account is adapted from the historical introduction by William F.
Hochstetler early in the 1900s, published in The
Descendents of Jacob Hochstetler (copyright © 1977 by Eli
J. Hochstetler), and from Our Flesh and Blood: A Documentary
History of The Jacob Hochstetler Family During the French and Indian
War Period 1757—1765, 2nd ed., compiled and edited by
Beth Hostetler Mark (The Jacob Hochstetler Family Association, Inc.,
Elkhart, Ind., © 2003)
Hochstetler family is thought to have originated near Schwarzenburg,
Switzerland, perhaps in the fourteenth or fifteenth century. In
the 1600s some members of the family joined the Anabaptist reform
movement. Because of their adherence to the doctrines of believers’
baptism and non-resistance, Anabaptists suffered severe persecution,
and beginning in the 1700s many of them immigrated to America to
find religious freedom.
ancestor Jacob Hochstetler was born in 1712 in Echery near St. Marie-aux-Mines
in Alsace, where his family had settled in the late 1600s. He was
twenty-six years old when he arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,
on Nov. 9, 1738, aboard the Charming Nancy. With him were
his wife, whose name is unknown, a daughter, Barbara, and a son,
John, who was then three years old, and from whom I am descended.
1739 the family had settled along the Northkill Creek on the eastern
edge of the Blue Mountains in what is now Berks County, Pennsylvania,
at that time the western frontier of the British colonies. They
built a substantial log home and farm buildings near a spring of
fresh water, cleared the land for farming, and planted several acres
of fruit trees. They helped to establish the first Amish Mennonite
church in America in the Northkill area the following year.
this time the Delaware Indians, or Lenni Lenape, who inhabited a
large portion of Pennsylvania, lived in peace with the white settlers.
They often visited my ancestors’ homestead and others throughout
the area and were generally received with hospitality. The Moravians
maintained an active mission to the native peoples along the borderlands,
and as a result many became Christians.
1754, however, the peace was shattered when France and England went
to war over control of the territories west of the Appalachian Mountains.
After the defeat of General Braddock by a combined French and Indian
force in 1755, many of the native tribes allied with the French
and began to attack the border settlements in Pennsylvania and New
York to drive the white settlers out of their ancestral lands. Between
November 1756 and June 1757 several families in the Northkill area
were attacked, a number of settlers were killed, and others were
carried away as captives.
summer remained comparatively quiet, although a tense anxiety hung
over the valley. Jacob and his wife, their sons Jacob, Joseph, Christian,
and a young daughter were living in the home, while Barbara and
John, who were by then married, lived on farms nearby. On the evening
of September 19, 1757, the young people of the neighborhood gathered
at the Hochstetler farm to help prepare apples for drying and afterward
stayed for a social until late. When their guests had finally gone,
the family went to bed. They had no sooner settled down to sleep
than their dog set up a clamor that roused them. Alarmed, young
Jacob opened the door to look outside and was staggered by a shot
in the leg. Realizing that they were under attack, he managed to
bar the door before the Indians could force their way inside.
It was a moonless night and, barricaded inside the dark house, the
family members could see a band of about fifteen Indians standing
near the outside bake oven, evidently conferring about what to do.
There were several guns and an ample supply of ammunition in the
house, but in spite of the desperate pleas of Joseph and Christian,
their father refused to allow them to take up arms against another
human being, even to defend their lives. Finally, near dawn, the
Indians set fire to the house. With their attackers lurking outside,
the family had no choice but to take refuge in the cellar beneath
their blazing home. When the fire threatened to burn through the
floorboards, they staved off certain death by spraying cider on
the flames. Choking on the thick smoke and scorched by the conflagration
above their heads, they somehow endured until the first light of
the new day.
a small window, the strengthening light revealed the Indians filing
off into the woods. Flames and smoke made it impossible to stay
in the cellar any longer, and the instant their attackers were out
of sight, the parents and their children began to crawl out through
the narrow window. The mother was a large woman, and it took considerable
effort to drag her through the constricted opening. With his wounded
leg, young Jacob needed help to climb through. But at last everyone
was free of the smoldering ruins. Concealed by the trees, however,
a young warrior named Tom Lions had lingered in the orchard to gather
some of the ripe peaches. Seeing the family emerging from the cellar,
he immediately alerted the rest of his party.
the marauding band returned to surround his terrified family, Joseph
outran two pursuers and hid behind a large log on the hill above
the house, unaware that one of the Indians had noted his hiding
place. The Indians tomahawked and scalped young Jacob and his sister.
Evidently motivated by a desire for revenge against the mother—possibly
because some years earlier she had refused to give them food and
had driven them away—the Indians stabbed her through the heart
with a butcher knife, a death they considered dishonorable, before
scalping her. Christian was about to be tomahawked as well, but
according to family tradition, he was spared because of his bright
was just breaking when the oldest son, John, who lived on the adjoining
farm, awakened to the horrifying sight of his parents’ homestead
in flames and surrounded by Indians. He hastily concealed his wife
and young son in a dense thicket well away from their house, then
watched helplessly from a concealed location as the Indians put
the barn and the other outbuildings to the torch. Outnumbered and
alone, he could do nothing to save his family. Other neighbors ran
to the edge of the meadow that surrounded the farm, but they also
were helpless to intervene against the armed Indians.
taking the elder Jacob and his son Christian captive, the Indians
returned to Joseph’s hiding place and took him prisoner as
well. As they were being led away, Jacob picked as many ripe peaches
as he could carry and urged his sons to do the same. Then they were
forced to a rapid march across the Blue Mountains. When they at
last arrived at an Indian village, Jacob realized they would be
forced to run the gauntlet. Accompanied by the two boys, he approached
the chief and offered him the peaches they carried. The chief was
so pleased by this gesture that he spared them from the cruel ordeal
most captives were forced to undergo.
there, Jacob and his sons were taken on another long, exhausing
march to a French fort at Presque Isle, near Erie, Pennsylvania.
French soldiers from the fort gave the three captives to Indians
from three different villages in northwestern Pennsylvania. But
before his sons were taken away from him, Jacob pleaded with them
to remember the Lord’s Prayer even if they forgot their German
language. Jacob was then taken to the Seneca village of Buckaloons.
Custaloga, a Delaware chief who lived most of the time in Custaloga’s
Town near present-day Meadville, Pennsylvania, took one of the boys.
Where the other boy was taken is unknown. According to oral tradition,
Christian was initially adopted by an old Indian who died several
years later, while Joseph was adopted into a family.
he pretended to be content, Jacob never grew reconciled to the natives’
life, and his captors never fully trusted him. In early May, 1758,
however, he was allowed to go hunting alone and managed to escape.
An arduous journey and many prayers for guidance brought him to
the Susquehanna. On the verge of starving, he built a raft and floated
downstream, more dead than alive. When his raft passed Fort Augusta
at present-day Shamokin, he was spotted and pulled from the river
by British soldiers. Colonel James Burd took him on horseback to
Carlisle, Pennslvania, where he was interrogated by Colonel Henry
Bouquet about the activities and locations of the French. Released
by the British, Jacob traveled to Fort Harris, now Harrisburg, and
from there he was finally able to return home.
the end of the French and Indian War, the peace treaty with the
Indian tribes provided for the return of all white captives to their
families. Little came of this agreement, however, and on August
13, 1762, Jacob petitioned the governor for the return of his sons.
After considerable negotiations with Indian tribal leaders to secure
the return of all the white captives, Joseph was returned to his
father in 1763 or 1764. Christian did not return until late summer
1765. As was common for Whites who were adopted into Indian families,
both were initially reluctant to return to white society. For the
rest of his life Joseph continued to visit his Indian family to
hunt and to join in their sports. Christian had the greatest difficulty
reconciling to the ways of the Whites. Eventually, however, he married,
was converted, and joined the Tunker Church (Church of the Brethren).
In time he became a preacher.
These courageous pioneers bequeathed to their descendents a heritage
of faith that has extended through the years to me and to my children.
Through my parents example, I learned to know, love, and serve my
precious Savior. The tales they told of our ancestors and of their
own lives inspired in me a great love of history, which God has
called me to share through stories that I pray will touch my readers’
hearts and glorify God.