Our Lady Help of Christians
The town of Lykens, originally known as Lykenstown, was named after Andrew Lycans, a pioneer in the early settlement days of the Lykens Valley. He settled here around the middle of the 18th century. Besieged and attacked by Indians who had been provoked by French leaders in this period of American history, it was not until 1765 that the peace with the Indians was obtained.
In 1825, coal was discovered on Short Mountain by Jacob Burd and Peter Kimes. In 1831, Simon Gratz of Philadelphia organized the Wiconisco Coal Company. The Lykens Valley Railroad was built from Bear Creek Gap to the Susquehanna River, and was in operation in 1834, transporting coal by horse-power over the flat strap-rail. This was the forth railroad in the country and the first in Dauphin County, to transport anthracite coal. Mining operations became the leading industry of Lyken. With the development of the mines came an influx of people, and the Catholics among the settlers were served by Fr. Pierce Maher who was the pastor of Saint Patrick’s in Harrisburg.
Prior to 1852, Masses were offered from time to time in private homes in Lykens and neighboring towns. The first Mass offered in Wiconisco during that time was in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Douglass. In 1852 Fr. Sylvester Eagle (1852-1853) was appointed the first permeant pastor, and the parish was formally established in 1853. Originally known as Saint Mary’s, it was latter changed to Our Lady Help of Christians. At the time, Saint Patrick’s was the only other Parish in all of Dauphin County.
A little stone church was built in 1852, on a tract of land donated by the Gratz Estate in 1855. The men of the parish assisted in the construction of the church. A walk of flagstones lead up to the front door, and a large wooden cross to the side of the church marked the first parish cemetery. All Catholics in the Lykens Valley, from Williamstown to Millersburg, attended this church.