The first Amish Mennonites began migrating to the United States in the eighteenth century, mainly to escape the religious persecution and compulsory military service they faced in Europe. The Northkill area in eastern Pennsylvania was opened for settlement in 1736, and that same year, Melchoir Detweiler and Hans Sieber arrived in Philadelphia on the ship Princess Augusta.
Within a year Sieber had settled along Irish Creek (between Bernville and Centerpoint), which became a sister community to the Northkill settlement, while Detweiler found land along Northkill Creek. The Northkill settlement lay on the edge of the Blue Mountains. At that time this ridge was the legal boundary of European settlement, according to treaties between the British and the Native Americans.
More Amish passengers arrived on the ship Charming Nancy in 1737 and found their way to the Irish Creek and Northkill settlements. These included Jacob Beiler, Christian Burki, Christian Hershberger, Christian Kurtz, Christian Lichti, Jacob Mast, Abraham Miller, Christian Miller, Jacob Miller, Ulrich Spicker, Henry Stehly, and Hans Zimmerman, and their families. The following year the Charming Nancy returned with my ancestor, Jacob Hochstetler, his wife, and 2 young children, among others, to Philadelphia. They were soon established among the earlier arrivals along the Northkill.
During the following decades the Amish continued to settle along the Northkill in increasing numbers. 1742 saw the arrival of Hans Gerber, Hans Gnagi, Jacob Good, Christian Miller, Christian Yoder, Sr., Christian Yoder, Jr., Jacob Yoder, Christian Zook, Johannes Zook, and Moritz Zook. By now the community was large enough to petition the Pennsylvania General Assembly for naturalization rights, which allowed them to purchase land, a right denied Anabaptists in Europe.
In 1744 the families of Christian and Samuel King, Hans Stephen Kurtz, Johannes Snyder, Michael Stuckey, and Yost Yoder expanded the settlement even more. The community welcomed Bishop Jacob Hertzler and his family in 1749, along with the Christian Fisher, Hans Lantz, and Jacob and Joseph Mishler families. Hans Blank, Andreas and Johannes Hooley, John Mast, and Michael Troyer expanded the settlement even more the following year.
According to S. Duane Kauffman in Miffllin County Amish and Mennonite Story, 1791-1991, at its peak the Irish Creek-Northkill community consisted of about 40 Amish families or between 150 and 200 persons, which would have made it the largest Amish settlement in America at that time. In spite of several attacks during the French and Indian War, including the one against my ancestors in 1757, it held that distinction into the 1780s, when it began to decline as families moved farther west in search of better farmland.
Although it existed for a relatively brief period, the Northkill settlement was fundamental in establishing the Amish in North America. It included the forebears of many Amish families, such as the Yoders, Burkeys, Troyers, Hochstetlers, and Hershbergers, and is generally considered to be the mother from which the other eastern Pennsylvania Amish communities sprang.