Dale Cramer: A Matter of History
Dale Cramer continues his historical drama The Daughters of Caleb Bender, a series of novels about an Amish community struggling to survive in 1920s Mexico.
New in stores is the second book, The Captive Heart
(Bethany House). This sequel to 2011’s Paradise Valley
revisits the Bender family, an expatriated Amish family that has picked up and moved their community from Ohio to Mexico. Now building an Amish settlement, they find themselves ravaged by disease and preyed upon by ruthless bandits. Faced with impossible choices, the members of the community discover, more than ever before, what it means to live by faith and not by sight. But it’s Miriam who must make the hardest choice as her heart takes her on a new and dangerous course...
Although all the characters and stories are original, the backdrop for the series is inspired by historical events. There really was an Amish colony in the mountains of Mexico—where three generations of Dale’s family lived in the 1920s.
“My great-grandfather was the elder statesman of the group,” the author says. “And he did, in fact, have seven daughters and two sons. But I never knew any of these people. I only know their descendants, so I created my own characters and story lines—Paradise Valley the way it might have been.
“However, I’ve done extensive research in order to get the geographical and historical details right. The chaos in Mexico in the wake of the Mexican Revolution makes for a dramatic backdrop.”
The author explains that he created the Bender family saga because he was looking for an Amish story with high stakes and inherent moral dilemmas. “One evening, I was talking to my father, who was born Old Order Amish, and I asked him how he came to be born in Mexico. He gave me a rough sketch of the Paradise Valley settlement and told me he thought it had something to do with the schools. So I started digging. Eventually I came across an obscure book that gave a fairly detailed account of the colony and their reasons for leaving Ohio in the first place, and I knew I had my big story.”
This article originally appeared in the January/February 2012 issue of FamilyFiction digital magazine.