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The Northkill Amish Settlement



The first Amish Mennonites began migrating to the United States in the eighteenth century to escape the religious persecution and compulsory military service they faced in Europe. The Northkill area in eastern Pennsylvania was opened for settlement in 1736, and that same year, Melchoir Detweiler and Hans Sieber arrived in Philadelphia on the ship Princess Augusta.


Within a year Sieber had settled along Irish Creek (between Bernville and Centerpoint), which became a sister community to the Northkill settlement, while Detweiler found land along Northkill Creek. The Northkill settlement lay at the foot of the Blue Mountain. At that time this ridge was the legal boundary of European settlement, according to treaties between the British and the Native Americans.


More Amish passengers arrived on the ship Charming Nancy in 1737 and found their way to the Irish Creek and Northkill settlements. The following year the Charming Nancy returned to Philadelphia carrying Jacob Hochstetler, his wife, and 2 young children, among others. The Hochstetler family was soon established along the Norhtkill among the earlier arrivals.


During the following decades the Amish continued to settle along the Northkill in increasing numbers. By 1742 the community was large enough to petition the Pennsylvania General Assembly for naturalization rights, which allowed them to purchase land, a right denied Anabaptists in Europe. More settlers arrived in 1744, and the community welcomed Bishop Jacob Hertzler and his family in 1749, along with others. The settlement expanded even more the following year.


According to S. Duane Kauffman in Miffllin County Amish and Mennonite Story, 1791-1991, at its peak the Irish Creek-Northkill community consisted of about 40 Amish families or between 150 and 200 persons, which would have made it the largest Amish settlement in America at that time. In spite of several attacks during the French and Indian War, including the one against the Hochstetler family in 1757, it held that distinction into the 1780s, when it began to decline as families moved farther west in search of better farmland.


Although it existed for a relatively brief period, the Northkill settlement was fundamental in establishing the Amish in North America. It included the forebears of many Amish families and is generally considered to be the mother from which the other eastern Pennsylvania Amish communities sprang.

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