Whitehall Township is a township with home rule status in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, in the United States. It is a suburb of Allentown, Pennsylvania, in the Lehigh Valley region of the state. The population of Whitehall Township was 26,738 at the 2010 census.
1600's ~ 1700's The Province of Pennsylvania was created in 1681 when King Charles II granted a tract of land in the New World to William Penn. After the death of William Penn, his sons, John, Thomas and Richard, became the owners of Pennsylvania. The Delaware Indians deeded that part of Lehigh County lying between the Lehigh (South) Mountain and the Blue Mountains to Penn’s sons in 1736.
A wave of immigrants from Germany’s Palatinate settled in Whitehall Township, the first being Jacob Kohler, who settled in the vicinity of Egypt about 1728. The settlers staked their claim on the lands by applying to the Penn's for a land warrant. They cleared the land for farming and established churches around which villages grew.
When the first European settlers came to the Whitehall area, the Lenape Indians were living on the banks of the Hokendauqua River. The Europeans and the Lenape Indians gathered together and designed a deal based on how far the Europeans were able to walk in 2 days, that's how much land they would acquire. So to gain more land, the Europeans paid a professional runner, the runner was able to get as far as what is now Coaldale, Pennsylvania in Schuylkill County. A walk east got them as far as Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania
The local tribe of native Americans, the Lenni Lenapes, lived peacefully among the white settles for a time. They suffered injustices at the hands of the settlers and lashed back during the last Indian uprising in Lehigh County in 1763. Fort Deshler, which stood near Rt. 145 at Chestnut Street, played a key role in the defense of our lands during this battle in which 23 settlers were killed.
1800s ~ Early 1900s The original Whitehall Township, established in 1753, was split into the three townships of Whitehall, North Whitehall and south Whitehall in 1867. The name Whitehall is said to have originated from Lynford Lardner’s hunting lodge that was painted with whitewash. Lardner named it “Grouse Hall”, but the common people of the region called it “White Hall”. Whitehall Township ’s villages include Cementon , Egypt , Fullerton , Hokendauqua, Mickleys, Stiles and West Catasauqua . Coplay was also part of Whitehall until it incorporated as a borough in 1869.
Agriculture was the major industry until the mid-1800s. Today, about 2,000 acres are under cultivation. There were six grist mills in Whitehall , built to process grains for the farmers into flour and animal feed. Only one grist mill remains - the Helfrich Springs Grist Mill. It is the home of the Whitehall Historical Preservation Society, which has preserved the building for use as a local history museum.
Completion of the Lehigh Canal in 1829 led to further development. Discovery of iron ore deposits brought Whitehall into the Industrial Revolution when the first blast iron furnace was built in Hokendauqua in 1854. This was immediately followed by the establishment of a railroad system to transport raw materials to the furnaces and to ship the final product. Population grew rapidly as these industries attracted Welsh and Irish immigrants.
While the railroads were being constructed, cuts in the bedrock led to the discovery of Whitehall ’s deposits of Jacksonburg limestone or “cement rock”. David O. Saylor perfected and patented the process of manufacturing Portland Cement. The first Portland Cement plant was located between the villages of Cementon and Coplay. Others quickly followed and, by 1914, 70% of the cement produced in the United States came from the “Cement Belt” or Lehigh District. The cement industry attracted a new wave of immigrants from Austria-Hungary, creating yet another population spurt.
Whitehall became classified as a First Class Township with a population of 7,935 in 1900. This gave the Township specified municipal rights for supplying electric lights, highways and sewers at public expense.
Recent & Present Day The post-World War II era began the transition from the manufacturing industries to the retail industry as Whitehall became a bedroom community as a suburb of Allentown . The individual villages became united into one entity known as Whitehall in 1968, when the U.S. Post Office combined its separate town branches.
In 1974, voters approved the adoption of a Home Rule Charter form of government, creating a seven-member legislative body and an elected Executive. Today, with an annual budget in excess of $16 million, Whitehall provides a full range of municipal services to its residents.