From: Descendants of Jacob Hochstetler the Immigrant of 1736, by Rev. Harvey Hostetler, D.D., Elgin, Illinois, Brethren Publishing House, 1912, pp. 9-13.
http://books.google.com/books/about/Descendants_of_Jacob_Hochstetler_the_imm.html?id=Q_RUAAAAMAAJ as viewed on 8-4-2013.
Immigrant of 1736
The Religious Life of Our Ancestor.
It is fitting that the religious life of our Amish immigrant should have some attention in the few words that custom requires from the author of a book, by way of preface. Religion is a prominent and important aspect of an Amishman’s life. To some an Amishman may appear to be an ordinary man wearing hooks and eyes, and very much addicted to living in settlements among people of his own faith. But an Amishman is first and foremost a Christian, a man who believes supremely in his God and is ready to show his faith in a life of obedience, even though that obedience involves hardship and loss of all that men hold dear.
The religion of our ancestor and his associates enabled them repeatedly to choose the penalties which men and nations saw fit to inflict on them rather than disobey the plain teachings of their Master and Lord. As he read his Bible it gave him no warrant for obeying a church organization in requirements which he deemed contrary to the word of God. Hence, for example, he believed that baptism is intended for those who believe in Christ, and there fore infants were not proper subjects of baptism. Holding these beliefs, he could not conscientiously join in worship in a church that taught infant baptism and made it a condition of acceptable church membership. Many families today are of ,the same opinion, but they are put to little trouble or in convenience on account of such belief. In our ancestor’s day, this attitude of non-compliance with church requirements involved the loss of employment, property, home and native land.
From what the Amishman reads in his Bible he also can see no warrant for war or authority to engage in it. Here again he stands squarely opposed , to the opinion and practice of the men of his generation, and in times when’ his nation needs soldiers, and needs them badly, he has found himself in trouble with every government under which he has lived. Other men have troubles also, and endure them as best they can, but an Amishman’s troubles come because others do not agree with him on matters in which he is not at liberty to modify his beliefs, and he is forced to decide whether he will obey God or man, and as a rule he does not hesitate in his choice. But this choice involves him in trouble, and the beauty and glory of his faith is that it enables him to remain steadfast to his convictions, even amongst persecution and severe trials.
Our ancestor met a severe temptation the night his home was attacked by the Indians. His son Jacob had been wounded by the Indians, who sought his life and the life of the entire family. The family were secure in the house and could easily see the Indians standing a short distance away, within easy range and reach of the weapons in the hands of the family. Perhaps a few shots in the air or in the direction of the foe might have driven them away. At any rate the family might easily have put up a hard fight. All the natural instincts impel men to fight and defend themselves and families when at tacked. How came it that this frontiersman, accustomed to firearms and skilled in their use, did not yield to the entreaties of his sons that they be allowed to defend the family? It had been deeply impressed on his mind that such a course involved disloyalty to his Redeemer and Lord. His allegiance to his God had been tested again and again, and he had been well and faith- fully sustained in all his trials, and should he now repudiate all former teachings and renounce a faith and allegiance that had long been his only hope and stay? Under these conditions his allegiance to his Lord rose supreme and he was enabled to continue his trust in God. To his credit be it said, he remained true to what he believed to be right. He would not disobey God, who had said, “Thou shalt not kill.”
The descendants of our ancestor have been called upon again and again to endure sorrow in the death of loved ones. This is the common lot of man. But our ancestor had the trial of seeing his beloved wife, whom he had vowed to protect and cherish, brutally slain before his eyes. He saw the same merciless and relentless foe strike down his son and daughter whom he loved, as other fathers love their children. His descendants, in the hour of bereavement, have again and again sought and found their only consolation in the love and care of a tender, compassionate heavenly Father. All such can the better appreciate the faith and trust that enabled our ancestor to endure with steadfastness this severe trial to his heart. Later, when in captivity and he was to be separated from his sons who had been brought with him, he impressed upon them once again the importance of faith and prayer. May a similar faith and trust find a place in the hearts of each of his descendants as they come to understand and appreciate the strong faith that sustained our ancestor amid all his trials.
Let us follow our ancestor through the trials of his captivity and escape till we find him upon his raft on the river, which seems to be bearing him far beyond the settlements into a wilderness from which there is no human possibility of escape. The constant course of the river to the southwest baffled and perplexed and finally deprived him of hope itself. How anxiously he must have scanned the river before him, in the hope of a turn in its course. Day after day that eager gaze was unrewarded. He knew of the Ohio, and its general course, and he greatly feared he was being borne on its broad bosom, farther and farther away from his home, to a death absolutely certain. At length the persistence of the stream in its deadly course forced him to the conclusion that as death was inevitable he might as well meet it on the shore.
The shore supplied him with food which he perhaps was unable to secure for himself. Weak and weary, he sank into the deep sleep of physical exhaustion; and such sleep, as it has to many others, brought him a vision or dream. In such vision or dream, angels in Scripture times had visited and comforted another homesick and weary Jacob. But such visitations have rarely brought greater comfort and joy than came to our Jacob in the visit of his departed wife. How strange and warm the glow at his heart as he beheld her! The old life of faith and love had returned to him, and he had the same strange joy which some of his descendants may have known, in similar visions or dreams of their beloved dead. Such a vision enables them the better to understand the joy of the Savior’s disciples, when it was written of them, “Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord,” after his resurrection from the dead. But this visit or vision came not simply with comfort, but it brought the guidance of which he stood in sore need. His wife assured him that he was in the right course, and he should go ahead.
How this vision changed him and his course! He returned to his raft, and to the river which he had so much feared, with its awful power to lead him to a horrible death. Now comforted by the vision, his fear was gone. No more horror from that persistent southwest flow of the stream. He had that in his heart that conquered fear of stream and certain death, the assurance from his wife who had come from the presence of God himself, and she could not be mistaken. With a vision so assuring and a guide so unerring, he resumed his journey. Confidence and courage replaced the fear and dread of the river and its deadly course.
By and by his faith is rewarded. The long persistent southwest course of the stream, after more than a hundred miles, finally comes to an end. The course turns southeast and home seems assured. His body might become weak from lack of food, but doubt could not again trouble his mind. With confidence he continued his course, till at length came rescue and finally home.
We must glance a moment at the trials of an Amish heart, when his younger son Christian came to believe that he should forsake the church of his father for another in which he believed he had found a more excellent way. To some men all churches are alike, and such generally have little interest in any. But our ancestor was deeply attached to the church, in whose interest he had been willing to sacrifice home and native land. It doubtless was the church of his fathers, and he had a father’s natural interest in rearing his children for the church of his faith and love, and which he had reason for believing was the true or real church of God.
The Indian disaster had interrupted the training which a father would naturally give his children. The years from eleven to sixteen or eighteen are important years for a boy’s training, and these were the years when our ancestor was not with his sons. He could however remember them in his prayers. At length these prayers were answered, and his sons were again at home with him. After a time this son Christian brought his father a trial, perhaps as severe as any which had afflicted his sorely tried heart. His son was determined to unite with the church in which he sincerely believed, and in doing so he was placed where his father had also stood, — he must obey God rather than man, even though that man was his own father. Only those who have strong convictions in regard to their church membership, and are deeply concerned to have their children with them in the church, can appreciate the trial of the father’s lonely heart as he felt himself and his church forsaken by his younger son, who evidently had in him some of the sterner stuff of his father. A modern Protestant knows heart grief when his children turn Catholic, and the Catholic knows deep anguish when his children turn Protestant. These can best understand our ancestor’s grief in losing from his church the son for whom he felt special interest as the youngest of the family.
When Christian people better understand each other and each is as ready to concede another’s liberty of opinion as to claim his own, they will have brought themselves more in accord with their Master. In that good and better time that is to be, there need not be this breaking of hearts when a change is made from one church communion to another.
Value of a Family History.
Several distinct motives have led men into researches about their ancestors. Some have had in mind possible inheritance, and if they are en titled to any such, they wanted to be sure that a clear way was open through which it might come.
Others have hoped to find some illustrious man or woman in their line of ancestry, and thus like the moon they may acquire some reflected brightness when they have none of their own. Others again have an intense yearning to learn the facts of their ancestry. To them it matters not so much that their ancestors prove to be illustrious or wealthy, but they do want to know who they were and where they lived. Such minds crave facts and truth. This leads them finally to the most useful knowledge one may have, knowledge of self. The old Greek adage still has value, “Know thyself.” We have been told that the best way to train a child is to begin to train its grandfather. It is true that man may not know himself aright till he knows his grandfather. When a man has a fair knowledge of himself and his ancestry, he is in better position to do his duty to himself and family. If for example he knows that his ancestors were afflicted with constitutional or hereditary disease, he will place himself in position, so far as possible, to resist that disease. If he inherits the white plague, or consumption, he will from early life secure if possible the climate and mode of life best adapted to fortify himself against that dread scourge. If one inherits a high tension nervous system, and life is a constant reaction from intense nerve force, he will appreciate the wisdom of building up bodily powers sufficient to sustain the demands made by this nerve force.
If a man knows that his ancestors were given to excessive use of intoxicants, he may rest assured that he may have the same tendencies, and decide that the safe and sane way for him to use liquor is not to use it at all. If he knows his ancestors were much given to fierce anger and incorrigible temper he may easily see the need of practicing self-control. If his ancestors went through life lazy and shiftless, he may early begin forming habits of thrift and industry. In a thousand practical ways this knowledge of self that comes from study of ancestry will be of help.
But one does not live for self alone. His life also touches and shapes others, especially the lives of his own children. If he knows his own inherited tendencies he will early begin that course of training for his children that will, best fortify them against these tendencies that are evil, and aid and strength en as much as possible the tendencies that should be encouraged.
Unfortunately, this work will be of very little help in the study of the physical, intellectual and moral aspects of the lives of our ancestors. The task has been sufficiently large to present as far as possible the names of these ancestors. The material for these other studies has not been preserved, but it is possible in most branches of the family for these now living to make a study of their own immediate ancestry and learn at least their most prominent points of strength and weakness. In some way such studies should be handed down to coming generations. There is however one practical service that this work may render, and that is in pointing out relationships that should be avoided in intermarriage. This work presents over seven hundred families where descendants of our ancestor have married each other. It is now generally agreed that relatives as close as first cousins should not marry, and the laws of most states forbid such marriages. Similar objections, though in less degree, exist against marriage of second cousins, and the same is true of the slighter degrees of relationship. In general, there is agreement of the most thoughtful that marriage should take place between those as little related as possible.
Those who have studied the results of intermarriage among relations point out several features that are harmful. They show that the children of closely related parents have a tendency to shortness of stature, which in time manifests itself in bodily weakness. Then again, such marriages result in impaired nervous constitutions in the children, who have a tendency to fits or epilepsy, and defective mental, moral or physical qualities.
A final result of constant intermarriage of relations is the lowering of the birth rate and the final dying out of the race. The record in these pages is the record of large families, and there is no evidence that our family is in immediate danger of extinction. It is however well to keep in mind the results of these studies on intermarriage of relations. Those who are best acquainted with our family will know whether the intermarriages that are shown in this work have resulted in harm to the offspring.
The subject of intermarriage is of special interest to those who live in the church communities, and whose acquaintance is practically limited to those settlements. The number of Amish families that came to this country in early times is comparatively small, and the descendants of these families have continued to live side by side through all these years and have intermarried again and again. There are those in the church who believe these intermarriages should be avoided as far as possible, and this work may prove a help in pointing out relationships that are not known to exist.
There are some that have declined to furnish information about their families, because of two scriptures that urge the avoiding of genealogies that are endless and that minister questions or strife. This genealogy is very long but not endless, and a work of this kind will settle disputes rather than raise them. The author at least has not been disposed to dispute with those who do not agree with him on the value of such a book. These two scriptures about avoiding genealogies in public teaching should not be so construed as to forbid the use and study of the genealogies which are found in the scriptures. One scripture must not be made to bring another scripture into reproach or condemnation.
This work is submitted to the widely scattered members of the family that they may have a better understanding of their common ancestor, and that they may know how the many people that bear the name are related to each other. Inquiring minds need no longer chafe under the limited knowledge of their ancestry, which has been the lot of many who heretofore have sought in vain -of their kindred for knowledge of this kind.
Many men have believed that knowledge of this kind should be preserved. They have taken pains to write the records of their own families, in careful hand, in the pages of their family Bibles, that it might be preserved for coming generations. We can easily understand the deep interest with which one member of our family dictated to his son the account of the Indian captivity, because he felt that this knowledge should be preserved. If there is no permanent record made, such knowledge will soon disappear from the family. Some have believed that it is a duty of each generation to transmit to the next a complete genealogical record. If this work in any way aids in bringing the members of our family into a better acquaintance with each other, and if it will aid in keeping before them the life and faith of our common ancestor, the labors of these years will bring their own reward.
Council Bluffs, Iowa, Nov. 9, 1911.
Descendants of Jacob Hochstetler the Immigrant of 1736
by Rev. Harvey Hostetler, D.D.
Elgin, Illinois, Brethren Publishing House, 1912