During the French and Indian War, an Amish Mennonite family living along Northkill Creek on the western borders of Pennsylvania is attacked by a band of Indians. Because of his pacifist religious convictions, Jakob Hochstetler denies his sons’ desperate appeals to allow them to use armed force in defense of their family. Their home is burned down over their heads, and as they escape the blazing pyre, the mother and two children are massacred.
The survivors—Jakob and his sons Joseph and Christian—are carried into captivity. They are soon separated from one another, and the boys are each adopted into different Indian clans.
Jakob's married children, Johannes Hochstetler and Barbara Stutzman, mount determined efforts to find their father and brothers. The girlfriend of one of the sons joins forces with them, determined to bring home the boy she loves. Several months later the father manages to escape from his captors, and after a harrowing journey through the wilderness, returns home to give renewed impetus to the search for his boys.
Years later, when the two sons are forcibly repatriated from Indian families they have grown to love, they struggle to adapt again to the Amish way of life—even as they confront their father, whose refusal to either defend them or allow them to defend themselves shattered their family and tore apart their lives.
Northkill is closely based on an inspiring true story well-known among the Amish and Mennonites. It has been documented in many publications and in contemporary accounts preserved in the Pennsylvania State Archives and in private collections.