Civil War Blog

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The Hoffman Church and Cemetery

Posted By on August 9, 2012

Hoffman Church Cemetery

One of the oldest churches and cemeteries in the Lykens Valley area can be found on the Crossroads near Route 25 in Lykens Township, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania.  It is St. Peter’s Church, also known as the Hoffman Church.

According to early records, the church was founded in 1771 as a German Reformed congregation, but no official founding date has ever been declared.  The first church building on the property, which was actually built before the land was officially deeded by John Hoffman in 1805, was of log construction and served members from about 1794 to 1885, when it was torn down and materials from the original were used to construct a Gothic style building.  Thus the original log church was more than 65 years old at the start of the Civil War.

The Second Hoffman Church

The post-Civil War building (the second Hoffman Church), erected in 1886 was in use until 1958 when high winds fanned a fire in the sanctuary resulting in total destruction. The thousand-pound bell fell from the steeple and was half-melted from the heat.

The congregation went to work to raise funds to construct a new brick church across the road from where the old one had been, and in 1959, the new building was dedicated.

The Hoffman Church, more formally known as St. Peter’s, has a long, documented history.  The records – including baptisms, communicants and burials – have been transcribed from the original and can be found at the Gratz Historical Society.  Fortunately, the original log of the vital records was not at the church the night of the fire and therefore was saved.

In the late nineteenth century, the Hoffman’s Reformed Church was featured in Notes and Queries: Historical, Biographical and Genealogical, Volume CXXXIX, p. 227:

This church was organized according to the oldest tombstone found in the grave yard adjoining, prior to this century.  The first house of worship was erected by Levi Buffington, whose wife was Suzanne, a daughter of John Nicholas Hoffman.  It is located about three miles southwest of the village of Gratz, and the Lykens Valley, in which the house of worship is erected…. From across the mountain in the direction of the rising sun came the sturdy German and Swiss Huguenot from out of the Tulpehocken settlement….

The ground upon which Hoffman’s Church was located was donated by John Nicholas Hoffman, a native of Germany, where he was born in the year 1709 [Note:  Johann Peter Hoffman, the immigrant, was born in 1709 and John Nicholas Hoffman was his son, born in Pennsylvania]…. He came to this country in… 1739… and first located in Berks County, where he worked at his trade of carpentering.  He afterwards settled at the base of Short Mountain on a large tract of land, a part of which belongs to the church, which he gave for church, school, and burial purposed.  The present church house is a frame structure in an immaculate white color, and the grave year contains the remains of many of the first settlers in that end of Lykens Valley and their descendants.  Many are, however, not marked with tombstones, which is to be regretted, as they were enlisted in the companies that were formed in that valley which went to the forefront and engaged in doing valiant service… in the War of the Revolution.

Then followed a listing, in alphabetical order of the tombstone inscriptions, a few of which had notes following that pertained to their Revolutionary War service.

Near the entrance to the Second Hoffman Church, a marker was placed by the daughters of the American Revolution which recognized the Revolutionary War soldiers who supposedly were buried in the cemetery, but in unmarked graves.  In the post tomorrow, this marker will be featured along with the connection to the descendants of the these soldiers, many of whom fought in the Civil War.

In 1971, the partially melted bell from the Second Hoffman Church was rededicated at the approximate site where the fire-destroyed building once stood.  Around that time, the Revolutionary War monument was also relocated in the cemetery.

The Bell and Revolutionary War Monument

Today, the Third Hoffman Church is associated with the United Church of Christ.

The Third (and present) Hoffman Church.

Unfortunately, at this time no pictures have been located of the First Hoffman Church, the log-constructed structure that was home to many of the soldiers of the Lykens Valley area who went off to the Civil War.



One Response to “The Hoffman Church and Cemetery”

  1. David Wright says:

    I would like to know if you have a baptism record for Lavina Daniel (born 1818). If so, can you provide the names of her parents. Thank you in advance for your help.

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