Monday, February 27, 2017

Early Pennsylvania German Homes

During the 1700s large numbers of Germans migrated to the British colonies. Many settled in Pennsylvania, among them my Hochstetler ancestors, who came to this country in 1738. Naturally the first necessity for any settler was shelter, so today we’re going to take a look at the typical homes of these German immigrants.

Bertolet-Schneider Log Cabin 
Most of the earliest Pennsylvania German homes were constructed of straight-hewn logs with finely dovetailed joints, but German settlers were also noted for their sturdily built stone houses. Many homes, whether log or stone, were constructed in a distinctively medieval form that featured steep roofs sometimes covered with red clay tiles, thick walls, and small, irregularly spaced windows. A central fireplace was most common, in contrast to the British style of construction that featured a fireplace on each end of the building.

Swiss-style House
Traditional floor plans had 1 to 3 rooms with a corner stairway that led up to a loft or second floor. The 3 room layout included a large kitchen or Küche on one side of the central chimney and two smaller rooms, the Stube (parlor) and Kammer (bedroom) on the other side, both entered from the kitchen. The two room layout had only a kitchen (also called a hall) and a parlor, which were on opposite sides of the central chimney. The second story contained additional bedrooms and separate space for storage. An attic provided additional storage and space for food preservation.

Five-plate Stove
The outside entrance into the house was traditionally through the kitchen. Generally a long narrow room on the northwest side of the house, this space included the great, open fireplace, used for cooking and heating, a large worktable, and the dining table with benches or chairs. The main room was the parlor, heated by a closed five-plate stove, also called a close stove or jamb stove, that was a cast-iron, porcelain, or earthenware box, either plain or ornately decorated. The back side of this kind of stove was open and mortared into the brick or stones of the chimney. The rear of the kitchen fireplace, then, had an opening called the stove hole or offenloch, through which either wood for burning or hot air could be fed into the stove.
Henry Antes House, 1736

Some early stone houses were built over a spring to provide running water and a cool area for food storage in the basement. Others were built into a bank or hillside, partially underground for cold storage as well as for lower cost and efficiency, a style attributed to medieval Swiss tradition. Many banked houses were later expanded to become 2 or 3 stories with the ground floor then used only as a kitchen or for storage. 

Fort Zeller
On the Pennsylvania frontier many houses were fortified by adding extra thick walls and small windows as defense against Indian attack. Fort Zeller, built in 1745 near Newmanstown, Lebanon County, was actually a house built in this manner rather than a true fort. Zeller’s Fort is one of the few and rare remaining examples of Germanic Architecture in the Western Hemisphere and is also Pennsylvania’s oldest existing fort. Pioneers who came to the Tulpehocken from the Schoharie valley built it in 1723 and rebuilt it in 1745. It was used as a place of refuge during Indian Wars.

I sometimes complain about all the household work I have to do even though I have at hand a multitude of labor-saving devices and technology to make my life easier. When I think about our pioneer ancestors, who had work to do almost every waking hour, most of it hand labor, I’m humbled and grateful. Next month I’m going to take a more detailed look at the housewife’s daily cores and the implements she had to accomplish her work. Believe me, all of us have things very easy today in comparison!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Endorsements for The Return!

Bob Hostetler and J. M. HochstetlerWe’ve already received a number of terrific endorsements for The Return, which releases April 1. You can now preorder the print edition from Here’s what authors and history experts are saying about this conclusion of the Northkill Amish Series!

“An absorbing sequel to Northkill, The Return concludes the story of the authors’ Amish ancestors, Jakob, Joseph, and Christian Hochstetler, as each contends with Indian captivity and wrestles with issues of identity, family, and spiritual truth. Skillfully researched detail—both the 18th century Amish world and that of Native America—heart-wrenching emotional journeys, and profoundly rendered themes of grace and God’s sovereignty combine to create a tale I couldn’t read fast enough, yet didn’t want to end.” —Lori Benton, Christy-award-winning author of Burning Sky, A Flight of Arrows, and other historical novels

The Return is frontier fiction at its finest, made all the more remarkable given it is the authors’ own family history. Compelling and heartbreaking yet always full of hope, with enduring spiritual truths woven by master wordsmiths, this story is not only difficult to put down, it has a timeless quality that leaves you pondering for days. Beautiful!” —Laura Frantz, bestselling author of A Moonbow Night

The Return continues the agonizing story of capture, exile, enslavement, harrowing escape and reunion of a family torn asunder by war. It captures in terrible and poignant detail the emotional and spiritual tug of war between conflicting loves, loyalties, and beliefs born of the human will to survive. Even more beautifully, The Return reminds us that betwixt and between life’s deepest struggles, there is a divine integrity to reality that transcends our many cultures, creeds, failures and victories. I didn’t want this story to end, it is that good. And, for me, a descendent of the family whose story is told here, it hasn’t!” —James Hostetler Brenneman, President, Goshen College

“Filled with the life-changing events of a family legacy, the authors show us a story filled with emotion, adventure, and determination. Beautifully crafted and authentic, The Return takes us on a historical journey that allows us to not only know this family, but feel their plight. A read well worth your time.” —Cindy Sproles, award winning author of Mercy’s Rain

“I was delighted to read The Return, a wonderful and enthralling story that continues the saga of Northkill about a family that could be yours or mine. Distant cousins J. M. Hochstetler and Bob Hostetler bring to life the tale of their common ancestor, Jakob Hochstetler, and how he and his sons braved Indian captivity and later returned to their own people to forge new lives in their Christian communities. I admire and appreciate that no blame is cast or bitterness is held against their Native American captors. The importance of such stories cannot be underestimated. We all need to know the past so we can make a better future.” —Louise M. Gouge, author of A Family for the Rancher

“The authors move readers into a bygone era and make it come to life, with survival struggles that challenge the Amish faith and way of life along with the grittiness of pioneer stamina and determination. Here is history with human drama.” —Dr. Dennis E. Hensley, author of Pseudonym

“In this engaging sequel to Northkill, readers will be drawn into Christian and Joseph’s heart-rending dilemma: Should they remain with their Lenape family and friends or return to their birth family and their Christian faith? The authors’ use of historic and authentic-to-the-period details make Christian and Joseph’s relationship with their adoptive 18th century Lenape families come to life!” —Beth Hostetler Mark, Librarian Emeritus, Messiah College

“Working from known chronology and geography and extensive research on the life of Indians at that time, the authors have constructed a gripping, plausible narrative of the return of our ancestors from Indian captivity. The high drama will keep you eagerly reading and the ending will warm your heart. Descendants, whether biological or in faith, will gain a new appreciation of our heritage.” —Daniel Hochstetler, teacher, historian, and editor emeritus of the JHFA Newsletter

Monday, January 30, 2017

Conrad Weiser

Conrad Weiser statue
Conrad Weiser is one of the most remarkable and influential figures in colonial Pennsylvania history. Beginning at the age of 17, he served variously as a diplomat and interpreter for his fellow Germans and the Indians, Pennsylvania’s Indian agent, and a colonel of the militia. A close friend of powerful Indian and colonial leaders, he was also a faithful husband and father of 14 children, a farmer, a tanner, a founder of the town of Reading, a monk at the Ephrata Cloister, a leader in the Lutheran Church, a promoter of Moravian missions, a hymn-writer, and a woodsman. He appears several times in Northkill and the forthcoming The Return.

Conrad Weiser was born November 2, 1696, in the German principality of Wurttemberg. After his mother’s death, his father, Johann Conrad Weiser, migrated to America in 1710 with his children and settled on the New York frontier. At the age of 15, Conrad went to live with their Mohawk neighbors at the Indian Castle at the mouth of the Schoharie River in order to learn the language of the Iroquois so he could serve as a go-between for the German community. Under the guidance of the Mohawk chief, Quagnant, Weiser acquired a keen knowledge of the Iroquois language, religion, and social customs and was soon in almost constant demand as an interpreter and negotiator.

Weiser married Anna Eva Fegg on November 22, 1720 and in 1729 moved his family to the Tulpehocken Valley in present-day Berks and Lebanon counties in Pennsylvania, where many Germans from New York were migrating. After they settled on 200 acres near Womelsdorf, Weiser soon became a close friend of Shikellamy, a powerful chief of the Oneidas who had been sent to the area by the Iroquois to rule over the Lenape nation. Shikellamy became a frequent guest at the Weiser home and insisted he serve as interpreter for all negotiations with the provincial officials.

Recognizing Weiser’s value, in 1731 the governor placed him in charge of all Indian affairs for the colony. Weiser worked closely with Shikellamy to keep the frontier peaceful and was deeply involved in the implementation of Pennsylvania’s Indian policy, which recognized the dominance of the Iroquois over all other Indian nations in the colony. Weiser was predominantly responsible for negotiating every major treaty between the colonial settlers in Pennsylvania and the Iroquois Nations from 1731 until 1758. He convinced the Six Nations to take no part in the quarrels between the French and the English. This long-standing friendship eventually resulted in the other Indian nations withdrawing their allegiance from the French as well, which contributed greatly to France’s eventual defeat. Weiser’s courage and good will impressed the Iroquois so much that they named him Tarachiawagon, Holder of the Heavens.

When the French and Indian War broke out along the frontier, Weiser was chosen to be the commander of the local militia. Pennsylvania soon formed a provincial militia and built a line of outposts, and in 1756 Weiser was commissioned as lieutenant colonel in command of the 1st Battalion, Pennsylvania Regiment, which was responsible for manning the line between the Delaware and Susquehanna Rivers. He held this post until he retired 1758. That year General John Forbes’s expedition to Fort Du Quesne forced the French to abandon and burn this great stronghold. Weiser was instrumental in negotiating the 1758 Treaty of Easton, which ended the great majority of Indian raids in eastern Pennsylvania.

Ephrata Cloister
 Anna Eva bore Weiser 14 children, seven of whom lived to adulthood. Although a Lutheran, Weiser joined the monastic community of Ephrata Cloister between 1735 and 1741, intermittently withdrawing from family and political life to live there. He eventually became disillusioned with the Cloister’s leader, however, and returned to the Lutheran Church. He helped found Trinity Church in Reading, and his daughter Maria married Henry Melchoir Muhlenberg, a leading minister of the Lutheran Church in Pennsylvania. Weiser also actively promoted the missions the Moravian Church established to the Indians in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

A major landholder, farmer, tanner, and businessman, Weiser remained active in local affairs until the end of his life. He served as a magistrate for Lancaster County and helped to found the town of Reading in 1748 and Berks County in 1752, which he served as its first justice of the peace. He established a general mercantile in Reading, the first in the community, and built a home there in 1758 after turning the management of his farm over to 2 of his sons. He died at his farm on July 13, 1760, at the age of 63.

Weiser’s influence was so great that after his death relations between the colonists and the Indians rapidly began to decline. The most fitting tribute to this remarkable man was given by an Iroquois leader speaking to a group of colonists: “We are at a great loss and sit in darkness … as since his death we cannot so well understand one another.” How different might the relations between the new United States and the Native Americans have been if he had lived long enough to serve through the Revolution.

Weiser home
 Owned now by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Conrad Weiser Homestead at Womelsdorf is managed by the Pennsylvania Historical Museum Commission, which interprets Weiser’s life and preserves the restored structures and graveyard. The park contains statues of Weiser and Shikellamy as a memorial to Weiser’s great friendship with the Indians.

Originally posted on the Heroes, Heroines, and History blog.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Researching the Series

Doing the research for a historical novel can be intense if you’re committed to authenticity and accuracy. Bob and I are fortunate that so much information exists on the Hochstetler massacre. We relied heavily on oral accounts passed down in the massive genealogical books Descendents of Jacob Hochstetler (DJH) and Descendents of Barbara Hochstetler Stutzman (DBH). We’re also greatly indebted to family researchers who located accounts in newspapers and other records of the day preserved in the Pennsylvania State Archives and in private collections. One of the most fascinating is Jacob’s interrogation by the British after he escaped from the Seneca village where he was held captive for seven months. Beth Hostetler Mark published this account in her compilation Our Flesh and Blood: A Documentary History of the Jacob Hochstetler Family During the French and Indian War Period, 1757–1765.

Jacob had been behind French lines and in 3 French forts during his captivity, and therefore was brought from Fort Augusta, which he reached on his escape, to Carlisle, Pennsylvania, to be interrogated by Colonel Henry Bouquet, second in command to British General John Forbes. This account survives in the Pennsylvania Archives and in Bouquet’s published papers, Vol I covering Dec 11, 1755, to May 31, 1758.

Colonel James Burd
Bouquet’s Papers include the letter of Colonel James Burd, the commander at Fort Augusta to Pennsylvania governor William Denny on May 30, 1758, in which he describes Jacob’s arrival at the fort. “About five minutes before I march’d from Augusta, I observed a white man floating down the west branch on a piece of bark. I sent and took him up, he proved to be a Dutchman that was taken prisoner last Fall nigh to Reading and had made his escape from an Indian town above Vanango. I brought him with me to this place and Col Bouquet took his deposition and sent it to the General to which I beg leave to refer your Honour” (Papers of Henry Bouquet, Vol I, p. 396).

Bouquet’s first reference to Jacob is in a letter to General Forbes dated Carlisle May 29, 1758: “I had a German peasant brought here who was taken prisoner last year, and taken to Venango, etc. I am enclosing his deposition. The man is very stupid, and speaks only rude German. I did not think it necessary to send him to you. He is almost dead of hunger, having lived on grass for several days” (Papers of Henry Bouquet, Vol I, p. 388). Bouquet disliked the nonresistant Amish Swiss Germans who refused to bear arms, and his letters often express disgust at having to protect people who will not protect themselves.

According to Mark, although Jacob’s name was recorded in the deposition as John Hochtattler, “the details included in the ‘Examination’ so closely resemble the family story—both as recorded in newspapers and transmitted by oral tradition (DJH)—that family researchers, including the editor, believe that “John Hochttatler” was actually Jacob Hochstetler.” I haven’t found any record of another Indian captive with a name similar to Hochstetler or one who was from Berks County, Bern Township, and I also concur that the subject of this interrogation must be our ancestor.

This resource has been invaluable to us as we’ve striven to turn the bare historical records into a gripping story. Jacob and his 2 younger sons were taken on a 17-day journey from their home near present-day Shartlesville, Pennsylvania, to the French stronghold of Fort Presque Isle on the shore of Lake Erie—a journey of roughly 300 miles. Clearly, in spite of Bouquet’s unflattering assessment, Jacob must have been a strong, intelligent, and resourceful man to have endured what he did, find a way to escape, keep track of time and miles, give the answers he did during the interrogation despite being “half dead”, return home without any help from the British, and then pursue efforts to locate until finally his sons were returned to him. He was certainly a man of unwavering faith.

Following is the “Examination,” which reflects the French transcriber’s spelling, e.g., words like jou” for “you.” The information within brackets was inserted for the sake of clarity. The dates given by the transcriber are incorrect according to facts that have since come to light.

Jacob's Examination, p. 1
Examination of John Hochstattler

Intelligence given by John Hochstattler a Swiss by nation which settled in Bergs County, Berner Township, near Kauffman’s Creek was taken by the enemy Indians the 12th of October 1757 [actually September 20] and escap’d from them arriving at Shamokin 5th [actually the 24th] May 1758 [Shamokin was formerly an Indian village at the junction of the north and west branches of the Susquehanna River, at the present site of Sunbury, Northumberland County, PA. Fort Augusta was erected there by the colony in 1756].

Q. By What, and how Many Indians was you taken?
A. By the Delaware and Shawanese 15 in the whole.
Q. Which way did you pas’d before jou came into the Enemys Country?
A. We March’d 3 Days before we arrived at the Est branch of Susquahanna 20 miles from Shamokin where it was fordable, from there whe keept intirely West all along the west Branch, till after 17 Days Journey we arrived on the Ohio. [The Allegheny River. Indians and many Whites considered the it to be the upper course of the Ohio and its headwaters.]
Q. In what place on the Ohio do jou arrivd?
A. Where the French Cr empties in to Ohio there upon the Corner is a small Fort [Fort Mechault built by the French in 1756] Established lately, of Logs, Framed together, there are 25 Men Garrisoned in it, without Artillery, there we passed the Ohio for to come by it, the place is call Wenango [Venango, a former Indian village and important trading post at the mouth of French Creek, the present site of Franklin, Venango Co., PA.]
Q. How do jou proceeded further?
Jacob's Examination, last page
A. Up the French Creek 3 Days traveling on Battoes at the end of it we came to a fort [Fort LeBoeuf built by the French in 1753 at present day Waterford, Erie Co. Pa.] built in the same Maner as the other, and Garrisoned, with 25 Men, from there the French Creek a Road to Presque Isle [Fort Presque Isle built by the French in 1753 at present-day Erie, Pennsylvania] wich is a Days Journey from it Distant.
Q. What became of jou after that?
A. After 3 Days travel Est south Est, I was brought to Buxotons Cr [Buxotons is another spelling of Buckaloons, one of the names given to Brokenstraw Creek and to the village at its mouth near present Irvine, Pa.] where it emptys in the Ohio whe came to an Indian Castle which lys upon the Corner of it, there I was keept Prisoner all the that time.
Q. Do jou ever hear anything of Fort Du Quesne / .
A. Ten Days before I Escaped five Dutch Prisoners was brought up by the Indians from there wich told me there was 300 Man Garrisond in Fort du Quesne, the Provision Scarce, so that the Indians was oblichd to bring away thier Womans and famelys which they generally left there, for to be nourish’d in thier absence / .
Q. Are there any Works about, besyts the Fort jous heard of / .
A. The same People told me that there was a Dutchman Prisoner for 3 years in the Fort, a Baker by Trade, which shewd them a Hill, at the opposite of the Fort over the Monungahela, telling them If the English was there that the could certainly take the Fort with 200 Man because the French had nothing upon it / .
Q. Do jou never heard what Cañons the French had there / .
A. Yes I heard several but all Dismounted / .
Q. Do jou never Learnd if the Indians Receivd Order for Marching against us?
A. 5 Days before I did escape an old Indian was telling to me shewing against all parts of the world, that Indians was coming there and then he shewed about Est south Est, telling that the would attack the English there, wich I did imagine that It was Intended for Shamokin / .
Q. Do you Ever Learn from how the French got Intelligence of / .
A. 6 Weeks before my Departing there came 2 Delaware Indians telling that the came from Shamoking that the Comandat took thier arms from them not trusting, and that the English was Drawing together about Conostoge [Conestoga about seven miles south of Lancaster near present Millersville] or Lancaster, paying up a great Deal of Cattle, that the Designd to attack the great Fort, du Quesne and the was waiting till the grass was groan / .
Q. How do you Escapd from there, how long and in what Mañer do jou was coming, and where did jou arrive / .
A. I got the liberty for hunting, one morning Wery soon took my gun finding Bark Canoe on the River wherein I crossd it, traveling Est for 6 Days from there I arrvd at the source of the west Branch, there I march for 4 Days further till I was sure of it, there I took several Bloks tying them together till I got a flott, there I flotted myself Down the River for 5 Days where I did arrive at Shamokin, Living all time upon grass I passd in the Whole for 15 Days.

(The Papers of Henry Bouquet,1972, Vol I, pp. 391-393)

Originally posted on the Colonial Quills blog.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Sheaf House eBook Sale!

Time to stock up on great reading—and great gifts—for Christmas! All Sheaf House ebooks are on sale for only $1.99 through November 30 on Kindle and Nook, which means you can get all 5 volumes of my American Patriot Series for only $9.95!

And for more gripping historical fiction, you’ll find Northkill at the same terrific price. Get caught up with the story before Book 2, The Return, releases April 1, 2017! And for a deeply moving Christmas read, don’t miss my modern-day retelling of the Christmas story One Holy Night. Go to Kindle or Nook. CBD will have their price changed early next week, so if you have an account with them, check back in a few days for that link.

Cozy mystery lovers, you’re going to love E. E. Kennedy’s delightful Miss Prentice Cozy Mystery Series! You’ll find all 4 volumes on Kindle and Nook for only $7.96! CBD link to come.

And if you love heart-warming contemporary women’s fiction, check out Jen Stephens’ Harvest Bay Series! Only $5.97 for all three: The Heart’s Journey Home, The Heart’s Lullaby, and The Heart’s Hostage. The characters will capture your heart! Kindle and Nook. We’ll also have the CBD link for this series soon.

Happy reading!