Several years ago I started assembling a book of family history for the benefit of my children. Starting today, I intend to serialize some of it here for your enjoyment. The first section follows.




The Amish are a very nomadic kind of people. Constantly moving here; moving there. As they moved, they were always looking for better living conditions from the perspective of maintaining their unique lifestyle. The need for land generally fuels the wanderlust. The typical Amish goal was to give a farm to every son in their large families. Finding enough cheap land to meet this goal is a constant challenge.


Land and Isolation!


Added to the quest for land, the Amish have an ongoing need to find ever more remote areas. Areas unspoiled by the encroachment of modernism; areas where it is easy to live without too much contact with “the English” around them. In the late eighteen hundreds “west” was often seen as providing these needs.


I grew up fascinated by tales of my ancestors in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Colorado. “Uncle Dave” Hochstetler (My grandma’s brother, also sometimes called “Little Davey;) was somewhat of a maverick. Uncle Dave was the only relative I knew of during my childhood that wasn’t Amish. Once every several years he would come around, driving some shiny Packard or DeSota or whatever. I remember anticipating his visits because along with him there were always stories. Uncle Dave’s stories have now evaporated into a mosaic of background memories; every story, that is, but one.


I seem to remember something about a teenage David Hochstetler almost getting killed when he was given a horse and a shotgun and sent out to ride the fences that his family had built “right across” those Colorado “cattle ranges.”


By the early nineteen hundreds the lure of “cheap land out west” seems to be offset by pressure from others who were also going west. “The English” and their big money were going west faster than the Amish. As this happened, many of the Amish became less adventurous, turned around, and scrambled back to the relative safety of the Midwest. The ancestors of both of my parents were part of these migrations.


My dad’s maternal grandparents, Jacob and Elizabeth Yoder left Mifflin Co. Pennsylvania in 1880. Their migration was typical. Eleven years in Gosper County, Nebraska; (church dissension!) somewhere in Colorado; (no rain!) Fort Worth, Texas; (people who were to meet them there, didn’t show!) and finally; Thomas, Oklahoma. Eighteen years by covered wagon; a trail of tears; having babies and burying them all along the way. Two that survived were “crippled great-aunt Malinda,” and my paternal grandmother, Sarah Neoma Yoder.


My other grandmother was Lydia Hochstetler. She was born in Goshen, Indiana in 1889. After also “touring” Colorado, she somehow met Joe M. Schrock and married him at Hutchinson, Kansas.


We pick up the trail of the Borntregers in Kansas too. Stories and research indicates that in the early 1900’s they were living on “more than four sections of Kansas wheat land.” This would be the land that is now around (and under) the city of Yoder, Kansas. Great Grandpa Moses C. Borntreger had six sons and two daughters. He and four of his married sons were farming this Kansas land with large, modern steam engines when pressure from the oil industry convinced them it was time for their next migration.