear
of the pulpit, an excellent piece of workmanship. Above the picture,
12 incandescent lights were arranged so that when lighted their
rays fall upon the portrait, adding to its beauty. The painting
was done by Titus R. Case of Catasauqua. Improvements cost $1,200.
Rev. H. S. Welty was the second pastor being elected on July 23,
1917. He resigned January 25, 1931 due to failing health after
the death of his wife, but continued to serve until April 5, 1931.
During his pastorate, the Church was renovated. The church basement
was entirely excavated, which prior to this was only partially
open. The floors and walls of the basement were concreted. A new
heating system was installed and annex was built over the Primary
Sunday School to serve as a session room. The pipe organ, which
had to be taken apart and repairs made, was moved from the back
of the church to the front of the church. A motor driven organ
blower was attached. Prior to this air was furnished to the organ
manually. Twenty-one memorial windows were placed in the auditorium
and annex, the vestibule and Sunday school rooms. A new lighting
system was installed and the entire building, both interior and
exterior, was painted and decorated. Winding stairs leading to
the Sanctuary were replaced. The dedication services were held
on Sunday, June 17, 1928.
After the pastorate of the Rev. Henry S. Welty, there was a succession
of shorter pastorates and each of the Pastors contributed to the
life and work of the Church. There were rough periods in the history
of the Church but the Church weathered the storms and continued
in its service to God.
Subsequent ministers included Rev. John T. Wriggins 1931 to 1936;
Rev. Harold E. Myers, 1939 to 1942; Rev. Paul C. Jassimides, 1944
to 1949; Rev. R. A. Walter Anderson, 1950 to 1976; Rev. James
Cranston, 1968 to 1975; Rev. William Hess, 1976 to 1980; Rev.
John Arnold, 1981 to 1983; Rev. David B. Batchelder, 1984 to 1990.
Improvements continued during the years 1928 to 1974. A Hammond
Electric Organ was installed in 1947, the exterior of the church
was brickoted in 1951. In 1950, due to a violent wind and rain
storm, extensive damage was done to the exterior and interior
of the church. The insurance covered the roof repair and interior
restoration. Due to the deterioration of timbers at the very peak
of the steeple, it was lowered 30 feet in 1953. In the intervening
years new carpet was laid in the sanctuary; the primary department
was converted into a Chapel; an annex was built which provided
four class or meeting rooms with modern bathroom facilities.
In 1955, the session room was dedicated to the Williams' family
for their generous years of service and dedication.
The sanctuary was again extensively remodeled in 1975 and the
decision was made to demolish the 91 year old Manse.
In 1976, renovations were made to the pastor's office with proceeds
from the memorial fund. In 1978, a lot and building located behind
the church was purchased. The building was known as the "Carpenter's
Den" and used for the youth group program. A few years later,
due to poor structural conditions, the building had to be demolished.
1979 through 1980 renovations were made to the annex and the secretary's
office. The Women's Association funded the renovations to the
kitchen. October 1992 Edward J. Santana-Grace answered the call
as our 11th minister of the word. Under his guidance, our church
instituted different ministries, including an Inquirers Class
for prospective new members or those who wish to explore their
faith and learn more about our church; A Marriage/Family Enrichment
Ministry; and a Thanksgiving Eve Worship Service was promoted
through our church family and community.
at our Church, Edward J. Santana-Grace attained his PhD in Relationships
& Marriage. He became an authority in this field and developed
an education and skills program which has benefited many individuals
and families within and outside of this church. Edward is truly
gifted in this ministry. He also published a booklet, "Getting
to Know God; Knowing God is the best cure for Resentment, Anxiety,
and Depression. Pastor
Santana-Grace left our Church due to a family move to California.
November 2006, Henry A. Distler was ordained and installed as
a commissioned lay pastor and as our interim pastor.
May 2009, our PNC called Pastor Joyce Smothers, who was subsequently installed as
a full-time pastor. Pastor Smothers retired in 2016.
June 2019, our PNC called Pastor Christine Kass, who was subsequently installed as
a full-time pastor. Pastor Christy left the church for another pastoral call in October 2021.