Northkill: Giveaway and Author Q & A

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.

Northkill Novel Amish Hochstetler

Northkill Giveaway

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 amishamerica@gmail.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 ewesner@gmail.com) 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?

J.M. HochstetlerJoan: 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 HostetlerBob: 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.

Northkill Amish Settlement
Sign marking the historic location of the Northkill Amish settlement. Photo: Mennonite Church USA

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.

Northkill Amish HochstetlerI 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.

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  1. Frances Ruth Harris

    What is the procedure for someone who is not Amish to become “Amish?” What are the rewards that Amish people find “in the simple life?” Where does Amish culture generally intersect with the larger culture?

  2. Marilyn

    Comments on Nortkill Giveway and Author Q & A

    I would love to read that book. I was wondering how long does it take to write a book like that. With all the history and investigation it must take a long time.

    1. Marilyn, it sure does take a long time to write a story like this. We hope to get book 2 out in a couple of years. That’s about how long it takes to do the research and develop the storyline and characters.

  3. Tom

    I have been to that area and saw the sign that is pictured. Also, have read a few short stories about this but would like to read this book and the other.

  4. Robert Gschwind

    Shared on FB

    I share all of the articles on Facebook. This one is a real pleasure.

  5. Stephanie Rollins

    I want to read this!

    What a great piece of history to write about!

  6. AGB

    Can't wait!

    History & Amish combined! And…. I noticed on the cover that it is book 1. How many can we anticipate for this series?

  7. Debbie Halcomb

    One of my favorite types of fiction to read is historical based on real events and people. I would like to read this book. Where can I purchase this book if I do not win a copy?

  8. Juanita Cook

    This sounds like a very interesting book that I would love to read.

  9. Northkill Giveaway

    As a member of a Brethren in Christ congregation I am well aware of the name Hostetler within our Pa church and am very interested in the history of the Amish. This being an historical fictional account would be well read once donated to our church library

  10. OldKat

    Count me in ... again.

    Well, I guess now I have TWO books that I want to read about this incident. Good luck to the authors of this book.

  11. What a wonderful story.

    I would really like to read this book, thank you for the chance to win a copy.


  12. Patsy Houston

    Love anything Amish

    I would love to read the history in this book. I love reading anything Amish

  13. Eugenia


    I have read bits and pieces about this event and would love to have the book so I can really learn more.

  14. Marty

    history buff

    Love to read about incidents not generally well-known. Good luck with your book.

  15. Carol

    hope to win

    Sounds very interesting. Have read 2 Amish fiction by Murray Pura that are set in historical eras and found them interesting, but wonder how true to the time they really are.

  16. Looks like an interesting read. Would love win! Thanks!

  17. Kimberly S.

    Would LOVE to win this :)

    I have heard a little about this piece of history. I love to read anything Amish related. We are transitioning to a simpler life and I’ve been reading a lot about Amish traditions. I also homeschool so I could incorporate this book into our studies!

  18. Margaret

    Loved this post! I definitely want to read this book, and was excited to see that it is just Book 1! How many will be in this series of books, or is that known yet?

  19. Mike

    My wife and three children would LOVE these books. We would add these books to our children’s elective reading homeschool program. Thanks!

  20. Alice Mary

    Thanks, once again, for an opportunity to win what sounds like a very intriguing book. Historical fiction has always interested me, and I will also suggest these recent titles to our Adult Services fiction selector to purchase for our library.

    Good luck, everyone!

    Alice Mary

  21. Northkill Amish Series

    Thank you, everyone, for stopping by and for your comments about Northkill! There are going to be 2 books in the series. Book 1 develops the lives of our ancestors and covers the attack and the survivors’ separation at the French fort they were taken to. Book 2, The Return, will portray their lives among the Indians, Jakob’s harrowing escape, and the efforts made by the older children Johannes and Barbara to find them. (We use the German spellings of the names in the book.) It will end some years after the return of the 2 boys at Jakob’s deathbed.

    Northkill is available on all the major online retailers–Christianbook.com, Amazon, Barnesandnoble.com, and others. If it’s not on the shelf at your local bookstore, most retailers should be able to order it. You can find more info and hotlinks to all the online sites on my website at http://www.jmhochstetler.com, and Bob has info on his site too at http://www.bobhostetler.com/.

    One caution: Bob and I wouldn’t recommend this series for young children. It’s written on an adult level and portrays this time period and the events of the war in ways that wouldn’t be appropriate for youngsters. We extensively researched Northkill, and based it very closely on the stories handed down by our ancestors and the information we could find in available resources. I think most adults and mature high-school students will find this story exciting, educational, and deeply inspiring as well.

    1. Christine McDermott

      I was a lucky winner of Jacob’s Choice. The day it came I left my husband read it first under the condition he doesn’t tell me about it. The letter that came with the book, from the publisher, warned that it would be hard to put down once you start reading it. They were right. The only break he took was to eat dinner and supper. He finished most of it one day.

      The only thing he did share with me was that it mentions places near us Muncy, Hughesville and Lycoming Creek areas near Williamsport, PA.

      I just started reading it today.

  22. I finished reading Jacob’s Choice in two days. It left me wanting to know more about the family. It is agonizing to have to wait for the second in the series. Please put my name on the Giveaway List.

    Thank you.

    Nancy Lininger

  23. Gary Counterman

    Are these books popular reads for the Amish themselves or with Northkill will it likely be? Besides reading religious material is reading for pleasure all right to do in Amish culture?

    1. Popular Amish Reading

      Erik can probably answer this question better than I can, Gary. I do know that many Amish readers enjoy fiction that has a godly, uplifting message. Although few read the popular Amish romances, they do have favorite fiction authors who are familiar with and known in the community. We’ve had considerable interest in Northkill because the story of the Hochstetler attack is so well known, and a couple of Amish bookstores are stocking it as well as Masthof. Forgot to mention them before. You’ll find Northkill on their site at http://www.masthof.com/bookstore/bookstore_viewbook.php?id=3598. I’m trying to find other Amish bookstores that might be interested in Northkill too, so if anyone knows of some, I’d appreciate contact info.

    2. Amish readers?

      Sounds like a good answer from Joan. I could see Amish readers picking this one up, those who do read fiction. There is an interest among many Amish in their history and forefathers. Fiction reading is a matter of personal preference but also custom in a given church and community. You see a lot of both Amish and inspirational fiction in bookstores in Amish areas and they are read by some Amish.

      Valerie Weaver-Zercher commented wrote about Amish readers of Amish-themed fiction, by her response it is a mixed bag: https://amishamerica.com/who-reads-amish-fiction/

      Amish definitely read for pleasure, they just get pleasure from different sources–some from fiction, some from correspondence letters in the Budget or a similar paper, some from the daily newspaper, some from non-fiction, and so on.

      1. Gary Counterman

        Thanks Joan and Erik for answering my questions. Nice to know the Amish find reading not only useful, but one of life’s pleasures too! It makes sense that just like the rest of us preferences vary from person to person.

  24. Christy

    This sounds like quite a piece of history to read. I certainly would love to.

  25. I’m looking forward to reading this book!

    The story of the Hoschstetler massacre has always fascinated me, along with this time-period in history.

  26. I’m looking forward to reading this book!

    The story of the Hoschstetler massacre has always fascinated me, along with this time-period in history.

    Thanks for the interview.

  27. Shari Larsen

    I would love to win a copy of this book, but I plan to read it even if I don’t win.

  28. Beverly

    I loved “Northkill”! It was so awesome and humbling that Jacob was able to keep his nonresistance even while under attack. When I started the book I was unable to put it down. It was a very encouraging book.

    1. Thank you!

      Bless you, Beverly! Thank you so much!

  29. brett

    I feel lucky.

    I wouldn’t mind winning that book. Thanks

  30. Carolyn Allman

    Love Amish

    I live to read Amish books

  31. Sandra Kathleen

    Hochstetler Book Give Away

    Hochstetler is a very common name mentioned often by my Nana, paternal grandmother now passed, who lived in Macungie, PA (Allentown area). I am uncertain if there are Hocstetlers in my family tree, but it wouldn’t surprise me. Nana’s side of the family dates pre-Revolutionary war and did trading with Native Americans in the area.

    I would like to write a historical fiction about a branch of the family on my maternal grandmother’s side. There is already a very crude history “published” in early 1900s, but I would like to verify details and write a more convincing tale. How would I start? The tale begins in Spain and Germany and continues to Pennsylvania.

    I am a real fan of historical fiction and would greatly appreciate your book — won or not! Thank you for the opportunity to read it gratis! Have a good day.

  32. Rachel Gingrich

    comment on Northkill

    would love to have my name on your give a way list. Thanks.

  33. Marcus Yoder

    I want to read this one also. I am related by John, Barbara, and Joseph. I have a book called Test Of Faith by Vera Overholt. It is a book about the Hochstetler’s that is for children.
    Marcus Yoder

    1. Marcus, Vera Overholt’s Test of Faith is a great choice for younger children. Thanks for mentioning it!

  34. Amyc


    I find it exciting that you 2 wrote about your ancestor. I’m a genealogy nut and always find it fun to see an ancestor in a book. (Which I have in one of Joan’s books.)
    Congrats on the release. It really sounds fascinating.

    1. Hi, Amy! Good to see you here! You need to write about that ancestor of yours.

  35. Nancy Consolo

    Can't Wait

    I do genealogy and have seen some research on Northkill. The Hochstettlers are in the branches of my tree and I find them very interesting. Would love to win a book.

  36. Sheryl Lynn


    this sounds like an interesting piece of history to read!

  37. Michelle Conti

    Barbara Hochstetler Stutzman and Christian Stutzman are my 7th Great Grandparents. Looking forward to reading “Northkill” Thanks for a chance to win 🙂

  38. James Priester

    Very good

    I know Bob from our days as Salvation Army officers. His books are all great and well researched.

  39. Kathy Rowe

    Sounds like another great read. Enter me, please.

  40. Linda LANDRETH

    Contest entry

    I would love to read this book. Thanks for having this contest?

  41. Angela Burneka

    Amish Reading Giveaway

    This sounds like an extremely interesting read. I met Bob a couple years ago at Write Like Mad in Hamilton, Ohio. He’s a very informative man.

    1. Bob is a great guy–and one of the best speakers I’ve ever heard. I’m sure that was a very enjoyable event!

  42. Rebecca Bontrager

    Book Giveaway

    This sounds like an interesting read! I believe I am related on my Grandmother’s side.

  43. It’s great to meet so many relatives here that I never knew I had and others who have heard about this story and are interested in learning more. Bob and I appreciate all of you stopping by and leaving a comment. Thank you very much!

  44. Char

    A fascinating story – I can’t wait to read it!

  45. Karen G

    I want to read this book! It’s sounds like a great read. Thank you for the chance to win a copy.

  46. Lori

    I would love to win this book!

  47. Carolsue

    Northkill Contest

    My question is: What is the difference between Mennonites and Amish? I have heard a lot about both and wondered. I would love this book!
    Digicats {at} Sbcglobal {dot} Net

    1. Difference between Amish and Mennites

      Carolsue, the Mennonites and Amish are both Anabaptist groups. The Amish split off from the Mennonites in 1693, led by Jacob Ammann, over doctrinal disagreements. These mainly concerned the issue of maintaining strict separation from the church and shunning members who break their vows of obedience by leaving the church or not submitting to church authority. You’ll find some basic information here: http://www.thirdway.com/Menno/FAQ.asp?F_ID=3. I know Erik includes more info on this site too, and you might want to check out the link to his Amish Online Encyclopedia for more details about the differences.

      1. Mara French

        Jakob Ammann

        Hi Joan, I have some very important information regarding Jakob Ammann, which I’d like to discuss with you. It is quite incredible about his last whereabouts and family. Please contact me or let me know who is the authority on this Jakob Ammann.

  48. Kay from NY

    Interesting article. I really would like to read this book. I will be putting it on my wish list. Thank you for the opportunity to win.

  49. Thank you to everyone who stopped by and joined the conversation! I’ve really enjoyed it.