Bringing the Old West Home

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Southern Ohio’s Dogwood Pass Harkens to 1800s

Much like the mining boom towns of the Old West in the 1800s, there’s a small community in southeastern Pike County that seems to have sprung up overnight.

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Four years ago, the only establishment in Dogwood Pass was the town saloon. But now, the drinking hole has more than a dozen neighboring shops and stores. There’s the jailhouse and the bank, the bath house and the livery stable, the gun shop, and, of course, the undertaker.

If this has you thinking more Dodge City or Tombstone during the Gold Rush than New Boston or Lucasville, Ohio, in 2015, don’t worry. That’s the idea.

Dogwood Pass is a bit of the Old West, right here in southern Ohio. Spend the afternoon there, and you’re pretty much guaranteed to see lawmen on horseback chasing bank robbers through the streets before getting into a shootout, which will likely send one or more of the outlaws to the aforementioned undertaker. Saloon girls and townspeople look on but don’t get involved. They know better. Minding your own business is the best way to stay alive in the Old West.

Mike and Sharlene Montgomery, the proprietors of Dogwood Pass, called the town their hobby, one which they admit borders on addiction. “We just love history and horses and everything to do with the ways of old. We like to share what we can with anyone who’s interested, especially young kids,” said Mike Montgomery, who was born and raised on the Dogwood Pass property – a combination of two neighboring farms he intherited from both sets of grandparents.

The entrance to the town, located on Adams Road near Beaver, sits amid a grove of dogwood trees. To get to the trails leading up the hill and to the town, you have to pass through all the dogwoods – which is how the town got its name. Much better than the gruesome stories behind some of the mining towns in the Old West, like Tombstone or Deadwood.

Dogwood Pass is the place of many pleasant memories for Mike and Sharlene. In addition to being the backdrop of many fond childhood happenings for Mike, it’s also the spot where Mike and Sharlene married more than 20 years ago. In warm weather, the couple lives right in the town they built, but when it turns colder, they move to their “real” home, located just over the hill, because, you know, buildings in the Old West didn’t have luxuries like electricity and heat.

The whole thing started when they built a Wild Western-style saloon on the property
in 2011– a place to entertain friends or just relax after riding horses. Soon, they could envision an entire town. With help from family and friends, they’ve constructed 14 other buildings, as well as some fake storefronts that they plan to eventually turn into actual structures.

Furnishing the Dogwood buildings and venues has also been a group effort, Mike said. Many of the items are family heirlooms given to them by friends; others were found at auctions, flea markets or in antique shops. Impressed visitors also have contributed some pieces, like the lady from Alabama who donated an antique surgical kit for the town’s doctor’s office.

Those same friends, and more, also volunteer as re-enactors for the many festivals at Dogwood Pass, and the schools and other groups that visit each week. “There are too many characters to name roaming the streets of Dogwood,” Mike said. “Let’s see … there’s Calamity Jane, Trixie, Miss Kitty, Deputy Virgil, Sheriff John, Judge Roy Bean, Charley Utter, Doc, Ringo and his gang of outlaws, The Ohio Cavalry and barkeep Gabby, just to name a few.”

The more than 50 volunteers are the town’s coolest feature, Mike added. “Without all of these special people, Dogwood Pass would not be what it is today.”

Today, the town is open for tours Wednesday through Sunday. Five different festivals took place during the summer, and coming up in October is the second annual Haunted Ghost Town, when zombies, monsters and ghosts abound, and each building, street and trail is tranformed into a maze of screaming horrors.

But the annual event of which they are most proud is the Cystic Fibrosis Benefit, which takes place in August in memory of Mike’s best friend Brad Schneider. Each year, the Dogwood Gang selects a child from southern Ohio who is battling the disease and puts on an Old West Show in his/her honor. All the funds raised through admissions and concessions as well as a raffle and auction of donated items is given to that child at the end of the day.

“Being able to help those kids is a feeling you will never be able to match,” Mike said. “That makes Dogwood Pass worth every drop of sweat we have put into it.”

The entire town of Dogwood also can be rented. A steady stream of weddings, parties and fundraising events have taken place there the past couple of years. Mike said all revenue from events and tours is invested back into the town to make it grow.

A bunkhouse that will sleep approximately 20 (complete with indoor plumbing!) is currently under construction. That will open the town up as a camping location for area scout troops and 4-H clubs. Guided horse trail rides also are planned.

It’s all about serving the community, Mike said, because the community has been such a great supporter of the project.

“We are amazed by people’s generosity as much as they are amazed by our little town,” Mike said.

 

If You Go:

Dogwood Pass Old West Town is located at 722 Adams Road, near Beaver in southeastern Pike County. It is open Wednesday through Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., for tours. To schedule a visit, call Mike or Sharlene Montgomery at (740) 835-1130, send an email to dogwood.pass@yahoo.com or follow the town happenings on Facebook.

Admission to festivals is $8; kids age 6 and younger get in free. A suggested donation of $3 per person is requested for tours.

The annual Haunted Ghost Town will take place every Friday and Saturday, Oct. 9 through Oct. 31, from dark until midnight. Admission is $10.

 

Photos Compliments Mike and Sharlene Montgomery

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Amanda Gilmore

Amanda Gilmore of Wheelersburg, Ohio, is a professional editor for Wastren Advantage Inc. of Piketon, Ohio. She spent 10 years as the community relations coordinator at Boyd County Public Library (another great place featured in this magazine more than once) and another 10+ before that as a writer and editor for The Independent in Ashland. She's a part-time teacher at Ohio University Southern, and loves to travel, eat and hang out with her two awesome kids, Pierce and Kate. You can contact her at ajosephinegilmore@yahoo.com.

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