HOCKER, REV. M. P., pastor of St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran church, Steelton, Pa., was born at Union Deposit, Dauphin county, Pa., October 1, 1853. His mother Barbara Martin, was a native of Cumberland county, and his father, George Hocker, a native of Dauphin county, having been born at Hockersville, June 15, 1806. The father lived to be over eighty years old. His grandfather, Martin Hocker, lived to be over ninety-three years old, and was the founder of Hockersville, Dauphin county. He was one of three men appointed to run the division line between Dauphin and Lebanon counties; the other two having been William Cochran and John Harrison.
Rev. Hocker was named at baptism after his grandfather, in honor of which event a Mexican silver dollar, given at that time, is still in his possession. His boyhood days were spent in the place of his birth, working on the farm and assisting about the hotel owned and kept by his father. Although his early environments were not the most conducive to the best morals, yet, owing to the blessed influence and the prayers of a precious mother, whose death occurred, however, before he was twelve years old, and the example and instruction of a most honorable father, he was reared to reverence holy things, and to regard honesty and thrift as the best human equipments for an honorable and successful career. Although the youngest of nine children his father, who was a strong patron of the common schools, gave him every advantage possible to secure an education. The opportunities afforded were, in the providence of God, eagerly embraced, and an early aspiration to enter one of the professions was thus fostered. After a brief academical course he received his first appointment as teacher in the public schools, at the age of nineteen years. By teaching school during the winter seasons and attending school during the remaining months of the school term at Palatinate College, Meyerstown, Pa., he was finally prepared to enter the freshman class in Pennsylvania College, Gettysburg, in September, 1876. After joining the home church in 1876, the hitherto fixed purpose to enter the profession of law was abandoned for that of the gospel ministry. Receiving some assistance from the church, he was enabled to complete the prescribed course without interruption, graduating with the class of 1880. He entered the Theological Seminary at Gettysburg in September of the same year.
Throughout the college and seminary courses he supplemented the church allowance by engaging in manual labor, selling books, or in colporteur work. In the fall of 1882 he was licensed to preach the gospel by the East Pennsylvania Synod of the Lutheran church, convened in Pottsville, Pa. February 1, 1883, he received a call from St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran church, of Steelton, Pa., to come as their pastor. Being still a student in the senior class of the Theological Seminary, he could not take pastoral care of the congregation, but supplied them with preaching services until after his graduation in June, ’83. On the 5th day of July of the same year he entered into holy wedlock with Miss Millie A. Farnsler, a daughter of Joseph Farnsler, Esq., one of the most prominent residents of Union Deposit. Two weeks later, accompanied by his bride, he took full charge of the congregation in Steelton, being installed in his pastoral relation by the Rev. C. A. Hay, D. D., and Rev. M. Valentine, D. D., LL. D., on the 22d of July, 1883. A few months later, at the meeting of the East Pennsylvania Synod in Germantown, Pa., he was ordained to the ministry in the Evangelical Lutheran church of the General Synod.
His entire ministerial life up to the present time, July, 1896, has been associated with his present congregation, it being his first and only pastorate. A record of his life work, therefore, necessarily involves in large measure, a history of this energetic and prosperous congregation, which was but eight years old when they called him to be their pastor. At that time they worshiped in a chapel of modest pretensions on Locust street, and numbered less than fifty members, and some of these discouraged because of disheartening conditions resulting from a period when they had no pastor in the field. Taking courage with the advent of the new pastor, the congregation soon regained their lost position and more. The chapel building was enlarged the second time within five years. About this time a lot of ground was secured on the corner of Second and Pine streets at a cost of $5,000. In the fall of 1892 ground was broken for the erection of a tine church building. April 30, 1893, the cornerstone was laid with most impressive services. A year later, July 15, 1894, the completed church was dedicated to the glory of God. The handsome building cost over $45,000, or $50,ooo including the ground. The congregation now numbers nearly six hundred, with a Sunday-school of about seven hundred and fifty members.
In these thirteen years of his pastoral relations he has seen the most rapid advancement of the progressive borough of Steelton, witnessed the brilliant career of major L. S. Bent, general manager and president of the noted Pennsylvania Steel Company, and the no less substantial success of the present honored president, Mr. E. C. Felton. Living in these environments, he has learned the animus of the community, has come into sympathetic touch with the noble people making up the bulk of the population, and so has learned to love the people and work for the community’s interests. In his ministerial work he has received nine hundred members into church fellowship, baptized four hundred and seventy-five children, performed one hundred and eighty marriages, officiated at two hundred and sixty-eight funerals and made at least eight thousand pastoral visitations in the homes of Steelton. Being in the prime of life, he naturally looks forward to a career of usefulness in the Master’s service, if it so please the Great Head of the church, to whom shall be all praise forever.
Pages 1029 & 1030
Transcribed by Judy Warner Bookwalter, for the Dauphin County,
Pennsylvania Genealogy Transcription Project –