[Note: This second part is the story of one family, my ancestor, ‘Jacob Hostettler’ (Hofstedler), there are many ways of spelling of this family name and eventually it became Statler and Stotler, the birth names of my mothers parents, one branch married another branch, that I have previously published on Village Blue.]
“”If there is a Hostetler or Hochstetler (or a half dozen variations of this name) in your family tree, then you may be a descendant of the 1738 Swiss German immigrant Jacob Hochstetler. It is estimated that there are from five hundred thousand to one million of us living from coast to coast in the United States of America, as well as in a number of other countries.
The Hostettler (Swiss spelling today) family originated, perhaps in the 1300s or 1400s, in the Schwarzenburg, Switzerland area about 30 kilometers southwest of the capital of Bern. Some of them became a part of the Anabaptist reform movement in the 1600s. These Anabaptists, or Swiss Brethren, tried to follow the Bible and restore the biblical church, which they understood to be a believers’ church made up of members baptized as adults upon their confession of faith in Jesus and who lived out the ethic of love and nonviolence taught by Jesus.
[“This tiny, beautifully preserved church is located precisely where today’s detailed local map of the Schwarzenburg area indicates “Hostettlen”. It was built in the eighteenth century presumably upon the exact site of where there was a church within a castle that existed here until well into the sixteenth century.””]
Due to brutal religious persecution by the state churches, both Catholic and Reformed, our ancestors along with many others left Switzerland. The man we now believe was the father of the immigrant Jacob left his native Schwarzenburg area in the late 1600s and settled in Echery near St. Marie-aux-Mines in Alsace (now in France), where Jacob was born in 1712.
To escape the intolerant Catholic rulers of the time, many Anabaptists took the long, arduous and treacherous journey from their homeland to a new land called America that offered religious freedom to anyone who lived there. One such traveler from the Schwarzenburg area of Canton Bern, Harold Hostettler, wrote a poem about this journey and his experience in the new land. The song was put to different music and a variety of melodies, but in the absence of radio and newspapers the song became a form of mass media that encouraged those of strong heart to follow the example of these courageous zealots who were driven to find a way to worship their God the way they wanted to.
Another such escapee, Jacob Hochstetler, age 26, arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on Nov. 9, 1738 with his wife and two small children on the ship Charming Nancy. They spoke the language of the land they left which was very similar to an early form of “Pennsylvania Dutch”. The young family settled in the Northkill area of what is now Berks County with others of their faith, called Amish Mennonites in the New World. Here, near Shartlesville, additional children were born. The economy of the Amish community was based on farming, and they tried to live peaceably with all people.
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. 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.
One of the few remaining tangible testimonies to our forefather is a simple, wood framed, house that his oldest son John built as his retirement home on his farm in Summit Mills, Somerset County, PA around the year 1800. Unfortunately, a tornado in June of 1998 lifted the little house off its foundation, taking the off the roof and strewing it across the fields. Remaining was a twisted structure, tipped into the basement.
Many in the Hochstetler-Hostetler extended family carry a rather strong sense of identity and history. This is partly due to the thorough work of a remarkable pair of men, genealogist Harvey Hostetler and historian William F. Hochstetler, who teamed up to publish a 1000-page book Descendants of Jacob Hochstetler in 1912 which chronicles the family history and lists the descendants of the three sons of the immigrant.
In 1938 Rev. Hostetler published an even larger book Descendants of Barbara Hochstedler which lists the 15,000 families who descended from the daughter of Jacob. Thus most living descendants of Jacob Hochstetler who are interested can trace their connection back from seven to twelve generations. While many continue in the Amish and Mennonite faith of their ancestors, many more have merged into the larger American culture. NFL quarterback Jeff Hostetler and George Gallup, Jr. from the Gallup Polls are examples of descendants whose names are well known. The progeny of our devout ancestors represent a wide spectrum of achievements and careers.
Although online information on Hochstetler genealogy is limited, there is an interesting biography of the immigrant Jacob’s great-grandson, Joseph Hostetler who was known as the “boy preacher” because he was ordained at a relatively young age. Reference made to Joseph’s ancestry being from Germany refers to his maternal line, not the Hostetler line (his mother’s father, Anthony Hardman, was German).
Of Joseph Hostetler’s relatives who remained in Europe, we know of a few persons who came to the U.S. later in the 1800s and even in the past half century. These were predominately persons who descended from Jacob’s nephew Isaac Hochstetler who was an Amish Mennonite minister in Germany.”
A poem/letter , written by Harold Hostettler, circa 1750
Listen, I want to tell you something
about the new land of America.
I’ve wanted to write you for a long time,
but I never could for some reason.
Nearly one year has passed
since I said goodbye to you.
When I left you there
it hurt more than just a little.
I nearly died from the heartache
because I was missing you.
Then we went through Paris
and over the sea on the water.
That ocean is an awfully large puddle,
whoever hasn’t seen it, would not believe it.
And it is so deep that you can’t reach the bottom
entirely with a stone tied to a rope.
You can sail around on it for a year,
and yet only have seen a part of it.
Nearly all of us who took the ride on the sea,
got ill in the first hour.
By the time you feel your stomach shaking,
you have to vomit like a dog.
It overwhelmed me heavily,
and I got a big piece of the sickness.
Up into the sky or down into the water,
you can look as far as your eyes can see.
You don’t many beautiful things,
only a big fish from time to time.
Then there came big waves, too,
that rose higher than the side of the boat.
The one morning it happens,
that you hear someone yelling to you:
“Now we are finally here”, and quickly the boat turns
towards the new shoreline.
You are instantly struck with joy,
when you hear the words “Land, Land, Land!”.
First you go and look at the countryside,
at the towns and at the people, too.
“Help youself” says the Yankee,
but “Help yourself” means another thing in German:
Who has money is on top here,
Who has none finishes on bottom here, too.
Most of the people go further inland,
but nowhere do they really like it.
There is no place, where they can stay,
for good land is too expensive and the people are too selfish.
Finally you buy a bit
of the wild growth and you build a house on it.
Building in a funny thing
for the ones in the bush, who hardly can afford it.
You pull a lot of logs out of the woods
and lay them according to their length.
Then you ask your friends to help you for a day,
and you put them up and in a row.
You need nothing more than roof and floor
and maybe two windows and a door.
Then you have to fill the holes with mud,
otherwise the wind would blow through.
Then you put a chimney into it,
that will stand and will not crash.
You have cattle here, too, that you milk and butcher,
and you can cut down fairly many trees in the forest.
If the cattle run away, it’s a bad shock.
Searching to find them again is a bad dream
because this country reaches all the way
from Greenland to Mexico.
It is not, as many people think,
completely flat over here.
He who wants flatland had better stay at home
near his old place.
But for able people, who want to work,
it’s fine to come over, if they have the will to.
Anyone who comes over should bring bells
and handfuls of money, so it’s better for them
to get cows and rent some grassland.
Swiss cheese is at a good price.
It will be a happy life here
for one who really likes to yodel.
I wish you could peep over here
and see for yourself how it is.
Most of you would certainly like it,
but some of you would say, “No, no, for sure!
If I have to choose, I would rather
lose my last penny at home.”
I can’t really advise you
by saying to come or to not come.
For our lives are uncertain
till we all go to eternity.
There we will find each other well,
if God wants it so, fit and happy.
This is the link for the above info:
Parts I & 3 of this series can be found here