Growing Up Amish winners and Chapter 1 excerpt

Today we’ve got 6 winners of Ira Wagler’s Growing Up Amish.  If you missed the original interview, in which Ira discusses Amish life, family relationships and how he ended up in Lancaster County, you can read it here: Growing Up Amish interview.

Growing Up Amish winners

I’ve tallied up all additional Facebook and blog entries.  If you commented more than once in the comments section that is fine, but I only counted the first one as a contest entry.  I used to select winners.  This part is always exciting.

ira wagler book growing up amishThe winners:

#23, Lisa Cregan

#137, Valeska Raymond

#92, Al in KY

#200, Judy Burgi (Facebook entry)

#108, Roxane

#56, Mary Brandenburg

Congrats to the winners and thanks to all for participating.

Winners, send me your shipping address (ewesner(at)gmail(dot)com) and I’ll pass it along to Tyndale.  If you didn’t win, I hope you’ll pick up a copy of Ira’s book.  I think you’ll enjoy it.

Tyndale has also shared the first chapter of Growing Up Amish:

Growing Up Amish by Ira Wagler: Chapter 1

No one seems to remember exactly what was going on at the old home farm that day. Can’t say I blame them. There is no particular reason they should.

The one thing everybody does seem to agree on is that it was a typical late August day. Stiflingly oppressive heat. Barely a wisp of a breeze. Not a cloud in the sky. Not that I could confirm or deny any of it. I wasn’t there. At least not when the day dawned.

Some of my older siblings claim the threshers were there—though it was awfully late in the season for threshing oats. The menfolk were probably clattering about in the barn loft, sweeping the old wooden granary bins where the oats would be stored. And soon enough, the neighbors would have come rattling in with teams and wagons to haul the bundled oat sheaves. The threshing machine would have been there too, pulled by an ancient hybrid of a tractor and set up by the barn before the first loaded wagons came swaying in from the fields. Sweating in the dust and heat, the men would have been pitching the bundles onto the conveyor belt that fed the belt-driven threshing machine, where they would have been chewed up, separated, and deposited into the barn as oats and straw. The late harvest was under way.

I’m guessing some of the younger kids were picking strawberries in the field out by the old hickory tree. Seems late in the year for strawberries too, except for the Ever- bearing kind. Those plants produced from June until the fall frosts killed them. My father planted gobs of them every year to sell as produce—and to keep the children busy.

If Mom felt extra tired or stressed that morning, I’m sure she didn’t let on. After breakfast, she and my older sisters were probably doing what they always did: washing dishes, cleaning the house, and preparing the noon meal for everyone, which on that day would include the threshing crew.

But then, my sisters remember Mom abruptly stopping what she was doing. Stumbling to a wooden chair by the kitchen table, her face twitching with sudden spasms of pain.

“Go fetch your father from the barn,” she instructed Rosemary and Magdalena. And off they went.

“Mom said for you to come. Right away,” they gasped. Dad dropped his shovel and rushed to the house, the girls tagging anxiously behind him.

Mom was sitting there at the table, white faced. “It’s time,” she told him. He turned and dashed off to the neighbors’ place a quarter mile to the east. “English” people who had a car.

Moments later, my sisters stood silently by and watched as my mother—still sitting in her chair—was carried to the car by my father and one of the threshers. After easing the chair to the ground, Dad helped Mom shift into the backseat. Once everyone—Dad, Mom, and the English neighbor—was situated, they headed off to the hospital in nearby Tillsonburg.

Except for Rosemary and Magdalena, I doubt the rest of my siblings had any clue what was going on. They may have noticed that Mom had gained some weight lately and that she seemed tired a lot. But in those days, in that setting, no one spoke of such things. Especially to young children.

Dad didn’t return home until supper time, and when he did, Mom was not with him. My sisters remember the children gathering round.

“Where’s Mom?”

“We have a little baby,” Dad announced, beaming. “A boy.”

They murmured excitedly. “A baby!”

“Mom is staying at the hospital tonight. We’ll go get her tomorrow.”

I’d like to think my birth was an important event, and to some extent, of course, it was. But in Amish families, the arrival of a new baby isn’t treated the same as it is in “English” families, where everyone fusses rapturously. For the Amish, where it’s not at all uncommon for families to have upwards of ten children, a new baby just isn’t that big a deal.

By the time I came along, my parents already had eight children. Four boys and four girls. An even number of each. I broke the tie. Number nine.

I’d like to think, too, that the choosing of my name was the source of much somber thought and measured consideration. Serious weighing of various possibilities and combinations. Perhaps even reciting the finalists aloud a time or two, just to make sure the name would fit in the flow of all the others in the family.

I’d like to think it was an important ritual. But again, I know better.

Earlier that summer, Dad had hired a strapping young man to help with the farmwork in return for room and board and a couple of bucks a day. He was Dad’s nephew and my cousin, probably around twenty years old. He was a fine, upstanding fellow, by all accounts. Hardworking, too. His name was Ira Stoll.

By the time Dad had fetched Mom and me from the Tillsonburg hospital the next day, someone—I suspect it was my two oldest sisters—had come up with the fateful suggestion: “Why don’t we name the new baby boy Ira?”

“After our cousin?” I can imagine Dad stroking his long black beard thoughtfully.

Mom, resting in bed, did not protest. In fact, I’m guessing she was even a little relieved. And so it was settled, in the most lackadaisical manner imaginable. With zero fanfare or fuss, I was saddled forever with the name Ira.

No middle name.

Just Ira.

Ira Wagler.

And thus began my life in the Old Order Amish community of Aylmer, Ontario.

You can find Growing Up Amish in many places, including bookstores and Amazon.

Get the Amish in your inbox

Join 15,000 email subscribers. No spam. 100% free

    Join the Amish America Patreon for bonus videos & more!

    Similar Posts

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


    1. Alice Aber


      Congratulations to the winners!!! Ira, I really like your style of writing and can not wait until I can buy a copy of the book. It looks very interesting and a very good one to read. Thanks for sharing it with us and having this book give away with Erik!

      Blessings, Alice

    2. Basket of Amish CHeer

      Rats! I didn’t win, but while I was waiting to hear the results, I had a brainstorm. Talk about closing one door and opening another!

      Every year, two of my favorite non-profits hold silent-auction fund raisers. Someone always donates a “Basket of Cheer” filled with various wines. This year, my husband and I will donate a “Basket of Amish Cheer” to each organization’s auction. First, I’ll order three copies of Ira’s book. (One for me, since I didn’t win.) Then, two copies of Rhoda Janzen’s “Mennonite in a Little Black Dress.” Next time we’re in Berlin, OH, I’ll buy several jars of Mrs. Miller’s jam, Amish noodles, some pickled beets and chowchow. Maybe a package of mix for “shoofly” pie. A copy of The Vendor. A copy of the SUgar Creek Budget, if I can get my hands on a few, Maybe a couple of catalogues from Lehman’s. We’ll shop around for other things to add to the baskets–maybe calendars? Anyway, if any “Amish in America” readers can suggest items, that would be great.

      1. Sue Yoder



      2. Casey

        Great idea!

        This is a wonderful idea, I love to make gift baskets and an Amish theme is an excellent idea! Thanks.

    3. Oldkat

      Fair Warning About This Book

      This book really should come with the following WARNING LABEL: Caution do not start reading this book if you have other important things to do; you will NOT be able to put it down and your other important things will be left undone.

      I picked up a copy at Barnes & Noble while in Austin, TX early Sunday evening and was planning on reading it while on a trip I am taking next week. I started reading it Monday morning when we got home from our little weekend excursion. I kept reading and reading while waiting for the point in the story where things slow down. You know; a natural stopping point. Near as I can tell there aren’t any.

      Finally forced myself to put it down with less than one quarter of the book left to read. It is that good. Of course the fact that I can relate to nearly everything that happens in the book, save the parts that would only pertain to someone that was raised Amish, helped keep things flowing.

      Read this book, but clear your calendar first. First rate job, Ira Wagler

    4. Basket of Amish Cheer.2

      Forgot to mention that no Amish live around here, so the baskets will be both fun and educational.

    5. Marilyn in New York

      Congratulations to all the winners. I can’t wait until the book comes out and I can get it from my local library.

    6. Karen Gervais

      Darn, I didn’t win!! Guess I’ll have to get it from the library and hopefully, someday it’ll be on my Amish bookshelf.

    7. This Book

      I bought this book last weekend and I am finding it very interesting. A must read for anyone interested in the Amish religion and way of life. Lets you see inside a real family, how different members accepted or did not accept that way of life. What it is like when one leaves the fold, comes back or doesn’t…

    8. Richard

      Anyone interested in donating to the ” Amish relief fund” for those Amish families that lost loved ones in that accident in New York state this week here is that address. Please Mail your donations to : Jasper Ambulance P.O BOX 14 JASPER,NY.14855. Write on top left envelope “For Amish relief fund. Richard

    9. Now I am intrigued and this book will definitely be one I purchase this year. His speculation about how his name was given reminds me of how my father’s name was chosen. Dad was the fourth of five boys; my grandmother has convinced herself that this one would be a girl. She didn’t have a boy’s name chosen, although my grandfather had (secretly) decided on the old family name of Lloyd. Gran half-heartedly agreed, but couldn’t come up with a middle name – not a good idea in a family where names were repeated generation by generation. My grandfather got impatient and went to the kitchen to ask the “hired girl” if she had any suggestions. “Gilbert, for my boyfriend.” So Dad was registered as Lloyd Gilbert Bragdon, and no one has any idea who this “Gilbert” was. When son #5 came along, Gran was wiser and better prepared, and had chosen the romantic name of Gary Leigh – for Gary Cooper and Vivian Leigh.

    10. Ellie


      Now Im going to have to buy a copy for myself, since I didnt win one *smile* Congratulations to the contest winners!! And congratulations again to Ira on having his book published.

    11. Great to see all the enthusiasm for Ira’s book. Reading these reactions you can tell it’s a page turner.

      Oldkat, your comment–or rather your “Fair warning”–captured something about it. I had a similar impression.

    12. Marcus Yoder

      I am going to Charm ,Ohio for the Doughty valley steam show. I might have to check around Holmes county for this book. I hope to visit some Amish ancestor’s graves while there.
      Marcus Yoder

    13. Millie Winters

      Growing Up Amish

      I have read Ira’s book and it is one of the best books I have ever read. Saw it at Walmart’s just yesterday, but I ordered mine online a while back and received it a couple of weeks ago. It is a very exciting book.

    14. lisa kuhn

      growing up amish and why i left the amish

      hello, i feel ‘guilty’ saying this – even a bit afraid – but i did not enjoy reading either book. part of it is that they were not what i expected; in ira’s case, i felt it should have been called ‘refusing to grow up amish’; he certainly did not seem to me at all to have ‘grown up amish’! that, of course, is prerogative, but i felt misled. also, sad to say, i was so shocked by his deliberate cruelty to others who were so good to him, and his selfish need to always have ‘the best’ (best buggy, best horse, best fiancee) made for very depressing reading for me.
      i also felt his ‘conversion’ came too little, too late; i did not get a sense that he truly felt sorry for the immense pain he inflicted. personally, i know what it is like to not fit in with one’s family, so i sympathise with that. but the cruelty! i even felt sickened that he did not call the vet sooner for stud, who perhaps cd have been saved. instead he drove him when he cd hardly walk. was this to avoid being seen with the other, ‘inferior’, horse? so again, i felt it was a misnamed book and very depressing.
      in saloma’s case, i thought the book wd be more a religious studies type of book, eg, the pros and cons of living as an amish vs living an ‘english’ lifestyle. i certainly did not expect to instead enter a world of such extreme dysfunction and violence that wd appear to have more to do with her personal family that being amish per se, which is perhaps why some people wonder if she wd have left the amish if her family, like ira’s, had been upstanding and normal…
      i would add that in my case, since sadly i experienced a lot of violence growing up myself, i was depressed reading it as it brought back so many awful is not that i bought in to the bad things they said about me – i always had my self esteem – but the memories were still painful. also, i felt so bad for saloma. one of the legacies of my miserable childhood is that i feel almost desperate to save others from pain! and of course in this case i obviously cd not have done anything. saloma has been kind enough to write me and we have discussed some of these issues, so that was good. in a way, i felt her book cd be called ‘why i left my dysfunctional amish family’, which might more accurately give a hint as to the peculiarities of her case. and, of course, it goes to show that there are awful families in all parts of society, just as there are sons who betray their good parents and alleged sweethearts, as ira did. i think this was important as many people put the amish on a pedestal and this must make it extra hard for those either stuck in bad situations or creating bad situations.

      in any case, for various reasons i have several new copies of each book, which i would be happy to sent to anyone for the price just of the postage, which i guess to be about $5.00 from france. if anyone might be interested, they can email me at

      i also have an older hardbound book that IS about amish religious studies, how they got started, what the beliefs are, etc, which i found v helpful and interesting. i bought it at but funnily it comes from a library in kansas! again, if anyone wants that, i can send it against $5.00 in postage.

      i do particularly wish saloma well after the hell she endured, and i can only hope that ira’s ‘conversion’ is genuine. it is only a shame he cannot undo the pain he caused…

    15. Well written

      Ira Wagler has an engaging style of writing.
      It makes me wonder how Ira’s style compares to his father’s (David Wagler above).