Hostetler/Hochstetler

This is the story of Jacob Hochstetler and his family. My direct descendent is through his son Christian Hostetler. (name was changed later). Christian is my fifth great grandfather, and Jacob is my sixth great grandfather.

All information below is the credit to the author from the Jacob Hochstetler Family Association.

Jacob Hochstetler, captured by Indians

The Hochstetler family is believed to have originally come from Switzerland.  Some members of the family joined the Anabaptist movement.  The Anabaptists were severely persecuted, and many adherents immigrated to America to find religious freedom.  Jacob Hochstetler was born in Echery near St. Marie aux Mines in Alsace.  He came through Rotterdam and arrived on “the charming Nancy” in Philadelphia 9 Nov 1738.  He brought his wife, whose name is the subject of some debate, and two surviving children: daughter Barbara and son John.  He settled in the North kill area of what is now Berks County, Pennsylvania.  This settlement was the site of the first Amish Mennonite church in the US.  The Moravians established a mission to the Indians, and consequently many converted to Christianity.  The immigrants and the Native Americans lived in peace, and were for the most part received with hospitality.   The family settled into the land, built a large log cabin home and farm buildings, cleared land and planted several acres of fruit trees.  Four more children were brought into the family.

By 1754, France and England went to war over control of the lands west of the Appalachians.  Many native tribes sided with the French and by late 1756 to mid 1757 several families in the North Kill area had been attacked. Some settlers were killed, and others were taken captive by the Indians.

By 1757, the older children, John and Barbara, were married and living on nearby farms.  The family was attacked by a marauding band of Indians.  Jacob was shot in the leg in the initial skirmish, but made it back into the house.

The following is taken from the website at the bottom of the story:

Barricaded inside the dark house, the family members could see a band of about fifteen Indians standing near the outside bake oven, evidently conferring about what to do. There were several guns and an ample supply of ammunition in the house, but in spite of the desperate pleas of Joseph and Christian, their father refused to allow them to take up arms against another human being, even to defend their lives. Finally, near dawn, the Indians set fire to the house. With their attackers lurking outside, the family had no choice but to take refuge in the cellar beneath their blazing home. When the fire threatened to burn through the floorboards, they staved off certain death by spraying cider on the flames. Choking on the thick smoke and scorched by the conflagration above their heads, they somehow endured until the first light of the new day.

Through a small window, the strengthening light revealed the Indians filing off into the woods. Flames and smoke made it impossible to stay in the cellar any longer, and the instant their attackers were out of sight, the parents and their children began to crawl out through the narrow window. The mother was a large woman, and it took considerable effort to drag her through the constricted opening. With his wounded leg, young Jacob needed help to climb through. But at last everyone was free of the smoldering ruins. Concealed by the trees, however, a young warrior named Tom Lions had lingered in the orchard to gather some of the ripe peaches. Seeing the family emerging from the cellar, he immediately alerted the rest of his party.

As the marauding band returned to surround his terrified family, Joseph outran two pursuers and hid behind a large log on the hill above the house, unaware that one of the Indians had noted his hiding place. The Indians tomahawked and scalped young Jacob and his sister. Evidently motivated by a desire for revenge against the mother—possibly because some years earlier she had refused to give them food and had driven them away—the Indians stabbed her through the heart with a butcher knife, a death they considered dishonorable, before scalping her. Christian was about to be tomahawked as well, but according to family tradition, he was spared because of his bright blue eyes.

Dawn was just breaking when the oldest son, John, who lived on the adjoining farm, awakened to the horrifying sight of his parents’ homestead in flames and surrounded by Indians. He hastily concealed his wife and young son in a dense thicket well away from their house, then watched helplessly from a concealed location as the Indians put the barn and the other outbuildings to the torch. Outnumbered and alone, he could do nothing to save his family. Other neighbors ran to the edge of the meadow that surrounded the farm, but they also were helpless to intervene against the armed Indians

After taking the elder Jacob and his son Christian captive, the Indians returned to Joseph’s hiding place and took him prisoner as well. As they were being led away, Jacob picked as many ripe peaches as he could carry and urged his sons to do the same. Then they were forced to a rapid march across the Blue Mountains. When they at last arrived at an Indian village, Jacob realized they would be forced to run the gauntlet. Accompanied by the two boys, he approached the chief and offered him the peaches they carried. The chief was so pleased by this gesture that he spared them from the cruel ordeal most captives were forced to undergo.

From there, Jacob and his sons were taken on another long, exhausting march to a French fort at Presque Isle, near Erie, Pennsylvania. French soldiers from the fort gave the three captives to Indians from three different villages in northwestern Pennsylvania. But before his sons were taken away from him, Jacob pleaded with them to remember the Lord’s Prayer even if they forgot their German language. Jacob was then taken to the Seneca village of Buckaloons. Custaloga, a Delaware chief who lived most of the time in Custaloga’s Town near present-day Meadville, Pennsylvania, took one of the boys. Where the other boy was taken is unknown. According to oral tradition, Christian was initially adopted by an old Indian who died several years later, while Joseph was adopted into a family.

Although he pretended to be content, Jacob never grew reconciled to the natives’ life, and his captors never fully trusted him. In early May, 1758, however, he was allowed to go hunting alone and managed to escape. An arduous journey and many prayers for guidance brought him to the Susquehanna. On the verge of starving, he built a raft and floated downstream, more dead than alive. When his raft passed Fort Augusta at present-day Shamokin, he was spotted and pulled from the river by British soldiers. Colonel James Burd took him on horseback to Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where he was interrogated by Colonel Henry Bouquet about the activities and locations of the French. Released by the British, Jacob traveled to Fort Harris, now Harrisburg, and from there he was finally able to return home.

At the end of the French and Indian War, the peace treaty with the Indian tribes provided for the return of all white captives to their families. Little came of this agreement, however, and on August 13, 1762, Jacob petitioned the governor for the return of his sons. After considerable negotiations with Indian tribal leaders to secure the return of all the white captives, Joseph was returned to his father in 1763 or 1764. Christian did not return until late summer 1765. As was common for Whites who were adopted into Indian families, both were initially reluctant to return to white society. For the rest of his life Joseph continued to visit his Indian family to hunt and to join in their sports. Christian had the greatest difficulty reconciling to the ways of the Whites. Eventually, however, he married, was converted, and joined the Tunker Church (Church of the Brethren). In time he became a preacher.

For more information on the Hochstetler family and on the Hochstetler Family Association, go to Hostetler.net

 

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