First Amish Bishop in America

Religion in Family History

In my post First Amish Settlements I wrote about where the Amish first settled in America.

Location of first American Amish Settlement, Northkill, Pennsylvania, Hochstetler, Massacre, Amish

Northkill, Pennsylvania – Google Maps

The first settlement was at Northkill in Berks County, Pennsylvania. The settlement began in 1738 and quickly grew to about 150 to 200 people. Quite a few of my Amish ancestors were part of this settlement. Later that same year another settlement was started in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

Amish Socitey, John A. Hostetler, Amish, History, Northkill, First Amish BishopJohn A. Hostetler in his book Amish Society records that Bishop Jacob Hertzler was also a member of the Northkill settlement. Jacob Hertzler is considered the first Amish bishop in America. However, Bishop Hertzler did not come to American until 1749, so in a footnote Hostetler contends that he may not have been the first bishop since no one would have been able to perform marriages or conduct communion services for more than a decade after the settlement started.

A History of the Amish, Steven M. Nolt, Jacob Hertzler, Northkill, PennsylvaniaSteven M. Nolt in A History of the Amish also mentions that there is no firm record of a bishop in America before Hertzler. He does mention that there were ministers and deacons who served the settlement before that time. Most likely if there were no bishops before Hertzler the ministers would have performed the duties of a bishop.

Jacob Hertzler was born in about 1703 in Switzerland so was in his mid 40’s when he immigrated aboard the ship St. Andrew. The ship landed at Philadelphia after sailing from Rotterdam. Hertzler and his family soon joined the settlement at Northkill.

Jacob Hertzler is my 7th great-grandfather. His daughter Catherine, who was born in about 1733 in Berne, Switzerland, married John Hochstetler who was the oldest son of Jacob Hochstetler.

As I look back through my Amish family lines there are several ministers and bishops among my ancestors. They all helped build my religious heritage.


Click on the link for more posts in this series: Religion in Family History


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6 Responses to First Amish Bishop in America

  1. Richard Borden says:

    Jacob Hertzler & Catherine Ruegy would be my 6th great grandparents and John Hochstetler and Catherine Hertzler would be my 5th great grandparents, Do you have any records of the parents or ancestors of Jacob Hertzler? I have taken the Ancestry DNA testing and at least one match has indicated I am related to a descendant of John and Catherine.
    Richard Borden, Stayton, OR

  2. Stephanie says:

    Bishop Jacob Hertzler was my 7X great grandfather. My lineage descends through his son John, his daughter Barbara Hertzler Reichenbach, her daughter Sara Reichenbach, her son Jacob Kurtz, his son Oscar Samuel Kurtz, his son Walter Cecil Kurtz, his son Ernest Fay Kurtz, his daughter my mother, and me. I come from a family of 8 children. My mom has 18 grandkids and 28 great grandkids. I would love more info on the life of Jacob Hertzler before coming to the USA, his parents, grandparents, etc. and am willing to share the list descendants from my line to Jacob. I have a copy of the Butts/Kurtz family history compiled by my great-aunt Leila Kurtz Gregory.

  3. ehpfqb says:

    Hello Stephanie,
    My great grandparents were Sam Ray and Martha Kurtz. Jacob Kurtz is Martha’s father. If I ever get further information about Jacob Hertzler prior to coming to the USA, I’ll be sure to share it with you. Ellen

    • Stephanie says:

      Well hi, cousin! I just happened to stop back by here when I google my great aunt Leila and saw your reply. I’ve actually found more on Bishop Jacob Hertzler. I don’t have the documents, but another distant cousin gave me the info.
      Gen 1. Rudolph Hertzler b. 1636 Hinterwell, Bern, Switzerland d. Bern, Switzerland

      Gen 2: Jacob Hertzler b. 1672 Bern, Switzerland d. Bern Switzerland

      m. Elisabeth Reichen b. Bern, Switzerland d. Bern Switzerland

      Gen 3: Jacob Hertzler b. 1703 Bern Switzerland d. 1768 Hamburg PA.
      1. m. unknown first wife
      Gen. 4 John Hertzler (my direct ancestor)
      2. m. Catherine Ruegy

      I’ve also found much on the Kurtz, Mast and Reichenbach lines that has all been documented! A few of the distant cousins have made trips to Switzerland and Germany digging the roots.
      This time I made sure that I will get notifications if anyone replies.

  4. Byron Hartzler says:

    Jacob Hertzler & Catherine Ruegy are my 6th great grandparents through my Dad’s line which is now Hartzler instead of Hertzler. I would like to find Jacob’s parents as well.

  5. Judy Garst Schramm says:

    Jacob Hertzler is my 8X great-grandfather two ways through his daughter Catherine Hertzler and her husband John Hochstetler. My lines are from their son John – one through his son Benjamin and the other through his son John (believed to be twins).

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