The Fifth Quinquennial Gathering of the Descendants of the Swiss Immigrant Jacob Hochstetler began quietly on August 1st, 2008, at the Fair Haven Amish Mennonite Church, located 5 miles east of Goshen, Indiana on State Road 4. This first night's gathering attracted a wide variety of backgrounds, occupations and religions but one of the first, striking observations of commonality that one could make was that the crowd was an aging one.
We ate together in a grand room that was decorated with a quilted cross. The organization and delivery of the evening's dinner, cooked and served by members of the congregation, was superb. Plates of chicken, potatoes, vegetables disappeared as relatives conversed with one another over dinner. The seating was ad hoc so many attendees had the good fortune of sitting next to, or across from, relatives that had travelled great distances to be at this special event. The meeting, sharing and remembering reached a crescendo as the Jacob Hochstetler Family Association (JHFA) Board Representative, D. Richard Miller, made a few announcements and moved everyone over to the sanctuary for the evening's speaker.
Events transitioned smoothly under the Master of Ceremonial Guidance of JHFA Board Member Ron Sootsman. Darrel Hostetler directed the group singing which was heavenly due to the multiple harmonies of the choral crowd. Recognitions were given by JHFA Vice President and Newsletter Master Mind, Daniel E. Hochstetler. Amongst his announcements, he recognized one of the founders of the newsletter, Ms. , who was present and recognized with a standing ovation. Loren Johns then introduced the evening's speaker, Mr. Ervin Stutzman, who spoke on the topic of, "Serendipity, Sweat and the Sweet Taste of Telling Your Family Story." Mr. Stutzman is an accomplished author, having written and published Tobias and Emma, which are historical narratives of his own experience of growing up Amish. His informative and humorous talk was enjoyed by everyone and the evening was closed with short announcements concerning the next day's activities by JHFA President, Gordon Hostetler.
Registration was brisk the next morning as lines extended out both entrances, but check-in was swift and attendees found their way into the main gathering areas. Vendors and displays of Hochstetler memorabilia and family significant merchandise lined the walls that led into and out of the main gathering area. The JHFA displayed John Hostetler's 1787 Froschaur New Testament, and a "Then and Now" storyboard regarding the reconstruction of John's Little House. Amongst other displays were Ruth and Loren Wengerd who displayed their beautiful Tom Lions painting alongside of the specially constructed musket that the artist, Sam McCausland (now deceased), had made for the sole purpose of being able to paint it with authenticity. The owners of the Gospel Book Store drove all the way from Berlin, Ohio (www.mygospelbookstore.com) to make available a new printing of Harvey Hostetler's famous book, which can be ordered by calling 330-893-2523, as well as many other beautiful, historically relevant books that pertain to our heritage. The Masthof bookstore (www.masthof.com) featured a huge display of books including J. Virgil Miller's Both Sides of the Ocean and many others that pertain to our unique Amish and Mennonite history. Other vendors included Vera Hostetler who featured her self-authored illustrated book on the Hochstetler Massacre, John R. Showalter featured his two "update" books, Eldon Hostetler talked passionately with visitor and displayed his book on historic automobiles, as well as a JHFA table that was filled with all kinds of unique family items that can still be purchased (pins, binders, suncatchers, glass dishes, pens, back issues of the newsletter and many other unique items).
The scheduled seminars for the day covered a wide swath of Hochstetler history with seminars led by Beth Mark who spoke on "The Hochstetler Indian Attack and Captivity: How Others Viewed It 250 Years Ago in Letters, Newspapers, Interviews, other Documents", Joan Hochstetler (J.M. Hochstetler) who spoke on "Researching and Writing Family Historical Fiction", Theron Schlabach who spoke on "Community Life of Early Amish and Mennonites in Northern Indiana", Chris Yoder & Reid Hochstedler who collaborated to speak on the subject of "Genetic Genealogy and What We Can Learn from It", James Hostetler who educated us on the "Swiss Anabaptist Gen. Ass'n. (SAGA) Web Site and Jacob Hochstetler's Descendants", Ervin Stutzman who was gracious enough to represent his presentation from the night before entitled "Weaving the Warp and Woof of Your Family Story",and finally Daniel E. Hochstetler who presented slides covering the "European and Colonial Pennsylvania Background of the Hochstetler Family" and then moved to another room where he spoke on the subject of "Christian and Barbara Hostetler and Descendants in the Ohio Valley". Genealogy helpers were also present, and well attended, to help attendees discover their individual family lines.
Lunch was efficient and delicious with catering by Nelson's Chicken The day's activities culminated with a gathering of all attendees in the school gym for an inspirational wrap up. JHFA Board President, Gordon Hostetler introduced Colleen Hostetler who orchestrated the group in harmonious group singing. Then Wayne Hochstetler led everyone in the Lord's Prayer in German and left some marvelous thoughts in our minds about "seasons". Gordon Hostetler then again took the floor to introduce the states we had travelled from, which included California, Arizona, North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Arkansas, Connecticut, Maryland, Missouri, New York, Mississippi and Brazil (the country) and to conduct some short, but necessary, Jacob Hochstetler Family Association business. There was a vote cast that re-elected the current board for another five years and Gordon turned the floor over to Jim Brenneman, President of Goshen College. Mr. Brenneman gave such an inspirational speech and close that he insured this Fifth Gathering to be the most memorable to date!