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In Memorium: John Andrew Hostetler, 1918-2001
John Andrew Hostetler, most widely known for his studies on
the Amish (Amish Society, 1963) and the Hutterites (Hutterite
Society, 1974), died August 28, 2001. He was 82. He was professor
of sociology and anthropology at Temple University for 34 years.
He served as chair of the Historical Committee of the Mennonite
John was born near Belleville, in the Kishacoquillas Valley of
central Pennsylvania. He was the son of Joseph and Nancy (Hostetler)
Hostetler, an Old Order Amish family. The "Cold Water Farm"
by the old cold water station of the Kishacoquillas Valley Railroad
was his home for the first eleven years. When his entrepreneurial
father was excommunicated from the church in 1929, the family
"sold out" and moved to Kalona, Iowa. There John was
known as "Pennsylvania Joe's" son.
John's education, begun in the Ore Bank School in Pennsylvania,
was continued until the eighth grade at Snake Hollow School,
near Kalona. At home he read, in addition to the Bible, farm
magazines, Daniel Kauffman's Bible Doctrines, and Dale Carnegie's
How to Win Friends and Influence People. His yearning for formal
education led him off the farm, and eventually to Goshen College
and to Penn State University.
Though he chose to leave his native Amish culture, and to pursue
higher education, John made the Amish the subject of his university
study. The most comprehensive publication on the Amish is Amish
Society (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1963), now in its fourth
John was often called upon to serve as an expert witness in various
court cases involving the Amish. In the landmark Wisconsin v.
Yoder case on education before the Supreme Court, John demonstrated
his profound understanding of the gap which separates the Amish
from the rest of American society. John was on the witness stand,
and Attorney John William Calhoun of Wisconsin was cross-examining
him. In a sharp and cynical tone, the attorney asked, "Now,
Professor, don't you think that a person needs to have an education
to get ahead in the world?" In typical fashion, John pondered
the question, and then replied, "It all depends on which