Mike “Frog” Montgomery and his wife, Sharlene, run Dogwood Pass, a replica of a Wild West town. The two have built the town from the ground up, growing their little hobby into a successful business.
While most couples share common interests of rooting for the same sports teams, playing tennis or attending concerts, Mike “Frog” and Sharlene Montgomery are a little different. They are the proprietors of Dogwood Pass, a replica of a Wild West town, located in Pike County.
Their interest in designing and constructing buildings of a working Old West town turned into so much more. Dogwood Pass has grown far beyond what Mike and Sharlene had ever imagined. “We never saw this as a business, it was just a hobby,” Sharlene says.
The History of Dogwood Pass
The story of how Dogwood Pass came to be begins 22 years ago, when the land that Dogwood Pass is built on was all woods. The couple cleared a little spot on the land to camp, and decided to get married there. At their wedding, all the guests were dressed-up in 1880s style clothing. Mike was dressed in his mountain man costume, while Sharlene was the Indian maiden, riding into the ceremony on horseback. “To be here 22 years later and to have that start is just so fulfilling and peaceful,” Sharlene says.
The land the couple was married on was a large family-owned farm, where Mike grew up riding horses and hunting. One day, Mike had the idea to build a saloon on the land that he could come back to after a long day and relax; his own version of a mancave.
Building the Boom Town
Six years ago, the couple decided to make Mike’s dream of building and fully decorating a saloon a reality. “We totally enjoyed the decorating of the saloon and imagining what it would look like,” Sharlene says. “[Mike] had envisioned how he thought it should look and it is truly amazing how everything turned about to be so authentic and historical looking.”
The building of the saloon kick-started a hobby for the two, a hobby that would eventually turn into an obsession. The saloon sat by itself for a year. “We would just look at it and would just keep saying, ‘It doesn’t look right by itself’,” Sharlene says. “So we started adding to it.”
Making History Come to Life
Dogwood Pass opened to the public for the first time in 2012, when Mike and Sharlene held their first annual Cystic Fibrosis benefit at their saloon. Their son-in-law, Brad Schneider, died from the illness. In honor of him, they decided to sponsor a local child from the community and send all the proceeds made to that child and family. “People would come in and were amazed at the décor and what a good job we did,” Sharlene says. “I think the enthusiasm helped push us along into building a jail and a livery. Then we thought that that wasn’t enough.”
Most of the town has been built in the last three years. The town consists of numerous buildings, including a:
- cigar shop
- freight office
- gun shop
- cat house
- bath house
Mike, with the help of his family members, hammered every nail into each and every building himself. “I’m the builder; period. We have the help of my grandson, Cole, and my brother in law, Steve, now comes over and helps, but we built it entirely ourselves,” Mike says.
As for the designing and decorating, it is a team effort by the couple. All their time and work put into making sure the town best resembles an Old West town does not go unappreciated. “Every building that we have built and spent time with and imagined how we would have liked it to look is so appreciated,” Sharlene says. “It is so neat to hear people who live on the other side of the map come in and say this is so unique. Things like that don’t get old to us.” Many people who have come through Dogwood Pass have been amazed and have donated decorations to be displayed throughout the town.
A Taste of the Past
Dogwood Pass tries to offer something for everyone. “We get a lot of classroom field trips, company parties, birthday parties, and any of those types of events,” Mike says. Weddings really keep the couple busy, preparing and renting the property for about 10-15 weddings a year.
Each month, Dogwood Pass has a festival where 500 people will come through the town. One of DogWood Pass’ biggest events is its Halloween festival, turning the Wild West town into a haunted, zombie filled town, bringing in close to 1,000 people. Mike and Sharlene often bring in special guests to perform during their festivals, such as Old West circus performers and the Seventh Ohio Calvary Union. In the wintertime, when it is too cold for people to be outside watching the reenactment, they do Old West card games and events in the saloon. Mike also teaches concealed carry classes and hosts shooting events.
Most of the participants that take part in Dogwood Pass’ reenactments and festivals are family members and friends of Mike and Sharlene. The couple always welcomes others with open arms to come in and participate in the town’s events. “One of the neatest things about Dogwood Pass is that it draws people in and you meet the greatest people,” Sharlene says. “They’ll come out and help on the weekends and before you know it, these people are like family to you.”
People’s appreciation and admiration of the town drives Mike and Sharlene to push to build more. While the speed of building the town might slow down with age and finances, Mike and Sharlene are willing to do whatever they have to in order to keep the town alive and growing. “You just can’t stop and enjoy it. If you sit here and look at it, you always come up with things to add in your mind,” Mike says. “I’m waiting right now to add more things so it’s never going to stop growing. I can’t see it.”
A Family Affair
As for the future of Dogwood Pass, Mike and Sharlene hope to keep the business in the family, passing it down to their children and grandchildren. “I was born on this farm and my grandfather left it to my parents, who left it to me, so that’s how I want to leave it,” Mike says. The two have been preparing their family to run the business and have faith they will continue to keep up the town’s success. “I think our children, or some of our children, and grandchildren are ready to take it over. They understand as it grows, this is something they have to take care of someday as well.” Sharlene says. “We try to instill that into them. We don’t take it lightly.”
Mike and Sharlene believe that none of their success would have been possible without each other. “You can’t do it without both, without the two people,” Mike says. “If you don’t have the same interest, there is no way anything like this can happen.”
The Montgomery’s little hobby turned into an obsession, which turned into a business, and eventually, turned into their life. It’s their greatest passion, a passion that they can share with each other and their family, and they don’t ever see themselves giving it up. “I can see us in our 90s pointing to our grandson saying ‘Move this over here and let’s build this here’,” Sharlene says. “It’s our life and our hobby,” Mike says. “It’s what we do and what we will continue to do.”