Northkill Amish Massacre

Northkill was an Amish settlement existing in Berks County, Pennsylvania in the 1700s.  It was home to some of the earliest Amish settlers in the New World.

It was also the site of a brutal massacre still recounted by Amish today.

During the French and Indian war, Amishman Jacob Hochstetler’s home came under attack by Indians.  Hochstetler famously restrained his sons from retaliating with gunfire.

His wife and two children were slaughtered, while he and two sons were captured.  The story is cited by Amish as an important example of non-resistance.

Hochstetler is important for another reason:  many Amish today can trace their ancestry to the Amishman and his surviving sons.

Mike from the Primitive Christianity website has put together a documentary/teaching video on the occurrence, which he has kindly shared with the blog:

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    1. Richard

      Old order Mennonite Jeans post in My blog.

      Posted with permission from Erik to promote a post on my blog To anyone who might be interested in reading a post from Jean, an old order Mennonite woman from New York state on my blog “Amish Stories”. This is Jeans first ever post on the internet, and she’s only doing this to give some insight into her culture. Feel free to post any questions that you may have for her, and if she gets enough responses in the form of questions, she may answer a few of them on her next post at her convenience. Richard from Lebanon county’s Amish community.

    2. Richard

      Regarding promoting a post.......

      my promoting this post was set to run on Amish America today, so i didn’t know which post Erik was going be posting………. Richard

    3. The Spokesrider

      Good timing for this post, considering some of the celebratory behavior in the news the past couple of days.

      I first heard of this Jacob Hochstetler two years ago this month on one of my historical bike rides in Branch County MI. I stopped at an old farmhouse that was probably built by the son of a man in one of the stories I’ve run into. The man was William McCarty, and I had been trying to learn more about him, curious about how he had come to know enough Potawatomi to intercede in a dispute between some Potawatomi women and a settler about apples trees on land that had once been theirs. I had visited the site of the apple trees a year earlier — the woman of the household is a descendant of the old settler in the dispute, and there is an apple tree in the front yard. McCarty’s son had lived in different part of the county, but there is a heavy sprinkling of Amish people in both ends of the county. The family that now lives in the house of the son of William McCarty is Mennonite, and the woman was very interested in the story.

      At one point she told me that the way I talked about about the family connections among the people in the story — who had married whom and where their children ended up and what their parents had done — reminded her of the talk about old family that one hears at Amish gatherings.

      Somehow the conversation got around to Indian captivity stories (another topic of some of my bike rides) and she told me that an Amish man had once been captured by Indians. I had not known of this and was curious just in case this might make another bicycle destination for me someday. She didn’t remember the details, but went in the house and brought out a large old book of family history. I’m not sure now if this was a book about the descendants of Jacob Hochstetler or someone else. (I just now pulled out my notebook and checked. It was “The Descendants of Jacob Hochstetler,” published in 1912) I never got around to learning more about it until I saw your post. It looks like it took place too far east in Pennsylvania for a ride this year, but maybe someday.

      1. Eileen Hostetler Harrijvan

        A new layer to the story!

        I have work to do and have not read through all of these comments yet but I must say, Thank you! Spokes Rider, you have added another layer to the story I have not heard. I am a direct descendant of the family and have heard some version of these stories as long as I’ve lived. I always found them touching. I can’t wait to finish my work and read about William McCarty of Branch County MI!
        A woman at market was so surprised to know I am a Hoschtetler descendant.. This family has spread far and wide, no? Alas, I am the last of our branch as my father had no sons. Bless you all for keeping the stories alive.
        Eileen Hostetler, formerly of Indianapolis, lately of Oakland County, MI.

    4. Alice Aber


      Wow, wow, wow!! Awesome video!! This video really puts your faith in check if you are a Christian.

      For me, it had me questioning if I did the right thing when I left my ex husband who was abusive even trying to kill me. I did not fight back at the time but I did leave and I did seek help with the law to keep him away from me. I wonder if I did what Jesus would have wanted me to?

      Of course this does not compare to what the Hochstetler family went through. But I am sure each of us have something in our lives that we might now question after seeing this video.

      I have always believed that Jesus meant everything He said. I just don’t always live up to what I should. 🙁

      Thanks so much for this video. I have been blessed today to see it.

      Blessings, Alice

    5. Marcus Yoder

      Northkill Amish Massacre

      Jacob Hochstetler was my 6th great grandfather.
      Marcus Yoder

      1. Becky

        My Family Tree

        Seems many of us are cousins! Jacob was my 5th great grandfather, through the Snider family. I am proud to be even a tiny little part of that line.

    6. Primitive Christianity

      Thanks, Erik, for the post. And I know you didnt plan this to coincide with the Bin Laden revenge killing (since you informed me already last week it would come on Tuesday), but what an appropriate time! Revenge never puts an end to revenge. Evil is not overcome by more evil.
      Evil is overcome by good.

    7. Richard

      I was able to watch some of this film before leaving for the day, but just reading about this topic before seeing the video pretty much let me know what it was all about. And i know the Amish don’t believe in using violence of any kind even if it means their life. While having the highest respect for the Amish myself, My own take on defending yourself and your life is very different. We all know how the world is, its not a totally safe place inside America, and for Americans outside the country it can be very shaky at best. Osama bin Laden is a clear example of that, so i ask you this. Should we have just let him go, forget about his part in 911 and just forgive him?. So you have to ask yourself, is it best to take no action at all in all situations?. And Alice I’m not the higher power that you seek for some of your questions, but i think you did the right thing because you are here by god himself, therefore your life is of high value and importance. And no one should ever feel any less, by anyone. Richard from Lebanon county’s Amish community.

    8. Ann

      I dont remember hearing about the Northkill
      Amish massacre before. I enjoyed learning about it from the video.

    9. kristin jager

      Northkill Amish Massacre

      Just viewed the video about Jacob and his family. All I can say is wow…I had no idea. This is a true testimony of Faith and Belief in Jesus Christ. Yes, I do believe Jesus meant what He said. Jacob truly was a devoted follower and believer of our Lord. I am in awe of the Amish and their deep rooted faith.
      Thank you so much Erik, for giving us this opportunity to learn more about Jacob and his family and the impact that it has had on history.

    10. Descendants of Jacob Hochstetler

      Spokesrider the Descendants of Jacob Hochstetler book is one you can find in a lot of Amish homes. Ties in with Amish interest in history, their roots, and the web of community connections. I have flipped through it a couple of times.

      And Marcus so you have Jacob Hochstetler blood in his veins. I just think it’s something that you know that far back…I think most folks get hung up a few generations into the past. Although genealogy services and web sites have become increasingly popular lately.

    11. Non-resistance and police

      Glad the video has gone over well, any credit is to Mike and his partner.

      Alice you ask a good question. I would be curious as to what a full believer in non-resistance would say.

      To be honest I have tried to study this but am still blurry on where the line is drawn on notifying/using/deploying police and legal force in the non-resistant view.

      Though they take a two kingdoms approach there have been examples where Amish have relied on police and notified law enforcement in cases when crimes were occurring (and of course others where they didn’t).

      Is it okay to get police and the law involved? If your life and safety were in danger I don’t see what other option you had.

    12. Osama bin Laden and non-resistance

      Mike is right, I did not have any info on the bin Laden killing as I actually pre-posted this on Friday before I hit the road (just found out about it last night actually).

      To be frank I think cutting bin Laden’s career as a terrorist short was a good thing, but find the celebrations somewhat unseemly. My first reaction was they reminded me a bit of the footage of cheering in some quarters when the attacks happened on Sep 11.

      The thought of violent death like this (even against someone like bin Laden) is gruesome and doesn’t put me in a partying mood. Something inside recoils at the violence even though by the act of violence it removes bin Laden from the arena of terrorism and probably saves a lot of innocent life now and in future.

      At the same time, I also did not have anyone in the towers that day. Not to sound too cliche, but the reaction of people may be a release or part of closure for the people affected. I’m not able to fathom the pain the people affected might be carrying around.

      I don’t understand what it is like to know that the person that killed your family or induced him or her to take his own life by jumping from a burning building is living free, above justice, revered by many.

      I would suspect that it can be a psychological and emotional pain that is unhealthy and can seriously impair a person. If someone takes comfort in knowing bin Laden is dead I don’t think I can begrudge him that.

      I am sympathetic to the non-resistance viewpoint but would struggle to accept it as I feel there are cases when it can be justified. Though I think the video does quite a commendable job of conveying the message.

      I do admire the level of faith Hochstetler must have had to submit himself and his family to the violence of the Indian attackers. It is a powerful story, probably there is not one more compelling in teaching the nonviolent message. So I can see why the Amish and others continue to share it today.

    13. Marcus Yoder

      I have read this story before. I thought the video was great. I am related through the son Joseph. I have done a lot of genealogy research on mine and my wife’s family. She also has Amish ancestor’s.
      Marcus Yoder

    14. Mona

      Thanks for sharing this Erik, and all I can say is WOW ! As for you Alice, I think you did the right thing……

    15. Alice Aber

      Erik, there is a part of me that celebrated, at least internally as I did have relatives in the Twin Towers. But I am not going out and boasting and gloating over it.

      Thanks Mona!! I still wonder. I do believe Jesus put a limit to turning the other cheek when he said 7 X 70 times. I think there is a point where it is time to stop trying or stop turning the other cheek and walk away. I don’t think we are suppose to retaliate, but rather walk away. That is what I did.

      Blessings, Alice

    16. Bob Rosier

      So profound! I have read about the Northkill Amish Massacre, but this is a great video. Many years ago I had to make the decision about going into the service, and I had hoped to do my part in some type of alternative service. When I asked the air force if I could do some type of alternative service, they informed me that I would still have to go through training in order to learn how to kill others. That’s when I realized I was a consciences objector. I joined the Peace Corp, (which was not an alternative that was allowed at the time), but since I never heard from the draft board again, I choose not to bother them either.:-). Thanks Alice, and others for sharing your personal experiences. It makes Amish America seem like family.

    17. Neil Evans

      Did Jacob H. REALLY believe every word of Jesus?

      Jacob is my 7th Great Grandfather. Little did he know at the time of his life, that his story would be told again and again for generations to come. By seeing this video for the first time, I see that his story has become a propaganda tool to promote pacificism. When in fact it should be a testament to tragedy may happen when you get some portion of the Bible wrong. And certainly it is a testament to the nature of sin, meaning error or missing the mark, to compound.

      The video uses Mat 5:39, “But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also”, as the proof text that Jesus desired Jacob to permit himself, his wife, and children to be either murdered and scalped, or kidnapped. Jacob’s daughter was probably about 9 yrs old, and his son was probably about 15 when they were scalped and murdered. His kidnapped sons were probably about 11 and 15. Does Jesus really want us to not defend ourselves and our families?

      Consider this, after the Lord’s Supper, Jesus told his diciples that two swords were enough to bring with them on their nighttime walk to the Mt of Olives. Luk 22:38-39 And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough. And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him.” Swords only have one purpose, that is to inflict wounds. Two swords were enough to ensure safe passage to the Mt of Olives, and gave Jesus the opportunity to perform another miraculous sign, giving no doubt to all involved that he is the Son of God. Jesus told them to bring two deadly weapons on their walk….not the mark of someone opposed to self defense. And consider the parable of the Good Samaritan if it was told a little differently. Instead of the Good Samaritan coming to the aid of a man when the robbers have gone as the parable is, would Jesus just as happily tell the story where the Good Samaritan came upon a man being beaten and robbed and did not help the man against his attackers? But rather stayed at a safe distance and yelled out words of encouragement to the victim to turn the other cheek? Perposterous!

      What is really amazing, and has gone unnoticed is that Jacob may have been a pacifist, but unlimately he DID NOT obey the verse provided as a proof text for pacifism Mat 5:39, “But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” . And he compounded that by not obeying the verse just before it, Mat 5:37 “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” Jacob did infact resist the Indians who were evil to him…he escaped from them, which is resistance. And he did so by lying to them, hiding bullets and gunpowder in a hollow tree and lying about where the missing bullets and powder were. So ultimately, if a pacifist wants to use Matt 5:39 as a defense for that view, then they must agree that Jacob abandoned that belief and sinned by escaping and compounded that sin by lying to facilitate his escape. Apparently, he died unrepentant of these acts. And today, I have heard of no pacifist condemning the acts. Certainly this video does not.

      The moral of the story is not that Jacob is a wonderful, super spiritual, devout pacifist…a model for others to follow. Although I am sure, that in many parts of his life, there were good things to emulate. It is the story of how a seemingly minor Biblical error, can cause much unnessary suffering in your life, that of your family, your friends, and in the life to come….no matter how wonderful, spiritual and devout you appear.

    18. Primitive Christianity

      Two swords WERE enough to prove non-resistance

      Amish America is not about theological discussion, yet I will respond briefly this once to the post by Neil.
      Why did Jesus need two swords? To prove that He doesnt use them even when direly needed and readily available! If there had been no swords on the scene, Jesus could have been forever accused of not resisting His arrest only because He didnt have any swords around, and if He had had some swords, He would have used them.
      But now it is forever recorded that when push came to shove, and the swords were right at hand–in fact being used already–Jesus said to put them away.
      When the evil-doers of this world killed Jesus, His Father sat on His throne with thousands of angels at His command and watched His Son get brutally murdered. All it would have taken for it to stop the carnage would have been one word to a half legion of angels.
      Even today, in situations like Jacob Hochstetler and many others, God watches evil happen to good people and “does nothing to stop it.”
      We can either accuse God of injustice, or accept His explanation that the way of the cross is the way to overcome evil. The whole moral of the story is that God’s plan is to overcome evil with good, and not return evil for evil.
      And finally, escaping is not the same as fighting back. Jesus told His followers that they could run. (Matt. 10:23) It was the returning evil for evil that He abolished. And Jacob certainly gave his captors the opportunity to smite him on the other cheek. At any time during his captivity he could have fought back.
      He chose not to.
      And the lying … If Jacob lied about the bullets, he did wrong. It is not recorded how he managed to store up the powder and bullets. Powder would have been easy … load a 3/4 charge every reload instead of a full charge. Bullets would have been a little harder, but a right-sized pebble, double-wadded, would make an substitute for a lead bullet. The lead bullet (which would have fit better and hence been more accurate) could have then been saved. Or, perhaps he occasionally found the used bullets in the animals he shot and with a little reforming could have beat them back into usable shape.
      Some have surmised that Jacob simply lied about the bullets. That could be (no one really knows, until some historical evidence would turn up), but I personally find it hard to think that someone who would take such a firm stand on not resisting evil like Jacob did would then simply turn around and make up a plain old lie. It is a lot easier to lie than to watch your family get scalped. Why would he stand firm on not resisting evil when his family is getting murdered and then lie about a bullet?
      The stated objections to “pacifism” are quite common, but what I have briefly written here would be a typical Anabaptist response to the objections.
      Understanding Jesus is not hard; it is the living it that costs!

    19. Neil Evans

      Did Jacob H. resist?

      The word “resist” in Matt.5:39 is the greek word “anthistēmi”. According to Thayers, it means –

      1) to set one’s self against, to withstand, resist, oppose
      2) to set against

      Therefore Jacob did resist when he fled. He set himself against their wishes, he actively worked in opposition to their desires by crafting a plan of escape to withstand and oppose their desires. He did not stay imprisoned forever, perpetually turning the other cheek. And that he finally came to his senses is a good thing, because Matt 5:39 is not a verse that is properly understood to relieve a husband and father from defending his 9 year old daughter, his son, and his wife from murderers when he was able.

      Thankfully, God through the Apostle Paul was not a pacifist when he miraculously blinded an evil man. Acts 13:11 “And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand.” Jacob, my 7 Greats Grandfather would have been a poor Paul until he finally started defending.

    20. Bob the Quaker

      Many good points Mike. As a pacifist myself, I believe it would be wrong for me to kill another human being or go to war. Is that so hard to understand? I believe most Amish, Mennonites, and Quakers are pacifist, and I think we are setting a good example for the rest of the world. Pacifism is a belief that violence, even in self-defense, is unjustifiable under any conditions and that negotiation is preferable to war as a means of solving disputes. That was the philosophy of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and many Quakers. The Quakers earned a Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts. I know there is a lot of evil in this world, but I would rather try a peaceful approach rather than be drawn into violence. On the Palestine/Israeli conflict there is a good book “Refusing to be Enemies” worth reading.

    21. Primitive Christianity

      Acts 13:11

      It was God who struck Elymas blind. Paul only made the announcement that it would happen. Paul did not take a sword and gouge out Elymas’ eyes.
      We let God take care of the punishment/revenge.
      One does not generally consider running away from a conflict as resistance. Imagine a war correspondent sending in a report:
      “Army A attacked Army B today, and Army B set up a valiant resistance: every soldier in Army B threw down his gun and ran away like a scared chicken!” 🙂
      Jacob did offer the other cheek for the rest of his life. He quietly went back to his farming in the same area he had been. At any time the French and Indians could have smote him again. But Jacob did not fight back or seek revenge.

      Bob, I havent read much into the Palestine/Israeli conflict. It is so politically and religiously charged one would probably have to go there personally to figure out what is happening. One thing is sure: guns and missiles will not solve the problem.

    22. Neil Evans

      Correction duly noted....

      I’ll grab a pen and correct my bible in Mat 5:39 to say what it should, “But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, to avoid being struck again, duck and run!”

    23. Joseph M Paolino

      Great story! I live right down the road from where this happened!

    24. Geo

      The video

      Erik, I can’t seem to connect to the video mentioned in these posts. It sounds interesting. Anyway you can post it again?