South Whitehall Township
The first settlers of the Lehigh Valley region were Germans who emigrated from earlier settlements along the Perkiomen Creek. The earliest settlers arrived in the region over a 20-year period beginning in about 1732. The immigration of the Germans and other European natives, including Swiss and Huguenots, was aided by William Penn and his friends. The land lying south of the Lehigh Mountains (South Mountain) was given to William Penn in 1713 by the Lenni Lenape Indians. The land of Lehigh County lying between the Blue Mountains and the Lehigh Mountains was given to Penn's sons by the Lenni Lenapes in 1732. Emigrants sought the fertile, limestone valley flanking rivers and streams such as the Jordan Creek.
One of the earliest tracts of land purchased in the Township was by Nicholas Kern who bought tracts of land on December 3, 1735 and October 28, 1737. Some of this was sold to Lorenz Guth on February 27, 1739. Guth continued to buy land in the area of the Reformed church property and also in the Guthsville area. By 1769 his holdings totaled 759 acres. The Lorenz Guth house near Wehr's Dam still stands in excellent condition and is a fine example of colonial architecture.
Much of the history of South Whitehall can be traced to the Walbert-Guthsville region, and especially the two Jordan churches. The first ministration to the Lutheran people in the township occurred in 1734 when Reverend John Casper Stoever baptized Margaret, the daughter of the John Lichtenwalners, on February 6th. In 1736 a Reverend Schmidt preached occasionally to the Lutherans, and in 1739 Reverend John Justus Jacob Birkenstock became pastor of the Jordan Lutheran congregation. In 1845 it was noted that the centennial of the congregation was observed, which would indicate that the first building was erected in 1745. The first church building was of logs and stood near the north wall of the old burial ground. It was used jointly by the Lutheran and Reformed congregations until about 1752 when the Reformed erected a building half a mile to the east, within sight of the current municipal building. The Lutherans built the present church in 1842-1843 at a cost of $3,581.24. It was renovated in 1868, and in 1886 a fine, shapely, slate-covered steeple, 138 feet high, was erected.
Members of the Reformed (United Church of Christ) religion settled in the area as early as 1738, and baptisms of their children during the period of 1740 to 1752 are recorded in the Lutheran record book. In 1752 Lorenz Guth presented the Reformed with a 50 acre tract of land, and a log church was erected in six weeks. The second and present church building, with its 110 foot steeple was built in 1808. It stands as one of the oldest church buildings in the country, and is a fine example of the architecture of that period.
The early schools of the township were connected with the two Jordan churches for many years, possibly extending back to 1739. According to the Roberts history, the congregations were at first supplied not by pastors, but by teachers who used to read sermons on Sundays. Thus, it is possible that church-sponsored schools taught by the readers existed in the earliest days of the congregations.
The original name "Whitehall" dates to 1740 and encompasses the land now found in North Whiehall, South Whitehall, and Whitehall Townships. Prior to the establishment of Northampton County in 1752, the area was part of Bucks County and the land currently occupied by South Whitehall was known as "the back part of Macungie" on the "Heidelberg District." The name Whitehall is thought to be derived from one of two sources: either named after a place in England, or for a white house erected as a hunting lodge near the Jordan and Cedar Creeks.
South Whitehall Township was established in 1810 by a petition to the Northampton County Court to divide former Whitehall Township into two areas, North Whitehall and South Whitehall Townships. In 1812, Lehigh County was divided off from the original Northampton County, establishing South Whitehall Township within and nearly at the center of Lehigh County. At that time, according to historians, "...many prominent and influential men who lived in the vicinity of Guthsville exerted themselves to secure the selection of the village as the place best adapted for the county seat on account of its situation in the geographical center of the large area of territory to be erected into a separate county, but their efforts proved unavailing and the advocates of Allentown were successful." (The quotations from Roberts History published in 1914.)
Agriculture was the backbone of the economy of the township for many years. Much of the land today still is under cultivation. For more than a century at least six grain mills flourished on the Jordan and Cedar Creeks.
In the early 1800's iron ore was discovered at different places in the township and mining operations were carried on from 1820 to 1890.
In 1864, the eastern portion of South Whitehall and the southeastern portion of North Whitehall were detached and formed into Whitehall Township.
In 1966, South Whitehall became a First Class Township.
The township is located immediately west of Allentown and approximately 55 miles northeast of Philadelphia. The township is bordered by several jurisdictions: The western edge of the township is bound by Upper Macungie and Lower Macungie Townships; Salisbury Township and the City of Allentown form the southern boundary; Whitehall Township is located to the east of South Whitehall Township, while North Whiehall Township borders the north.
As of the census2 of 2000, there were 18,028 people, 6,943 households, and 5,019 families residing in the township. The population density was 406.6/km² (1,052.8/mi²). There were 7,154 housing units at an average density of 161.3/km² (417.8/mi²). The racial makeup of the township was 95.67% White, 1.02% African American, 0.03% Native American, 2.07% Asian, 0.44% from other races, and 0.77% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.51% of the population.
There were 6,943 households out of which 29.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 62.9% were married couples living together, 7.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.7% were non-families. 24.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 15.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.45 and the average family size was 2.92.
In the township the population was spread out with 21.4% under the age of 18, 4.6% from 18 to 24, 22.4% from 25 to 44, 27.0% from 45 to 64, and 24.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 46 years. For every 100 females there were 85.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 80.6 males.
The median income for a household in the township was $54,759, and the median income for a family was $64,291. Males had a median income of $46,963 versus $30,345 for females. The per capita income for the township was $27,486. About 3.1% of families and 3.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 5.7% of those under age 18 and 4.8% of those age 65 or over.
South Whitehall Township is best known as the home of Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom, a popular area amusement park.
The Township is served by the Parkland School District.