Friday, October 24, 2008

The Northkill Amish Settlement

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.


Lori Benton said...

Very interesting. And being a map girl, I was able to look up the area on my PA map, so thanks for mentioning those two towns. I'd wondered for a long while now just how far west is Northkill.

I'm envious of how well documented your family history is. *s*

Vintage Clutter said...

This is my family history, my Grandma Landon who just passed away last year at the age of 96 was a Hostetler, her father was Henry Hostetler, His father Christian Hostetler , then two Henry's & John Hostetler who was married to Catherine Hertzler. I had heard this story told many times from Grandma.

SylviaM.Clemons said...

My family is also mentioned here. I often found that Hans Gnagi's son Johannes Gnagi was the one credited for bringing our family to America, but as of today I have been following a lead that it was actually Hans who was believed to have died back in Norway or Switzerland. Genealogy is Amazing to me you never know where your story is going to lead you day by day. Thanks for your wonderful post lots of information.

Still Kick'en said...

Very neat to read! My Amish ancestors were there then. Some of the Northkill amish settler last names, from my family tree, that I remember are Mast,Troyer,Hertzler and some more.

Considering that many of the locals (not the amish) and the government had been lying to the indians and taking their land, killing them and even enslaving some of them I can see why a band of indians felt like going on a killing spree to get revenge.

Sadly they went about it the wrong way, violence is never going to solve anything and sadly they attacked the wrong ppl.
I tend to blame the local government and greedy land grabbers more because they are the ones that angered and pushed the indians into acts of horrible violence and revenge.

Sad, tis very sad and wrong. If they had all done it God's way there would not have been the violence and land stealing.

J. M. Hochstetler said...

Bobbi Jo, I totally agree with you! You hit the nail right on the head. Amen! Thank you for dropping by to comment.

Thank you for your comments too. Genealogy really is a fascinating area of study, particularly one's own family.

I apologize for being so tardy to respond. I'm going to get back to this blog asap. I've been so covered up for months that I've woefully neglected it.

Unknown said...

Do you have a list of the original families that settled there?
My immigrant ancestor was on the Charming Nancy but ended up in York County, PA. I am wondering if they stayed there first before moving on to York Co.?

J. M. Hochstetler said...

Merle, check out Early Amish Land Grants in Berks County, Pennsylvania. You can find it at Also Both Sides of the Ocean by J. Virgil Miller lists many German immigrants and might be helpful.