Religion in Family History
When and where were the first Amish settlements in America? This is a question that people often ask about the Amish.
Most people are not surprised that the first Amish settlements were in Pennsylvania, but are surprised as to when the Amish first came to America.
The first Amish came to America in the mid 1730’s and settled in Berks County, Pennsylvania near Northkill Creek.
By 1750 there was a sizable community of Amish of almost 200 people. Many of the names that we associate with Amish today were represented in this community. My Hochstetler, Kauffman, Miller, Stutzman and Yoder families were all there.
Unfortunately, the settlement did not survive as they disbanded after the Northkill Massacre in 1757. Three members of the Hochstetler family were killed in the massacre, including the wife and two children of Jacob Hochstetler who was my immigrant ancestor. I tell part of the story in a previous post titled: The Light in the Forest
By the time of the Northkill Massacre, the Amish had already started settling in new areas as land became available to the west. The next two settlements were in Lancaster County. Old Conestoga came first and was followed by Cocalico. Another settlement was also started on the border between Berks and Lancaster counties at Conestoga Creek. Maybe a list of 18th century Amish Settlements is in order 🙂
- Northkill – Berks
- Old Conestoga – Lancaster
- Cocalico – Lancaster
- Conestoga Creek – Berks/Lancaster
- Tulpehocken – Lebanon
- Cains – Lancaster
- Casselman River – Somerset
- Glades – Somerset
- Malvern – Chester
- Pequea – Lancaster
- Conemaugh – Somerset
- Big Valley – Mifflin
Another wave of Amish immigration from Europe started in about 1817 and continued up to the middle of the 19th century. Amish also followed the lead of other Americans and slowly moved westward as the frontier expanded across America. The Amish eventually reached the West Coast with settlements in California and Oregon.
My third great-grandmother Rachel Yoder Kauffman lived in Oregon from 1880 until her death in 1922.
The Amish are still expanding across America and currently live in 30 states plus the Canadian province of Ontario. The Young Center for Anabaptist & Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College releases regular reports on Amish population trends.
Do you live near an Amish community? Have you had the opportunity to visit one?
This post is part of a series on Religion in Family History. See also:
Stephen Jenks – Singing Master
Gallup Poll Connection I – Amish
My interest was piqued by several drives through an Amish community on the Iowa-Minnesota border. Thanks for providing some historical context.
Thanks, I’ll be following. You give really good (scholarly) info in a very easy to follow fashion. Great work, and generously shared 🙂
Kassie aka “Mom”
Thanks for the information. I learned some things that I hadn’t known about the Amish from this post. For example, I was really surprised that the first settlement had been part of a massacre.
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Hi. I am an ancestor of Jacob Hochstetler. I grew up in Dover, Ohio. Very close to an Amish settlement named Little Swiss, where my grant grandma had a farm.
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Rachel Kauffman was also my third great grandma. My grandma has this same picture of her and says that it was taken at the Oregon coast. Imagine wearing that at the beach! According to my grandma, Rachel was an Amish medicine woman and people would come from miles around to get her herbal remedies for their ailments. The house that Jonas built, and that Rachel and Jonas lived in is for sale right now in Hubbard.
Naomi, it would be neat to see a picture of the house. I did not know that she was a medicine woman, but my Mom might know about it. Rachel was the last of the Amish in Oregon. She lived with a daughter that was Amish-Mennonite, but remained Amish.
There were Amish in Oregon in the 50s yet. My mom had a cousin there named Menno Swartzentruber who later moved to Sarasota Florida. I don’t know exactly where they lived in Oregon but Newberg was nearby.
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We have Amish here in Spartansburg, Pa. 32 miles southeast of Erie, Pa. Started settlement 1965-66. Is larger now. Ben Hochstetler built a barn for us in 1975. There was an earlier settlement in the 30’s, they did not stay long.
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My husband family came from the Amish. The last time that we were in Ohio we went to his family Amish church service
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I would love to hear more about what I believe is my family as well. My grandmother is Barbara hockstedler, my great grandfather passed a few years ago, he was Robert Hockstedler born in 1919, fought in WWII as a Calvary scout in Europe days after d day. I don’t know much else except my sister said we are somehow related to Katey Sagal via the Hochstetler family.
I forgot to add: my great grandfather Robert (bob) hockstedler was born in Minnesota I believe, then moved to the Los Angeles area, which is where I was born. One of my cousins has that exact green book about Jacob. It’s so old it’s practically falling apart.
Kevin, if you can find out the parents of Robert I should be able to help you. Hockstedler is a unique spelling of the Hochstetler name, but I have not found much on it. The name must have been changed when your family moved to Minnesota.
I do not believe that the Northkill settlement disbanded after 1757. It was still a very large Amish community until 1780. Many of the Northkill Amish moved to Bedford County Pennsylvania in the 17700’s. This can be verified by land purchases in Bedford (later to become Somerset County).
Scott, I do not believe that they immediately disbanded, but that it was after 1757 that they started to disband.