During the French and Indian War, Indians began making assaults on the colonial settlers who had taken over their lands. On the night of Sept. 19-20, 1757 (which has become known as the "Hochstetler Massacre") a small group of Delaware Indians surrounded the Jacob Hochstetler home. The young teenage sons Joseph and Christian reached for their hunting rifles in an attempt to kill or scare off the attackers, but their father, true to their Christian pacifism, did not allow them to kill the attackers even at the risk of their own death. The Indians set fire to the house and the immigrant mother, an unnamed daughter, and a teenage son Jacob were all tomahawked. An Indian by the name of Tom Lions claimed to have scalped Jacob's first wife. Jacob and his sons Joseph and Christian were taken captive, but all of them were released after some years and they returned to Berks County. The European-born children, Barbara and John, were already married in 1757, living on farms nearby, and were unharmed.
The Northkill Amish community eventually disbanded when people started moving to other parts of Pennsylvania. Jacob died in nearby Lebanon County in 1776, but Barbara and her husband Christian Stutzman died in Berks county. John and Christian and their families moved around 1784, soon after the War for Independence ended, to a new Amish community in what is now Somerset County in southwestern Pennsylvania. Here John and his wife Catherine (Hertzler) died, but Christian and his family who had joined a related Dunkard Church (later known as Church of the Brethren) moved on west to the Ohio River Valley by 1795. Joseph around 1806 moved to another new Amish settlement in what is now Juniata County in central Pennsylvania. All 32 grandchildren of Jacob Hochstetler left Berks County. Some of them finished out their days in other areas of Pennsylvania, but many continued on west to Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana. The next generation and their descendants continued the westward movement and eventually fanned out into all parts of North America.
Today, tourists exiting the Roadside America parking lot might have difficulty seeing the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission marker in an overgrown area across Old Route 22 (one mile west of Shartlesville, PA), but the memory of the massacre and its impact on our family lines is still recognized as one of the many significant milestones on our journey.
The "Reading Eagle" published this story of the Indian attack on the 250th Anniversary of the event, September 19th, 2007.
Click here for a map that shows the dispersion of the Amish and Mennonites across the counties of the United States.
This mural of the Hochstetler massacre, about 8 feet long by 4 feet high, is on the south wall of
the Pennsylvania Dutch Campsite recreation room, Shartlesville, Pa. In the center is the scene
where Indians are about to kill Christian, but they spare him because of his blue eyes. Mother
Hochstetler can be seen "stuck in the window". Commissioned by Laurence Gieringer, circa 1960.