Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Pennsylvania German Barns

Do you like barns? I’ve always had this thing for these imposing structures. Which is probably to be expected since I’m the daughter of Mennonite farmers and grew up on a farm. You get a mystical feeling standing in an old barn with its huge hand-hewn beams and hay mows overhead, roof timbers soaring high above like the ribbed vaults of a cathedral, and dust motes lazily trailing down through the golden sunbeams that slant through the cracks between the weathered boards of the exterior walls. I even have a Pinterest board devoted to Barns and Farms. 

18th Century Swiss-style forebay bank barn
So today I’m going to indulge in my addiction and take a look at the barns of the Germans who settled in Pennsylvania during the 18th and 19th centuries. Descended from generations of farmers, the Germans who immigrated to Pennsylvania during the 1700s were among the best farmers in the colonies. The soil they found in this new land was unlike the over-farmed soil of their homeland in that it required little fertilization. So they went to work, and after building a house and clearing land for fields, they built immense Swiss-style bank barns like the one shown on the left of the James Barn, located in West Rockhill Township, Bucks County.
Berks County, c. 1820

The first log structures were soon replaced by barns built of stone, and later frame or even brick, with shingled, slate, or tin roofs. Most barns had 3 levels, with a threshing-floor and granary on the main floor and expansive mows for storing hay above. The lower level provided stalls for horses and cattle and a milking parlor. These buildings were anywhere from 50 to 60 feet wide and 60 to 120 feet long, and typically the main level protruded 8 to 10 feet beyond the lower level, as you can see in the picture at right from the Pennsylvania Historical Museum and Commission.

The classic Pennsylvania barn is most commonly found in the southeast and central parts of the state and was the most prevalent barn structure to around 1900. Most closely associated with the Pennsylvania Germans, it developed during the later 18th century with the spread of diversified grain-and-livestock farming that required efficient labor management to produce cash grain crops, primarily wheat; feed grain for cattle and horses such as oats, corn, and hay; and livestock that provided beef, dairy products, and pork to eat and to sell.

Barn at Carriage Hill
Some of these barns had stars, hearts, diamonds, quarter-moons, or other designs painted on their sides and ends. The picture above from my Pinterest board shows what we typically envision when we think of Pennsylvania German barns adorned with painted symbols. It’s of newer construction, and it has both plank and stone cladding.

Carriage Hill barn main level
Last summer I visited Carriage Hill Farm, an 1880s German Baptist farm in Huber Heights, Ohio. Although this farm dates to the late 19th century and is located in Ohio, the barn retains many of the features you’d see in earlier Pennsylvania structures. To the left is a shot I took of the barn’s main level. You can see the hand-hewn beams above the threshing floor. Obviously tobacco was a cash crop here. Below right is a picture of the grain bins along the right side of the threshing floor, each neatly labeled with the grain stored inside.

Grain bins
The last picture, below, is of the barn’s lower level, showing a walkway between one of the stalls on the left, with storage bins and feeding troughs for another stall on the right. Clearly these barns were designed for the greatest labor efficiency, with gravity allowing hay and grain to be fed down to animals on the lower level with the least amount of effort. Indeed the barn was the farmer’s most important tool for his work.
Barn lower level

Thursday, May 11, 2017

5-Star Review from ECLA

The response to The Return has been amazing, and we’re praising the Lord for His favor! Below is the latest 5-star review it’s received, this one from the Evangelical Church Library Association, written by Theresa M. Hughes, a professional writing major at Taylor University.


Beginning where the first book left off, this historical novel follows the lives of Jakob Hochstetler and his two sons, Joseph and Christian. Having been captured by local Indian tribes and now separated from his sons, Jakob struggles with plans of escape while longing to learn what happened to his boys. Joseph and Christian are each forced to grapple with their religious faith in the midst of the Indian’s religion and their new homes among their captors.

Nicely paced and engaging, this book draws together historical elements, cultural differences, and internal human struggles. The Return puts the reader into the shoes of the characters, showcasing how difficult the decisions are that the Hochstetlers have to make. It guides the readers through their own beliefs by exploring the minds and emotions of each of these fictional characters. This book continues to deliver well written descriptions and dialogue that make the setting and times come alive in the mind of the reader.

The Return masterfully paints a picture of the life of Jakob Hochstetler and his family, with the bulk of the book spanning nine years. It forces readers to examine feelings related to racism and cultural differences, as well as human love, forgiveness, and self-sacrifice. Competently bringing together the genres of historical, Christian, and Amish fiction, The Return is a sequel worth reading.

Christian Impact

This book forces readers to grapple with the morality of hard decisions that do not have simple yes or no answers. It looks at issues from varied perspectives, showing the reader multiple interpretations of individual dilemmas. This book also highlights the idea that God has a plan in the end; no matter what happens, He can be trusted.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Return Release!

It’s been a very busy few weeks! The Return is receiving an incredible reception. The books have been shipping out since the middle of April. We’re steadily acquiring new bookstores, and individual orders from readers have also been flooding in. I’m excited!

Bob Hostetler, J. M. Hochstetler

Eli and Vesta Hochstetler hosted Bob and me for the nationwide release at their Gospel Book Store in Berlin, Ohio, on Saturday, April 1. We had a terrific time, signed copies of both Northkill and The Return, and had a chance to visit with a lot of new acquaintances as well as folks we knew. The greatest blessing for me is to see how God is glorifying Himself through this story of our ancestors’ faith and His faithfulness to them in their time of greatest trial.

The Return is available online in both print and ebook formats at the following retailers, as well as at a number of local bookstores.



Barnes & Noble

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Colonial American Kitchens

Curfew, Fire Fork, Blowing Tube
Today we’re getting back to the series on early American homes I started last month. Naturally housewives in the 18th century needed an array of equipment for their work just as we do, and today we’re going to take a look at the tools the colonial cook had at her disposal to make her work easier.

Back then all cooking was done over the fire, and because it was inconvenient and time consuming to kindle a fire from scratch, a good cook never let hers go out. At the end of the day she would rake the hot coals into a pile and either bank them beneath a covering of ashes or cover them with a brass or copper device called a curfew, which would be pushed to the hearth’s back wall for the night. In the morning the embers were raked out and the fire built up. The illustration shows 2 English curfews, a fire fork, and a blowing tube—a long iron pipe that’s used as a bellows. Other indispensable fireplace tools included shovels and tongs.

Colonial Hearth
It was more common in colonial times to build several small fires in the fireplace for cooking rather than a single large fire, much in the same way we use adjustable settings on our ranges for boiling or simmering foods today. For cooking at lower temperatures small piles of live embers were raked onto the hearth at the front of the fireplace. These were used for broiling on a gridiron, frying in a pan, and baking in a kettle. For cooking at higher temperatures, the cook hung larger pots on a crane mounted inside the chimney. These might be simple iron bars running the length of the fireplace. More desirable, if you could afford it, was a crane that could be swung out from the fire so the cook could check on the contents of the pots without getting scalded by the heat. She could suspend several pots at different points with pot hooks, trammels, or chains and control cooking temperatures by raising or lowering the pots or moving the crane outward.

Art of Cookery Made Plain
and Easy
The basic equipment all kitchens had to have included one or more cast iron pots, a baking kettle, and a simple spit for roasting meat. More prosperous households had a wider variety of items for creating more elaborate dishes. Iron pots of different sizes, a long iron fork to remove items from boiling water, an iron hook with a handle to lift pots from the crane, a large and small gridiron with grooved bars and a trench to catch the grease, a bake kettle, two skillets of different sizes, a skimmer, skewers, a toasting iron, large and small tea kettles, a spider (flat skillet) for frying, a griddle, a waffle iron, tin and iron bake and bread pans, two ladles of different sizes, and two brass kettles of different sizes for soap boiling were among items recommended in A Treatise on Domestic Economy for the Use of Young Ladies at Home and at School by Miss Catharine Beecher, published in 1842, a list that would certainly have applied to the 1700s as well. Cookbooks like the one shown at left were also helpful.

Around 1725 pots, pans, and skillets began to be manufactured in the colonies. A pot is a vessel that has rounded sides and a cover, while a kettle has sloping sides and no cover of its own. Very large kettles, called cauldrons, were made of copper, brass, or iron and were so valuable that they were passed down in wills. Another form of skillet called a spider has a flat bottom and straight shallow sides, a short handle, and 3 short legs. Short-handled frying pans didn’t come into use until stoves were invented. Eighteenth-century iron “fry pans” had a 3 foot long handle with hole at the tip for hanging when not in use. Trivets of assorted sizes were another necessity to hold kettles and footless pots and also serve as plate warmers.

Mount Vernon Hearth
Gridirons were used for grilling fish or meat. They looked like3-legged iron grills with a handle. A drip pan was placed beneath to catch the drippings. Griddles were made of iron and used to bake oat and buckwheat cakes. They were also used as toasters and were often made in delicate patterns. Wafer and waffle irons date from the 14th century and were used for church services long before they began to be used in the home. Then of course there were also many kinds of skimmers, spatulas, meat forks, and other tools made of wood, tin, or iron.

This sketch of the kitchen hearth at Mt. Vernon shows spit dogs, with a wooden spit rack on the wall above. Fowl and large pieces of meat were skewered on the spit, then placed on a pair of hooks turned by hand cranks while they roasted close to the fire. A more ingenious design connected the spit by a chain to an iron fan set in the flue. The draft passing up the chimney turned the fan, which pulled the chain and turned the spit.

Bake Kettle
Many of us are familiar with the iron baking kettle commonly called a dutch oven. The kettle is set into hot coals and ashes, and more coals are piled on its flat lid to bake the contents evenly. However, check out this post on the Historic Cookery blog by Carolina Capehart, a culinary historian, hearth cook, and former Conner Prairie interpreter. She offers definitive evidence that a true dutch oven is, in fact, a tin reflector oven, also called a roasting kitchen or hastener, while the cast iron pot described above is correctly called a bake kettle.

Dutch Oven
Reflector ovens could be from 1 foot to 4 feet long and were made of tinplate, which reflected the fire’s heat, reducing cooking time and saving fuel. This photo shows a front and rear view. The meat was impaled on a spit that ran through the oven and was turned with a hand crank at one end. There was a door in the back so the cook could check the meat and baste it while it roasted. Meat juices were collected in the curved bottom, and there was a spout at one end to pour them off when the meat was done. Reflector ovens were used for baking biscuits as well, and there were even specialized roasters for birds and apples.

Fenno House at Sturbridge Village
Fireplaces also often had ovens built into the back wall or on one side of the fireplace opening. Constructed in a beehive shape with a domed roof and a separate flue, these sometimes had a small opening underneath that served as a warming oven. When the bricks were hot enough for baking, the ashes were raked out, oak or cabbage leaves might be laid on the oven’s floor in absence of the baking pans we use today, and the loaves were slid inside using a peel. Some designs featured an ash oven where the fire was built, with the heat rising through a vent into the bake oven above. This type cooled off more rapidly since the bricks didn’t get as hot. At first ovens had wooden doors, which, as you can imagine, tended to get seriously charred even if they were lined with tin as some were. By the 1800s hinged cast iron doors were becoming commonplace—understandably so!

Spice Cabinet (1720-1740)
Pewter and other metals, like silver, were too expensive for most colonists to afford, so variety of carved wooden ware, including knife boxes and spoon racks, helped the cook keep her kitchen organized. Almost all colonial kitchens had a salt box, generally kept near the fireplace, where the cooking was done and where the salt would be kept dry. The earliest knife boxes look like salt boxes, only deeper. Spice boxes usually had several drawers. Candles boxes had sliding wooden lids and either sat on a table or hung on the wall to keep the tallow candles from being eaten by vermin. According to Kitchen Antiques by Mary Norwalk, “Pieces of cutlery were precious possessions and in order to keep them clean and dry they were stored near the fire. Spoons, knives, and carving forks were placed in racks attached to the wall with a small drawer underneath the rack, and this was used for spices and seasoning, or precious pieces of small equipment.” Most wooden items were made by the homeowner, and beautifully constructed wall boxes were proudly displayed as decorative items.

It’s amazing to consider all the gadgets that existed back in the 1700s to make the housewife’s life easier. Even so, they definitely had a lot of back-breaking work to fill each day. Which aspects of the colonial housewife’s life do you think you’d find the most enjoyable, and which the most unpleasant? 

Monday, February 27, 2017

Book Proof and New Endorsement

On Saturday I got the book proof of The Return to check over for final corrections. It looks gorgeous, and I’m so excited to finally get this book out to readers! It’s getting close!

The national release will be at Gospel Book Store in Berlin, OH, on Saturday, April 1. Bob and I will be there from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. to sign copies of both Northkill and The Return. If you’re in the area we hope you’ll stop by. We’d love to meet you! 

We also received another endorsement for The Return, this one from Rene Gutteridge, author of Misery Loves Company: “Set against the backdrop of the French and Indian War, The Return weaves a harrowing and desperate tale of Jakob Hochstetler, a father whose life has been undone by brutality and war. Authors J. M. Hochstetler and Bob Hostetler vividly depict the sights, sounds, emotions and heart-rending struggle of a family trying to cope with their difficult new circumstances. Every page sets the reader right into the moment, capturing the details of a life that is hard for modern day Americans to even comprehend. This is a must-read.”

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.