Northkill Amish Settlement, Berks County, Pennsylvania
The first organized Amish settlement in America, by 1740
On Old US 22, just behind Roadside
America with its miniature village and silly massive Amish statue,
stands a memorial to the Northkill Amish settlement. The historical
marker also notes the often-told Indian
attack on the Jacob Hochstetler family, in which three members
were killed and three were taken captive. The Northkill Creek,
which gave its name to the settlement still flows nearby. The
Blue Mountain, the easternmost ridge of the Alleghenies, formed
the boundary between legal white settlement and Indian territory.
Hochstetler homestead is occupied by a young family that prefers
privacy over busloads of Hochstetler descendants on a pilgrimage.
To the west stands the abandonded Melchior Detweiler homestead.
Seven miles east are two other memorials to the former
Amish community--the homestead of Jacob Hertzler and the Northkill
cemetery. A marker by the buildings names the property "Contentment."
The well-preserved stone house and stone-gable barn are currently
owned by a former New Jersey resident who welcomes visitors.
If he's not too busy, he will invite visitors to sign his guest
Behind the barn, a cow path leads to the enclosed
cemetery shaded by a lone Spruce tree.
In the cemetery is a memorial placed in 1901 to Jacob Hertzler,
first known Amish bishop in America, his second wife, Catherine
Ruegy, and their son Jacob. Bishop Hertzler was born 1703 in
Switzerland, immigrated in 1749 and died in 1786. Additional stones mark the
graves of Johannes Beiler
(d. 4 October 1758) and Elizabeth Beiler (1795-1838). Grave markers
for members of a non-Amish Kline family, who once held deed to
the cemetery, also exist. Presumably many other Amish are buried
here, but no stones remain to mark their identity.
|"The Northkill settlement
has traditionally been seen as the mother from which the other
estern Pennnsylvania Amish communities sprang." It's sister
community was "located on the Irish Creek between Bernville
and Centerpoint. . . .
"The region was first opened to settlement
in 1736. In that same year, Melchoir Detweiler and Hans Sieber
arrived in Philadelphia on the Princess Augusta. Within
a year Sieber located along the Irish Creek and Detweiler eventually
chose a spot on the Northkill near the Mountain.
"Of the 1737 passengers on the Charming Nancy, 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
found their way to the Irish Creek and Northkill areas.
"Of the large group of 1742 arrivals, Hans Gerber, Hans
Gnagi, Jacob Good, Christian
|Miller, Christian Yoder, Sr.,
ChristianYoder, Jr., Jacob Yoder, Christian Zook, Johannes Zook,
and Moritz Zook also chose the upper Berks Setting. Two years
later, Christian and Samuel King, Hans ans Stephen Kurtz, Johannes
Snyder, Michael Stuckey, and Yost Yoder joined the others.
"In 1749, the settlement was strengthened by the coming
of Christian Fisher, Bishop Jacob Hertzler, Hans Lantz, and Jacob
and Joseph Mishler. The following year Hans Blank, Andreas and
Johannes Hooley, John Mast, and Michael Troyer cast their lot
with these already there. In addition, Isaac Kauffman Jacob Hochstetler
and possibly others had made their way to the Northkill region
upon reaching the American shores.
"At it's peak the Irish Creek-Northkill Community contained
about forty Amish families or approximately 150-200 persons,
making it the largest and most dominant of the early Amish settlements
in America" (S. Duane Kauffman, Miffliln
County Amish and Mennonite Story, 1791-1991, pp. 19-20).
Early Amish Land Grants
in Berkes County, Pennsylvania,
Published by Pequea Bruderschaft Library, Gordonville, Pa, 1990,
For more on the cemetery, see
Joseph F. Beiler, "Our Fatherland in America, The Hertzler-Hartzler
Family," The Diary of the old Order Amish Church
of America, Gordonville, Pa., Vol 7, No. 7, July 1975.
Photos by John E. Sharp