Two works of historical fiction based on the story of Jacob Hochstetler have hit bookshelves over the past month.
The first, Jacob’s Choice by Ervin Stutzman, we heard about a few weeks ago. Today we have a Q & A with Bob Hostetler and J.M. Hochstetler, authors of Northkill.
Two copies of Northkill are available for Amish America readers to win. To enter, just leave a comment or question on this post.
For an extra entry, share this post via Facebook, Twitter, or other social platform (let me know you did with an email to email@example.com). We’ll randomly draw and post the winners here next Monday, March 10th.
Update: Northkill Giveaway Winners
We’ve added in additional social share entries, and just chose 2 Northkill winners using random.org. Comment numbers 57 (Carolsue) and 7 (AGB) are our two winners. Carolsue and AGB, send me an email (to firstname.lastname@example.org) with your shipping address and we’ll get your books sent to you. If you didn’t win, the book is available in many places including Amazon, Amazon Kindle, and Masthof Bookstore.
J.M. Hochstetler & Bob Hostetler on Northkill
Amish America: What drew you to this project?
Joan: I’m a direct descendent of Jacob Hochstetler through his oldest son, John, and I’m very faith oriented. I’m also very interested in the history of this country. The facts we know about the experience of this family offers a truly compelling basis for expansion into a fictional treatment, and since I write historical fiction, it was just too tempting to resist.
Bob: As a descendent of two sons of Jacob Hochstetler (John and Joseph), I have heard this story all my life, and have long wanted to write about it. The period, the international and intercultural tensions, the challenges our pioneer ancestors faced, the courageous choice of non-resistance in the face of aggression, the years of separation and captivity, the eventual return to their home and kindred, and more, continues to excite and intrigue me.
What is your background?
Joan: I was raised on a farm near Kokomo, Indiana. My father was a farmer and we were members of Howard-Miami Mennonite Church. I graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Germanic Languages and minors in history and sociology, got married, had kids, all the usual things one does. I moved to Nashville, Tennessee, in the early 1990s and for many years was an editor with Abingdon Press, an imprint of The United Methodist Publishing House. In 2006 I founded a small publishing house, Sheaf House Publishers, to publish mainly inspirational fiction. I’m also an author. I’m writing a long sprawling saga of the American Revolution, the American Patriot Series, and I’ve also published a contemporary novel, One Holy Night.
Bob: I was raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, and received Bible and English degrees at Cincinnati Bible College and Bloomfield College in New Jersey. I served with my wife, Robin, for twelve years as an officer in The Salvation Army. have since become an award-winning writer, editor, and speaker. My thirty-five books, which include the award-winning Don’t Check Your Brains at the Door—co-authored with Josh McDowell—and the novel, The Bone Box, have sold over three million copies). My wife and I have two children and four beautiful grandchildren—with a fifth on the way.
Why is this an important story?
The Authors: The story of the Hochstetler massacre is important and well-known in the Amish and Mennonite communities not only because of its historical significance to the first organized Anabaptist settlement on this continent but also because of its affirmation of nonresistance. It also has contemporary significance as a powerful testimony to the church and the world today.
Who are the people in this story?
The Authors: The main characters are Jacob Hochstetler and his wife, whose name is unknown, and their children John, Barbara, Jacob, Joseph, Christian, and an unnamed daughter. Using the accounts in our family genealogy book, Descendents of Jacob Hochstetler, and Early Amish Land Grants in Berks County, Pennsylvania, which lists other Amish settlers in the Northkill community, we were able to add many of the real people who were their neighbors, friends, and fellow church members. We also know or have very good evidence that they were in contact with several well known people of the time, such as Conrad Weiser, and we included them as well. Almost everyone who appears in the story is a real person.
How do you create a story around a historical event? How much concrete research is it based upon, how much is educated guesswork?
The Authors: That depends on the facts that are available for the story you’re trying to tell. Obviously you have to start with what’s been documented, and for Northkill we had an astonishing amount of facts, considering that these events took place 257 years ago. The story was handed down orally through the family for many years before it was written down. Contemporary accounts that were discovered in the Pennsylvania Archives and elsewhere more recently have confirmed the great majority of the family tradition, which is pretty amazing.
We started with very small snippets of action and conversations that were remembered and handed down by the survivors of the attack, documented in Descendants of Jacob Hochstetler. The work of more recent historians like John A. Hostetler, J. Virgil Miller, and Beth Hostetler Mark have been helpful as well. And, of course, we consulted all available historical records, such as Jacob’s deposition by British Colonel Henry Bouquet at Camp Carlisle after he escaped from the Indians, which provides invaluable details of the journey he and his sons were taken on when they were carried away; it also tells us a good deal about Jacob’s intelligence, endurance, and resourcefulness. To flesh out details of our ancestors’ daily lives and create action and dialog, we had to make many educated guesses based on other historical records of the time and the beliefs and practices of the Amish today.
You are both Hochstetlers/Hostetlers. Can you tell us something about your family tree? Any idea how many Hochstetlers are out there today? How many Amish and non-Amish?
Joan: I’m descended from the oldest son, John through his descendents Henry, David H., David D., William D., and Alvin W.
Bob: My grandfather, David A. Hostetler, was born into an Amish family in Goshen, Indiana, where he was known as “Adam’s Davey.” Though he left the community as a young man, he maintained strong ties to his extended family and in the 1950s compiled a family history entitled Descendants of David J. Hochstetler with his aunt, Drusilla (Yoder) Hostetler. I am the third son of David’s first son, Charles Vernon Hostetler.
I wish I knew the number of Hochstetlers and Hostetlers out there today (an article by Daniel E. Hochstetler, one of the founders of The Jacob Hochstetler Family Association, founded in 1988, tries to extrapolate the possible extent of the family today). The JHFA has published a newsletter since its founding that has reached thousands (and a “Descendants of Jacob Hochstetler” Facebook group has 1,000+ members). Since 1988, the JHFA has hosted a “Nationwide Gathering” every five years that has attracted as many as 1,200 people (the 2013 reunion was held in Lewistown, Pennsylvania; locations are currently being scouted for the 2018 gathering).
According to our cousin Daniel, it is likely that “Most people with Amish or Amish Mennonite connections, west of Lancaster County, Pa., likely are Hochstetler-related.” He says the reason for the exception is that all of Jacob’s children and grandchildren either died in Berks Co. or went West to central Pa. (Mifflin/Juniata Counties) or southwest Pa. (Somerset/Cambria Counties) and from there fanned out across Pa. and Md. and westward to Ohio and beyond. None went directly to Lancaster and surrounding counties, though a few did later marry or move there.
Regarding how many Hochstetlers are Amish, we have no idea. Daniel guesstimates that “the Old Order Amish are a rather small minority of the total H/H/H descendants today–likely less than 25%. If you include the various groups who use or have used the designation Amish Mennonite, that proportion might increase some.”
As widespread as the family is today, I still use a little “shorthand” method when I meet someone named Hostetler (or whose ancestry includes the name): I ask if there is an Indian massacre in their family history. If they answer yes, I tell them we’re almost certainly related, then.
You might also like:
Just drew our 2 contest winners. See the updated contest section at the top of the post.
Love true stories
Hate to see all the syrupy stories about the Amish. Am anxious to read these historical books. I spend time with Ohio Amish every year and admire them immensely.
Barbara's descendant's dreams
My husband and I are descendants of Barbara Stutzman. Upon reading the Northkill story years ago, I was reminded of a recurrnig dream I had when my children were small. I was frantic in trying to hide them from Indian attack, fearful of the loft, and terrified of the cellar. Now it could have come from the movies, “Unconquered,” etc…but I often wonder if there really is genetic memory.
That’s a fascinating story, Dixie, and an intriguing question. There’s much about the human mind and genetics that we don’t understand, that’s for sure. Thank you for sharing your experience. You’ve given us something to ponder. Blessings, Joan
Just finished reading the book!
Finally got to read my copy of Northkill. WOW! It was a wonderful read and I had great difficulty putting it down. My husband also “breezed” right through it. We’re planning to take a drive to the area where this occured. Living in the Lehigh Valley of PA it won’t be a difficult trip ;0)
Cannot wait for the second book!!!
A Big Thank You
Amy, thank you for reading Northkill, and for commenting so kindly. The area where the massacre took place is marked with a historical marker. The property is privately owned, but the residents have been known to grant access to people who call ahead for an appointment (the management at the Roadside America have had the contact info in the past).
Thanks again for reading and recommending Northkill.
Thank you so much for your feedback. Bob and I are delighted that you enjoyed Northkill! It does an author’s heart good to learn that their story blessed readers. We’re both tied up on other projects right now but plan start work on book 2 soon and hope to have it out in 2016.
Oh no! I’m not very patient with waiting…… I’ll be praying that you finish your other projects well ahead of schedule and have the time to continue with Northkill :0)
Amy, we definitely appreciate those prayers! We’re eager to jump back into the Northkill series, so keep on praying!
I purchased and read Northkill a couple of months ago. I must admit that the horrific massacre scene brought me to tears…not a common occurrence for me! But the fact that the story IS based on an actual massacre really made it hit home for me. I have a much deeper appreciation for ALL early settlers to our country, and what they ultimately lived through…the price they paid for freedom.
I am patiently waiting for the second volume. Good luck with all your literary endeavors!
Alice, this story has also given Bob and me a deeper appreciation of the early settlers’ travails. It’s truly humbling to think of all they endured–even when they didn’t have Indian attacks to deal with. I’m not sure I’d have been able to survive it all. Those were hardy souls.
Thank you so much for your kind comments!
I live in Berks County and I love Berks history. Today I tried to find Ft. Northkill and I couldn’t find it. I went to Fort Road and parked by a sign which reads ” The site of Ft. Northkill is located 500 feet NW of here”. I have read that the fort stood on a rise that has views in all directions and all that remains today is the cellar hole. I have visited web sites that have the site marked on a road higher on the mountain but the road seems to be private. Have you visited the site of Ft. Northkill?
I ordered your book and I can’t wait to read it. Thanks!
Hi, Adam! Thank you so much for your feedback! Unfortunately I haven’t been to the site of Fort Northkill. It’s been a while since I visited the Shartlesville area, and when I was there I didn’t have any information on where the fort was located. Last summer when we went to the Hochstetler Gathering, we stopped at the site of Fort Loudoun at Fort Loudon, PA, which was very similar to Fort Northkill and has been reconstructed. Seeing it gave me a good feel for what Northkill must have looked like. Since then I was able to trace the actual site of Fort Northkill, and I’d love to visit it someday, though if the road leading to it is, in fact, private, obviously that may not be possible. I hope Bob and my interpretation of the story blesses you!