Big Valley is located near the center of Pennsylvania. It's surrounded by two mountains, Stone Mountain to the north and Jack's Mountain to the south. The valley is approximately 30 miles long and approximately 5 miles wide at its widest point. The official name for the valley is Kishacoquillas Valley. It's said to be named by Col. John Armstrong around1759 after an eighteenth-century Shawnee Indian chief. The name Kishacoquillas is interpreted to mean, "The snakes are already in their dens".1
|Settlers began to move into the valley during the year
1754. The majority of them were the adventuresome Scotch-Irish. During the
French and Indian War, Pontiac's War and the Revolutionary War, hostile Indians ransacked
the valley, stealing and damaging property. After awhile the discouraged settlers
packed up and temporarily left the valley. Not until 1765 were able to return.
By 1790's the Scotch-Irish were thickly settled in the valley, also in 1791 the
first Amish settlers arrived.
In September of 1802 Michael Hostetler, son of Joseph and Anna Hostetler made a joint purchase with his brother-in-law Michael Garver, buying land on the north side of the Kishacoquillas Creek, bordering John Armstrong in Armagh Township (later Brown Township).1 John K. Hostetler and his family, are direct descendants of this Michael Hostetler.
|Today Big Valley is still inhabited by many
descendants of those first Scotch-Irish and Amish settlers.2 The valley was
largely agricultural from the time the first settlers arrived until the early 1900s.
With the help of first, the Kishacoquillas Valley Railroad and then later, much improved
roads, the valley has seen a slow gain toward more jobs off the farm. Today even though
the valley is still largely farms, factories such as New Holland, builder of farm
machinery, Dean Foods, processor of dairy products, Echo Ultrasound, manufacture of
medical diagnostic machines, Alltrista Unimark Plastics, custom injection molder of
plastic medical and consumer products.
Four main villages plus some small hamlets also fill the valley, with Allensville at the south end, Belleville in the center, and Reedsville and Milroy at the north end. The Belleville Sale Barn, an every Wednesday livestock auction and flea market along with various antique shops and country stores give residents and visitors many places to shop. Weary visitors also have a variety of bed and breakfasts to choose from.
Two historical societies also take up residence in the valley. Kishacoquillas Valley Historical Society which is located in Allensville, and The Mifflin County Mennonite Historical Society located in Belleville, offer a variety of historical artifacts on display and help with individual research. U.S. Route 322, a four lane divided highway, enters the eastern parts through a gap in the mountains at Milroy. This highway is the direct link from Harrisburg, the states capital to State College, Pa. home of the main campus of Penn State University.2 In describing the beauty of the valley, noted author J.W. Yoder said that his birthplace "looks as if the hand of God carved it right out of the mountains and fashioned it for the enjoyment of man".1
||John A. Hostetler, well known sociologist and authority on Amish society, gave this fond description of his native valley: "Protected by mountains on either side, this valley, thirty miles long, is a complete unit with natural entrance only through gaps. Within these walls is an agricultural landscape never more beautiful that in spring or harvest time. Viewed from the top of Jacks Mountain, hundreds of fields in various shades of green and yellow form a patchwork which could not be duplicated by the Amish inhabitants, famous for their beautiful quilts."4|
John martin Stroup and Raymon Martin Bell, The Genesis of Mifflin County (Lewistown, Pa., 1957)1
S.Duane Kauffman, Mifflin County Amish and Mennonite Story (Elverson, Pa., 1991)2
J.W. Yoder, Rosannas Boys (Huntingdon, Pa., 1948) Mennonite Publishing House 3
John S. Hostetler, Life and Times of Samuel Yoder, The Mennonite Quarterly Review (October 1948), PG 226.4
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