Monday, April 16, 2018

Amish Settlements

When the attack on the Hochstetler family at Northkill occurred, there were about 40 Amish families in and around Northkill when the Indians attacked the Hochstetler family. The total Amish population was probably between 200 and 250, but no one knows the exact number.

The Hochstetler attack was the end of the Amish settlement at Northkill. The largest and the earliest of the Amish communities have long since disappeared.

The Indian raids had continued for several years. The warriors kept coming through gaps in the Blue Mountains. There were over 100 colonial settlers murdered in this section of modern-day Berks County, and nearly all the farms were raided and destroyed by fire. Many of the early settlers on the Pennsylvania frontier left their homes, moving to the older and more secure communities in Lancaster and Chester Counties. Some of the moves were for a short time only, while others were permanent.

The Northkill congregation became muddled. Some of the refugees returned, however, and kept up their church organization. Bishop Jacob Hartzler remained in Northkill for the rest of his life, often walking many miles to fulfill his church duties.

In 1766, the Penns granted the Amish community twenty acres of land for the church, school, and a cemetery. It was never used for church purposes since the Amish did not worship in meeting houses. A log schoolhouse had been built. Some of the refugees had returned, but the Amish settlement on the Northkill never fully recovered after the vicious Indian raid on the Hochstetlers in the late summer of 1757.

The migration from Northkill – directly caused by French and Indian War – led to the establishment of other Amish settlements. One was established near present-day Morgantown, which is located near the Berks-Lancaster-Chester Counties border. Others were located along the Conestoga River, and into eastern Lancaster County.

Today, an Amish settlement is defined as a cluster of Amish families living in a geographical area. The settlements are found scattered throughout half the states. There is no one particular size of an Amish settlement. A settlement might consist of just a dozen families, or it could be as large as several thousand families. Two settlements, one in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and the other in Holmes County, Ohio are the largest. There are now over 400 active Amish settlements.

Settlements are not exclusively Amish. Both Amish and non-Amish families live together as neighbors in the same geographical area. The settlements are mostly rural and consist of significant farmland. The Amish are far outnumbered in their settlements by the non-Amish, even in those communities where they hold own a high percentage of the land. The Amish often refer to their non-Amish neighbors as “the English.”

Not all settlements have been successful. There have been settlements in California, for example, but no longer exist there now. Some Amish settlements have turned into ghost towns, with only traces of the Amish community that had once existed. Others abandoned settlements have been taken over by non-Amish. Some of the reasons for unsuccessful settlements include disease, poor local economic conditions, and lack of ministry.

Settlements were established as the need for farmland grew. Expanding families and a growing population caused Amish families to migrate to new rural areas and establish new settlements.

Special Note:

Amish Wisdom is an ongoing feature of various entries about the Amish on George Sheldon's website and blog. Written and produced by George, it is intended to provide information about those of the Amish faith.

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