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 K├╝che 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