Monday, December 30, 2013

More Good Words About Northkill

I just got these 2 new endorsements in, and I’m humbled and blessed that this story is touching readers’ hearts so powerfully.

“A deeply moving, even life-changing book, Northkill brings an actual event in American history to life with such skill and poignancy I could hardly bear to read on yet could not put it down. J. M. Hochstetler and Bob Hostetler have brought the pathos and beauty of the American frontier to the page with rare authenticity and depth, crafting a story from their family legacy that will stay with you long after you finish. This historical novel is among the finest I have ever read.” —Laura Frantz, Christy Award finalist and author of The Frontiersman’s Daughter and Love’s Reckoning

Northkill by Bob Hostetler and J. M. Hochstetler is a beautifully poignant tale as deep and varied as the frontier upon which it’s set. Remarkable characters facing extraordinary tests of courage and faith make this story a MUST read!” —Elizabeth Ludwig, author of No Safe Harbor

Many thanks to Laura and Lisa for taking time out of their busy schedules to read Northkill, and for their very kind endorsements. Bob and I know that everything that is good in this story is from the Lord, and we praise his name for entrusting us with putting it into words.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Final Edit and Map

I’m currently doing the final edit on the Northkill draft, which means melding Bob’s edit with mine so we don’t end up with a patchwork of two different styles, voices, and sensibilities. Thankfully, having so many years of experience as a professional editor and historical fiction writer behind me makes things easier. With the holidays at hand and the hard deadline for ordering the proof barreling down on me at warp speed . . . well, let’s just say I’m a wee bit stressed.

A complicating factor is that I’m working with my illustrator, Jim Brown, at the same time to create the map that will go into the book. He’s a true professional and a pleasure to work with, btw. He’s created all of my maps, and I don’t know what I’d do without him. Map making can be an arduous process, however, especially when you’re recreating a true story from a long-ago period and are limited by extant maps and accounts. But serendipity netted us the perfect map to work from, as I shared in a previous post. Along with the maps of ancient Indian trails I found, it will allow us to recreate the route the survivors most likely took when they were carried into captivity. It’s going to be as accurate as it’s possible to make it.

On top of everything else, I still have to figure out what I want to include in the appendix. We have a rough draft, but that will undoubtedly have to be cut down. I’m compiling the glossary as I go along, which has been speeded by the existing appendices from my American Patriot Series, and that will be complete when I finish the final edit.

We are on track to release the print edition on March 1 and should have the e-book editions available early in February. I’ll include links for those here as soon as I have them. Meanwhile, the print edition can be preordered from Amazon, Christian Book Distributors, and Barnes and Noble. Or you can reserve a copy from me directly. Just leave a comment here with your email addy and I’ll get in touch with you.

Sunday, December 22, 2013


Colonel Henry Bouquet
The following is the text of our ancestor Jacob’s deposition, carried out by British Colonel Henry Bouquet on May 30, 1758. Jacob had just escaped from behind the French lines and possessed military intelligence that was valuable to the British military, thus their interest in what he could tell them.

You’ll note that the spelling of Jacob’s name is wrong in this record, probably due to the language barrier. The Hochstetler name appears in a variety of different forms in the records of the day. This John Hochstattler most certainly was Jacob, however, because the details he gives so closely follow the story handed down by the family and aren’t consistent with any other attack during that period. We know from contemporary records that some of the other information in the preface is also incorrect, such as the date of the attack, which happened toward the end of September. Unusual spellings and French accent marks on some words may indicate a transcriber of French descent; Bouquet himself was Swiss and spoke French. Editorial information is shown within brackets.

Bouquet mentioned Jacob in a letter he wrote to his commander, General John Forbes, and called him a “German peasant” who is “very stupid, and speaks only rude German.” The description isn’t surprising since Bouquet was highly unsympathetic to the Swiss Germans who refused to bear arms, and his letters characteristically expressed disgust at having to protect people who won’t protect themselves. However, Jacob’s account of his ordeal and what he observed during his captivity among the Seneca is riveting and a testimony to his intelligence, resourcefulness, endurance, and faith.

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 and escap’d from them arriving at Shamokin 5th May 1758. [Shamokin was a former 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 Pa. in 1756].

Q. By what, and how many Indians were you taken?

A. By the Delaware and Shawanese 15 in the whole.

Q. Which way did you pas’d before you 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 we keept entirely west all along the west branch, till after 17 days journey we arrived on the Ohio.

Q. In what place on the Ohio do you arrivd?

A. Where the French Creek 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 you proceed further?

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 manner 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 located west of the mouth of Mill Creek and a little east of the foot of Parade Street in Erie, Pa.], which is a days journey from it distant.

Q. What became of you after that?

A. After 3 days travel East south East, I was brought to Buxotons Creek [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 we came to an Indian castle which lys upon the corner of it, there I was kept prisoner all the that time.

Q. Do you ever hear anything of Fort DuQuesne?

A. Ten days before I escaped five Dutch prisoners was brought up by the Indians from there which told me there was 300 man garrisond in Fort du Quesne, the provision scarce, so that the Indians was oblichd to bring away their womans and famelys which they generally left there, for to be nourish’d in their 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 Fort over the Monungahela, telling them if the English was there that they could certainly take the Fort with 200 man because the French had nothing upon it.

Q.Do you never heard what canons the French had there.

A. Yes I heard several but all dismounted.

Q. Do you never learnd if the Indians recevd Order for marching against us?

A. 5 days before I 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 East south East, telling that the would attack the English there, which 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 they came from Shamoking that the Comandat took their 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 they desind 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 maner do jou was coming, and where did you 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 East 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.

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

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Another Endorsement

I intended to post our ancestor Jacob’s deposition by the British after his escape from captivity next. But last week I got in another lovely endorsement, so I thought I’d share it first.

This one is from Jocelyn Green, author of the Heroines Behind the Lines Civil War series. I read her first novel, Widow of Gettysburg, which is very absorbing, and I can testify that she’s an amazing writer! My brain is overloaded at the moment, but I'm eagerly looking forward to tucking into Book 2, Wedded to War, as soon as I finally get Northkill off my desk and to the printer.

Here’s Jocelyn’s endorsement.

“A masterpiece. Northkill stole my breath and my heart. With expert skill, the authors blend nail-biting suspense, blood-pumping drama and heartbreaking history into a tale that will both haunt and inspire. A book this rich and multi-dimensional deserves to be read more than once. The second book in the series can’t come quickly enough for me!”

Thank you so much, Jocelyn!

Jacob’s deposition is scheduled to post tomorrow, so be sure to check back. I think you’ll find it quite gripping.

Monday, December 16, 2013

First Endorsement

Bob and I recently sent out advance copies of Northkill to potential endorsers, and I can’t resist sharing the first one, just received today! It’s from my good friend Lori Benton, a new author whose debut novel, Burning Sky, is amazing and a must-read for all of us historical fiction readers! Her second novel, The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn, releases in April 2014, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

Here’s Lori’s review.

“A riveting tale based closely on the life of the authors’ eighteenth-century Amish ancestors during the French and Indian war, Northkill kept me up nights unable to stop reading. The terror, grief, and peril faced by Jakob Hochstetler and his extended family and community are unflinchingly portrayed. Some cling to the hope that even through the most tragic and bewildering of circumstances a loving God has not abandoned them. Others struggle with doubt. Every character’s journey rings with authenticity. I look forward to the conclusion of this thrilling and absorbing story with great anticipation.”
—Lori Benton, author of Burning Sky 

Thank you so much for your kind words and encouragement, Lori!

In my next post I’m going to share the British deposition of our ancestor when he was found half dead of starvation after his escape from the Seneca in May 1758. It’s included in Beth Hostetler Mark’s book Our Flesh and Blood (1993) and was found in the papers of the British colonel who interrogated him: The Papers of Henry Bouquet,1972, Vol I, pp. 391-393.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Final Cover!

Today I got the final cover for Northkill, Book 1 of the Northkill Amish Series by Bob Hostetler and me! My designer, Marisa Jackson, did her usual fantastic job and it turned out gorgeous.

The stream in the image represents Northkill Creek at the base of the Blue Mountains in Pennsylvania, which gave its name to the Amish congregation our ancestor, Jacob Hochstetler, and his family belonged to and where they settled in 1738. I loved this evocative scene from the moment I found it and am thoroughly delighted that it’s now part of this striking cover art.

I’d love to hear what you think! Leave a comment with your feedback!

Northkill is scheduled to publish March 1, 2014, with Book 2 tentatively projected to release in 2016. be sure to watch for further information and announcements on this blog and on my Facebook page and website.

Friday, November 1, 2013

New Interview Posted

I have a new interview up on fReado! Please click on the link to take a look!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Mapping the Captives' Journey

Finishing the last few chapters of this project has been interesting—and a whole lot more complex and time-consuming than I expected. I decided we have to have a map in the book, and putting the information together for my illustrator is slowing progress too. Although little is known about the exact route the captives took when they were carried away by the Indians, it’s possible to take some educated guesses with the help of several resources available both in print and on the Internet.

A particular goldmine is a deposition of a “German peasant” by Colonel Henry Bouquet on May 30, 1758 at Carlisle, Pennsylvania. According to Beth Hostetler Mark, in her book Our Flesh and Blood (2003) the deposition is preserved on microfiche (I’m assuming in the PA Archives) as well as in print among Colonel Bouquet’s papers. The details given by this man, called variously “John Hochtattler” or “Hochstattler,” fit the oral family tradition and the known facts of our ancestors’ story so perfectly that it’s almost certain Jacob was, in fact, the man Bouquet questioned.

A letter by British Colonel James Burd, the commander at Fort Augusta at the forks of the Susquehanna River, to Pennsylvania’s deputy governor William Denney, dated May 24, 1758, accompanies the deposition. It provides additional information confirming the tradition that after Jacob’s escape from the Indians he floated down the Susquehanna River on a raft, or “float.” According to the letter, on May 24 Burd saw a white man floating down the river on a raft just as he was preparing to leave Fort Augusta for the British camp at Carlisle. He had the man pulled out of the river and discovered that he was “a Dutchman That was taken Prisoner last Fall nigh to Reading & had made his Escape from an Indian Town above Venango.” Because this man had been behind enemy lines, Burd took him along to Carlisle and turned him over to Colonel Bouquet for questioning.

After questioning “Hochtattler,” Bouquet, a French-speaking Swiss mercenary serving as the British second in command, sent the deposition to General John Forbes. In his cover letter, which reflects the typical attitude of the British and French toward Germans at the time, he states: “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.”

Well, I think if I’d gone through what Jacob did and almost starved during a 15-day escape, I’d come across as pretty stupid too! It’s particularly nice that, by all indications, the British simply cut Jacob loose after they questioned him and let him find his way back home all the way from Carlisle without providing any transportation or provisions! Somehow he made it.

The introduction to the deposition includes details that are unreliable and can be discounted for the most part, although the general time frame given matches traditions about Jacob’s experience. In the deposition itself, however, “John” gives invaluable information about the journey into captivity, the French forts where he and his sons were taken along with other military intelligence, where he was held captive, and his eventual escape.

In my next post, I’m going to give the text of the deposition, which is fascinating. In later posts, I want to go into more detail about the extensive, historic Indian pathways of Pennsylvania. The information I’ve found is allowing me to reconstruct the captives’ journey with as much accuracy as possible, considering the passage of so many years.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Ordeal of Peter Williamson

A wealth of information has been preserved in the Pennsylvania Archives about the attack on the Jacob Hochstetler family, as well as in accounts handed down through the family. Another very helpful resource I found for fleshing out details is a first-hand account written by Peter Williamson, whose capture by the Delaware Indians in 1754 in the same general area echoes that of my ancestors to a remarkable degree.

You’ll find a pdf download of this book on my American Patriot Series website. It includes truly harrowing descriptions of massacres and torture, which I’ve only skimmed, if not skipped altogether. I recommend that anyone who wants to delve into this compelling story do the same. Following is an excerpt that begins with Peter’s treatment when he was brought to the village where he was kept, and then details the inhabitants’ practices, daily life, and moral values.

“Dancing, singing, and shouting were their general amusements; and in all their festivals and dances they relate what successes they have hand, and what damages they have sustained in their expeditions; in which I became part of their theme. The severity of the cold increasing, they stripped me of my clothes for their own use, and gave me such as they usually wore themselves, being a piece of blanket, a pair of mogganes, or shoes, with a yard of coarse cloth to put round me instead of breeches. . . .

“That they in general wear a white blanket, which, in war time, they paint with various figures, but particularly the leaves of trees, in order to deceive their enemies when in the woods. Their mogganes are made of deer-skins, and the best sort have them bound round the edges with little beads and ribbands. On their legs they wear pieces of blue cloth for stockings, some like our soldiers spatter-dashes; they reach higher than their knees, but no lower than their ankles. They esteem them easy to run in. Breeches they never wear, but instead thereof, two pieces of linen, one before and one behind. The better sort have shirts of the finest linen they can get, and to these some wear ruffles; but these they never put on till they have painted them of various colours which they get from Pecone root, and bark of trees, and never pull them off to wash, but wear them till they fall to pieces.

“They are very proud, and take great delight in wearing trinkets; such as silver plates round their wrists and necks, with several strings of wampum (which is made of cotton, interwoven with pebbles, cockle-shells, &c.) down to their breasts; and from their ears and noses they have rings or beads which hang dangling an inch or two. The men have no beards, to prevent which they use certain instruments and tricks as soon as it begins to grow. The hair of their heads is managed differently, some pluck out and destroy all, except a lock hanging from the crown of the head, which they interweave with wampum and feathers of various colours. The women wear it very long twisted down their backs, with beads, feathers and wampum; and on their heads most of them wear little coronets of brass or copper; round their middle they wear a blanket instead of a petticoat. The females are very chaste and constant to their husbands; and if any young maiden should happen to have a child before marriage, she is never esteemed afterwards.

“As for their food they get it chiefly by hunting and shooting, and boil, or roast all the meat they eat. Their standing dish consists of Indian corn soaked, then bruised and boiled over a gentle fire for ten or twelve hours. Their bread is likewise made of wild oats or sun-flower seeds. Set meals they never regard, but eat when they are hungry. Their gun, tomahawk, scalping knife, powder and shot, are all they have to carry with them in time of war, bows and arrows being seldom used by them. They generally in war decline open engagements; bush fighting or skulking is their discipline; and they are brave when engaged, having great fortitude in enduring tortures and death.

“No people have a greater love of liberty, or affection to their neighbours; but are the most implacably vindictive people upon the earth; for they revenge the death of any relation, or any great affront, whenever occasion presents, let the distance of time or place be ever so remote. To all which I may add, and which the reader has already observed, that they are inhumanely cruel. But some other nations might be more happy, if in some instances they copied them, and made wise conduct, courage, and personal strength, the chief recommendations for war captains, or werowances, as they call them.”

Researching my ancestors’ story has not only provided fascinating information about their lives, but has also inspired me with their amazing fortitude and faith as pioneers and as Christians. I hope Northkill will also inspire all those who read it to live faithful lives whatever their circumstances.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Captives' Ordeal

In writing the story of our ancestors, I’m now at the point in where Jakob and his sons are being carried away from their home by the Indians who killed their family members and burned their farm. According to the account Jacob gave the British after he escaped from the village where he was held captive for seven months, quoted in Our Flesh and Blood by Beth Hostetler Mark, they were taken on a 21-day journey from his home near present-day Shartlesville, Pennsylvania, to the French stronghold Fort Presque Isle on the shore of Lake Erie.

The following vivid account of the ordeals Indian captives suffered is taken from The Descendents of Jacob Hochstetler.

A Captive's Ordeal
Prisoners were always subject to many abuses on arriving at Indian Villages: every old squaw or young Indian would hit them with switches and sometimes clubs and tomahawks. This was known to Hochstetler, who had saved some of the peaches from his home. He now with his sons approached the chief and those near him and presented them some peaches. This so pleased the chief that he immediately ordered the abuses stopped. It also saved them from what is called running the gauntlet, which was as follows: All Indians in the village or camp, both sexes, young and old, would stand in two rows facing each other, armed with switches, sticks and sometimes tomahawks or other implements and the unfortunate captive was made to pass through between the two columns, every one striking and some endeavoring to impede their progress by throwing sand or dust into their eyes, and woe unto one that was slow in running; such a one was beaten unmercifully. At the end of the row stood the guardhouse, where the prisoner for the time was free; but some indeed never reached it.

The details gleaned from recent research all indicate that our ancestor Jacob must have been a strong, intelligent, resourceful, and persistent man to have endured what he did, found a way to escape and return home, and then pursue efforts to locate until finally his sons were returned to him. More important is the faith he demonstrated throughout his ordeal that serves as an example to us all. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013


A few weeks ago a relative mentioned a plat book that shows the area where my ancestor lived at the time of the Indian attacks in 1757. It’s available from Masthof, he told me, for only $20. What a bargain! I noted the information and last week finally got around to ordering the book. Well, yesterday Early Amish Land Grants in Berks County, Pennsylvania arrived in the mail.

As soon as I opened the book, I immediately discovered an unexpected problem: There’s no key indicating directions and mileage. Grrrr! Who would neglect to add that essential data?! So I had to compare the maps to others I have to verify that the top of each of these maps is indeed north. Although that’s the usual case, you can run into trouble making those kinds of assumptions. Then I still had to do searches on mapquest to determine distances between various points, which, of course, are as the crow flies, not via the roads of the time. Helpfully, the book does include a few estimated distances between properties.

After clearing up a few details, I couldn’t be more thrilled! Not only does the book offer detailed plats of and information about the properties owned by members of the Northkill Amish congregation in the exact location and at the exact time of my story, but it also records known details about each of the landholders, such as the names of wives and children; dates of births, marriages, and deaths; and dates those of the first generation immigrated. Wow!

This is just a reminder of how a passing comment can lead you to a real goldmine if you’re paying attention. And most amazing is that I didn’t have to do any digging to find this book; it was right there on the Masthof site. Having this wealth of information will allow me to correct names and information about the members of the Northkill Amish congregation in the Northkill manuscript and make my ancestors’ story as accurate as it’s possible to be!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Reveling in Research

Anyone who aspires to write accurate historical fiction lives and dies by research. I’m especially thrilled when I run across firsthand accounts from the period or histories written not long afterward that contain information you can’t find anywhere else.

While doing research, I regularly run across fascinating sources that have provided those little details and insights that make my stories not only factually accurate, but also lend social and cultural authenticity.

The following are a few of the sources I’ve lucked upon, a few of them pretty obscure, but all very helpful and a few that had me jumping up and down when I found them. Thank goodness nobody was around to witness that!

Many of these are PDF or ebook downloads. Some are specifically concerned with the French and Indian War, but as soon as I have time I'm going to post those that are relevant to the entire colonial period and/or to the American Revolution on my American Patriot Series blog and website as links and/or PDF or Word doc downloads.

Colonial Medicine and Herbs

Colonial Herbs, Miller Cory House Museum

“Colonial Medicine,” the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation

“The Practice of Domestic Medicine During the Colonial Period” by L. G. Eichner, MD


Coffee, Tea, and Chocolate in Early Colonial America

Colonial Recipes

Food Timeline


These contain fabulous detail!

Orderly Book of Captain William Trent at Fort Pitt, May 28-October 16, 1763

“Fort Northkill,” Report of the Commission to Locate the Site of the Frontier Forts of Pennsylvania, vol. 1. (Clarence M. Busch State Printer of Pennsylvania, 1896) This site also offers information on many of the other western Pennsylvania forts.

French and Indian War

War for Empire

French and Indian Cruelty Exemplified in the Life and various Vicissitudes of Fortune, of Peter Williamson by Peter Williamson. (French & Indian War)


Stories of Ohio by William Dean Howells (1897). This covers the earliest history of Ohio through the late 1800s.

Historical Calendars, Sun, Moon, and Tide Data

Miscellany  Historical Calendars

Sun and Moon Data

Tides and Currents, NOAA  Offers a great deal of info on currents and tides, and data can be found for recent years and predictions for near future.


Extremely helpful for us 18th century lovers!

“A Guide to Eighteenth-century English Vocabulary” by Jack Lynch, 2006

Online Etymology Dictionary If you need to know whether a word was in common usage during a certain period and what it meant at that time, this is your site!


“A Father’s Legacy to His Daughters” by the Late Dr. Gregory of Edinburgh (1774) Since the formatting on this free file is a mess, I went ahead and posted a reformatted, downloadable PDF on my American Patriot Series blog. Other downloads will follow on that page asap.


If you love maps, here are some to add to your collection.

Fortifications on the Pennsylvania Frontier in 1756, illustrated by Justin Blocksom, based on the information given in the book The Indian Wars of Pennsylvania, by C. Hale Stipe

“Mapping Pennsylvania’s Western Frontier in 1756,” The Pennsylvania Magazine [PDF download]

Maps, Etc.

Library of Congress


Cost of Living in Colonial Times, The First Foot Guards

Native Americans

“Riding Gear of the North American Indians,” by Clark Wissler, Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History, Vol. XVII (1915). Includes other sections specifically on the Plains Indians as well as a list of contents for a couple of previous volumes.

Sailing Ships

Ahoy, matey, great info here!

Anatomy of an English Man of War. Also pirates, terminology, navigation, ship and sailing info and numerous other subjects. Terrific site!


Nautical Terms  And so much more!

Ranks and Duties in the Royal Navy ca. 1790 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Focusing the Blog

Bob, Joan, and newly found cousin
Since we’re finally finishing up Northkill and rapidly moving toward the release date, I decided to update this blog a bit and remove a few old posts that aren’t relevant anymore or are off topic. In the past I’ve strayed off into other subjects, but from now I plan to focus on the following topics.

  • the process of writing Northkill, the novel by Bob Hostetler and me based on our ancestors’ story
  • updates on the publication and promotion of Northkill that may be of interest to readers
  • facts known about our ancestors who came to this country in 1738 and about the Northkill Amish Mennonite community
  • information about other members of this widespread family, both past and present
  • information shared by the Jacob Hochstetler Family Association
  • spiritual musings related to this story and/or my personal walk with the Lord

I hope this focus will keep the blog more consistent and interesting to readers.

My husband, Jay, and I had a wonderful time at the 2013 Gathering. There was a good turnout, and everyone seemed to enjoy the many interesting workshops, genealogical displays, and expert genealogical assistance, as well as books and other products for sale, including our copies of the Northkill excerpt. We sold out! The photo of Bob and me was taken Saturday afternoon, and of course I forgot to write down the name of the lady with us. I apologize for not identifying her. We had a lovely conversation, and I hope to meet her again at a future event.

Jay and I were delighted to reconnect with a number of family members and meet relatives we weren’t acquainted with before. The warm fellowship was the best part of the event. If you’re a member of the widespread Hochstetler family and haven’t yet attended one of these Gatherings, I encourage you to do so!

In the next few posts, I’m going to share some of the decisions Bob and I were forced to make while writing Northkill and our rationale for the choices we ended up making. When you set a story in a distant period of time, you quickly discover that the historical record leaves many questions. Many facts, especially the small details of daily life, weren’t written down because they were taken for granted and viewed as unimportant. How do you fill in the blanks when writing historical fiction? What were some of the issues Bob and I had to grapple with? Be sure to drop by for the next post and share your ideas and opinions!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Field Research

Today, while on our trip to Lewistown, PA, for the 2013 Hochstetler Gathering, we stopped at reconstructed Fort Loudon outside the village of Fort Loudon. The fort isn’t staffed, although according to the fort’s minimalist website several local events take place there annually.

I took these pictures during our brief stop there. This was one of a chain of forts built during the French and Indian War along what was then the Pennsylvania frontier to serve as a supply depot and as protection for the settlers from Indian attack. Named after the British commander in chief, James Campbell, the Earl of Loudoun, the fort was built in November 1756 in a valley between the Tuscarora, Blue, and Kittatiny Mountains, less than a year before the Indian attack on our ancestors in which 3 family members were killed and 3 carried off into captivity. Farther north, Fort Northkill, the closest fort to the Amish Mennonite settlement on Northkill Creek, was located about 4 miles from Jacob’s farm.

I learned that in 1756 Lord Loudoun sent parties of soldiers out to the western forts to recruit men for the militia, including among the German settlements, under the pretext of providing protection for the western settlements. These recruiters had little success, not only among the nonresistant Amish Mennonites, but also among the other settlers. Everyone realized very quickly that if they joined the militia, they would be forced to go wherever the British commanded them to go, which could mean leaving their families and homes unprotected. You can understand why they were less than sympathetic to British attempts to recruit militia units for their own benefit.

Although there’s no contemporary record of a recruitment party coming to Fort Northkill, it was one of the western forts, which makes it plausible that they may very well have made a stop there too. Running with this idea, I wrote a chapter, set in November 1756, in which Jacob, along with the other military-age men of the Northkill settlement, was summoned to the fort. This becomes a test for Jacob and the members of his community to remain faithful to their nonresistant beliefs as well as foreshadowing the decision he would make on the night of the Indian attack. Serendipitously, at the time I wrote this chapter, I knew nothing about Fort Loudon or that it was built that very month.

While I was writing the chapter, I did an extensive search through my print resources and online for descriptions and information about Fort Northkill. I found very little. However, I did run across one small detail that proved very useful. Fort Northill was described as poorly built, with crooked green logs used for the stockade, which became even more crooked as they dried, leaving gaps one could see through. Check out these photos I took at Fort Loudon and the following description from the plaque in front of it.

“Built by Colonel John Armstrong on farmland owned by Matthew Patton, the fort was essentially a simple square stockade measuring 127’ by 127’ and containing two or three modest buildings inside. An unusual feature, perhaps unique to this fort, was the corner shooting platforms supported from below by posts. This arrangement did not impress Rev. Thomas Barton, an Anglican minister serving as a chaplain in the army of General John Forbes, who noted in a visit during the summer of 1758 that Fort Loudoun ‘was a poor piece of work, irregularly built and badly situated at the bottom of a hill subject to damps and noxious vapors. It has something like bastions supported by props, which if the enemy should cut away, down tumbles men and all.’ ”

As you can see in the pictures of Fort Loudon’s stockade wall, the logs are indeed crooked, and one can see right through them. Presumably an arrow or bullet could find its way through as well. I think Rev. Barton was right about the bastions too, and I suspect that this kind of arrangement wasn’t all that unusual. This reconstruction of the fort doesn’t include any buildings, which the original fortress was described as having. But judging from the construction of the walls, they probably weren’t very impressive or sturdily built. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t feel extremely safe in such a fortress during an Indian attack!

Needless to say, I’m delighted that we found this fort and took the time to stop there. I now have a more vivid image in my mind of what Fort Northkill would have looked like in November 1756, when Jacob and his neighbors were summoned there by a British recruiting party. Although the original description I wrote is pretty close to the mark, I can now make a few corrections and add details you can only find on site. I’m excited about making my account even more authentic!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Jacob Hochstetler Story Nearing Completion

Fellow author and cousin Bob Hostetler and I started writing this fictionalized version of our Hochstetler ancestors’ story in 2005. At the time, we envisioned completing it within a couple of years at the most. But along the way, as is likely to happen, life took us on some winding paths. Now, after eight years, numerous projects, and repeated queries from family member who want a copy asap, we’ve finally gotten off our duffs and resumed work on this long, sprawling, epic story!

In order to get at least part of Northkill into print by the end of the year, we decided to break our original concept into two volumes. The first book will take our ancestors from 1752 to the end of September 1757, as the survivors of the Indian attack are carried away from the ashes of their home, separated, and given to different Delaware clans. The second part, tentatively entitled Return to Northkill, will be published later and will cover the period of our ancestors’ captivity, the efforts of the family’s older children to find their father and brothers, and the captives’ eventual return home to the Northkill Amish-Mennonite community.

I'm going to present another workshop on writing family historical fiction at the 25th Hochstetler Gathering coming up the 19th and 20th of July. And it occurred to me that it would be exciting to have the first few chapters of Northkill available in book form for attendees as a preview. With Bob’s permission I did a fast and furious production. The designed pages are ready, we have preliminary cover, and we’ll go to print next week. A limited number of copies will be available at the Gathering for a donation of $3 to cover expenses. 

This exciting 132 page book will include the first 6 chapters, along with the first scene of chapter 7, which takes place on the afternoon of September 19, 1757, the day of the attack. Bob and I are thrilled to share our vision with readers, and we look forward to feedback as we focus on finally completing Northkill.