From An Indian Perspective

by J. Virgil Miller, DJH 5684


Many sensitive Christians , and Americans, have been rethinking how we have been reading and reporting our history. This includes the 1757 Hochstetler "massacre". Recall also the 1770 Boston Massacre and how it was used, or misused, as propaganda by the early patriots. This article by a contributing editor is timely in addressing this dilemma. What changes should we make in how we interpret and report our family history? -Daniel Hochstetler, editor of H/H/H Newsletter

Delaware Indians were on the warpath in 1756 whereas they had been, at one time, peaceful natives, who wanted to live side by side with the whites. A century before, William Penn declared that he wished to live peacefully with the Indians, and before there was any settlement an agreement was made to buy their land. He met with the chiefs and stated that the white man wished to live with the Indian in peace. But there were grievances that arose after Penn went back to England. The settlers learned that the Iroquois were in effect the overlords of the Delawares, and dealt with them rather than with their next-door neighbors the Delawares. An attempt was made to delineate the territory where the Europeans could settle. The Indians agreed to let them occupy the land covering an area that a man could walk in a day and a half which gave birth to the so-called "Walking Purchase of 1737". The whites took advantage by having their fastest runners cover a much larger area than the Indians expected. After the line was drawn, the settlers moved in and the Indians were forced into the forests. This encroachment happened again and again until the Delawares were pushed further and further into the western wilderness. The Indians made contact with the French, who claimed the Great Lakes and the whole valley of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. Meanwhile the English consorted with the enemies of the Delawares, the Iroquois. The stage was set for troubles for the settlers.

The French openly encouraged the Indians to attack the English settlers. They claimed a vast territory, but made little attempt to settle it, at least the part that is now the United States. The Delawares saw the English occupying their former homes north and west of Philadelphia. In fact the English claimed all of the present state of Pennsylvania, though only the eastern part was then settled. The French had a string of forts in what is now western Pennsylvania, including Fort Duquesne on the site of Pittsburgh at the fork where the Ohio River begins. The Delawares' former desire to live side by side in peace with their English neighbors was frustrated by a line of forts from present-day Easton to Harrisburg, erected specifically to keep them out. The policy of William Penn not to use military means had given way to a warlike spirit on the part of some colonists whose aim was to keep the Indians from their territory by force, and to shoot at sight. Such was the situation on the eve of the French and Indian War in 1755.

Our Amish-Mennonite ancestors had been in Pennsylvania for less than twenty years, Jacob Hochstetler for 17. Some of his Amish neighbors had only been there for a year or so. The settled land was filling up, but they were offered homestead land near the edge of settlement in Berks County. For these newly-arrived settlers, the Indian question was remote because they hadn't experienced the tensions. Like the Quakers under Penn, they were pacifists and wished to live peaceably with their neighbors. Unlike the Quakers, the Amish and Mennonites took no part in government affairs, but allowed others to deal with questions like the Indian problem. Even the Quakers were accused of not being realistic about the dangers of the settlers. Other settlers set up vigilante groups, and parties were sent out to rid the country of what they considered "the Indian menace". By the time the Delawares teamed up with the French, they had become a real menace, but the settlers did little to make peaceful overtures to the Indians. The Indians could hardly be expected to distinguish between a "peaceful" settler and a hostile one. No doubt the Amish were frightened at the possible danger to their families.

The Indians struck and they did it with a vengeance. Some whole families were shot, and others were abducted. Some children were taken into captivity and a few young women were forced to become wives of Indian men. Since the Delawares controlled the forests, they were able to take their captives long distances, even to the Ohio valley and across into what is now Ohio. It seemed to the Indians that they were getting even for the lands they had lost, and for their own people who had been killed, for there had been numerous raids into Indian territory. Besides that, they had become pawns in the struggle between rival European powers.

Thus we can see that although Jacob Hochstetler's wife, son and daughter were killed, and he himself and his two sons taken into captivity, it happened not only as the result of the bad behavior of blood-thirsty Indians but partly because of previous injustices by other settlers. Jacob Hochstetler showed great restraint when he asked his sons not to use their guns. The question is whether any other action would have produced more positive results. Other whole families were killed or abducted. One can only conjecture what might have been the result if William Penn's original policy had been continued, rather than a policy of force and cunning duplicity against the Indians. The captives were eventually returned at the end of the war, and some of them looked back on their captivity with a good bit of nostalgia. Some English women left their Indian mates with reluctance, and even Christian and Joseph Hochstetler found it hard to come back after seven or eight years. The ironic outcome of the war was that the Indians were pushed out of Pennsylvania completely, and twenty years later Jacob's descendants settled the lands that the Delawares had evacuated. Another generation found them following the American armies that pushed the Indians out of Ohio.

We call ourselves peaceful, and we know that the Indians were often brutal. But we need to reflect where the victims of the Indian massacres were not only victims of the Indians, but of the policies that both the English and the Americans pursued.

A Deeper Look

The "Delaware" Indians were acutally Lenape Indians who had become called the Delaware by the English Colonists, and eventually the English, because of where they lived. The Tribe had poplulated the Delaware River which was named so by English colonists in honor of the first governor of Virginia, Thomas West, 3rd Baron De La Warr, whose title was ultimately derived from French. Swedes also settled in the area, and early Swedish sources listed the Lenape as the Renappi. The history of the Tribe is nothing short of fascinating and curious historians might check this link of which the most interesting information is at the bottom of the page, so read it thoroughly. There is also a very deeply researched book coming out on the Lenape Indians which can be previewed by clicking the teepee:

The removal of the Delaware / Lenape Tribe can be traced from their website which is complete with maps and current correspondence information.

In April of 1881, the superintendant of the schools of Reading, Pennsylvania, David B. Brunner, researched and published and exhastive account that delved deeply and accurately into the lives and times of the Indians of Berks County. It makes for very interesting reading even though the Hochstetler massacre only warranted one line. It animates the environment and players of the massacre with a very authenic tone. A copy can be downloaded here.

Finally, as Steven Braman points out in his blog, Braman's Wanderings, the Pulitzer Award winning author Conrad Richter may have lifted his inspiration of the Indian capture of the two Hochstetler children for his 1953 short book entitled The Light in the Forest which became a Disney film featuring Fess Parker in 1958.

Do Any Hochstetlers Have Indian Blood?

Click Here for a H/H/H Newletter Article entitled:Part 1 Do Any Hochstetlers Have Indian Blood?

Click Here for a H/H/H Newletter Article entitled:Part 2 Do Any Hochstetlers Have Indian Blood?

Click Here for a H/H/H Newletter Article entitled:Part 3 Do Any Hochstetlers Have Indian Blood?

Click Here for a H/H/H Newletter Article entitled:Meeting the Chief of the Delawares

The US's century-long destruction of Native American land, in one animated map

Updated by Zack Beauchamp


The 19th century was an unmitigated disaster for North America's native peoples. The United States' westward expansion came at the expense of their land, freedom, and often their lives - a mass displacement that, as this animated map shows, happened over an astonishingly brief period of time.


The map, made by Tumblr user sunisup, combines a series of maps from Louisiana State University geographer Sam B. Hilliard, based on primary US government sources. What they show in time-lapse is the rapid collapse in native land holdings - marked in green - between 1784 and 1895:


Theft of Native Americans' land                                                                                             Original High Definition Map with detail






















Combined native holdings in green, non-native land in white. (Sam B. Hillard / Sunisup)


From 1784 to the War of 1812, tribal displacement was limited compared to what would come. "Eastern tribes were well organized," Hilliard writes, "and the demand for land by whites was moderate."


After the war, things changed. The United States moved west, rapidly, forcing out native communities, often violently. "Instead of ceding parts of their claim," Hilliard writes, "Indians found themselves confined to small reserves while the remainder of their land was open to white settlement." It was "common practice" for Americans to ask native peoples where their lands were, and then demand part or all of it after they had firmly established the size of the holding.


Between 1810 and 1895, America gobbled up the continent through deceptive negotiating tactics and brute military force. "By the time the US passed the Dawes Act in 1887, effectively abolishing tribal self-governance and forcing assimilation, there was very little left," Max Fisher and Dylan Matthews write. Native Americans were shunted to minuscule reservations, many of which remain impoverished today.

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