About 1997 or so a fella from Michigan named Dennis Bontrager. Dennis and his wife Viola had left the Amish in Michigan looking for religious liberty and landed in Libby Montana at an Amish community that was experiencing a move of the HOLY SPIRIT. Being an industrious fella with a welder and having some experience building cookstoves back east with the founder of Kitchen Queen, he set about building cookstoves for the Amish communities out west.
The Amish aren’t like us English folks (non-Amish folk), they follow the bible and the bible says don’t take your friend, brother, or nephew to court for swiping yer idea. Dennis did make a couple minor changes to his stove just to keep the peace with Freeman. He made his doors open the opposite way like the suicide doors on an old 4 door Lincoln continental. The hinges were in the middle of the stove and the doors swung out from the center and latched at the outside edges. He also moved the combustion air intake off the stove door on the firebox and lowered it so it was below the door closer to the grate in the bottom of the firebox. This made the door on the firebox hotter to stand in front of. Some of the lady folk had to be real careful not to catch their knickers on fire while standing in front of the firebox, but other than that, the stoves were pretty much identical.
As word spread about the Montana Energy Queen so did the popularity and the orders started coming in. Pretty soon the English folk were asking Dennis to build them a stove too. Ole Dennis found himself pretty busy keeping up with demand. Then ole Obadiah moved out to Montana in 1999 and things really took off as Obadiah was selling cookstoves like hotcakes. He liked Dennis and his stove, so he sold them right alongside the Kitchen Queen.
Wasn’t very long before Dennis had to farm out building parts of his Energy Queen to some of the locals. He teamed up with the Mast family who were part of the same Amish community and could also help with welding up the stoves. It was 1999 and the English folk thought their newfangled computer systems would go haywire when they rolled over to 2000 as no one thought that far ahead when they wrote the confounded code. As it is all zeros and ones no one could be sure what would happen for sure. Some folks, including ole Uncle Sam, thought we could all end up livin’ just like the Amish folk, which might not be all that bad when ya take a look at the mess the world is in now, but that’s another story. Don’t want to git off on that bunny trail. So to make the English folk happy, Dennis added colors to his stoves; you could even git ’em in blue, and this gave him a competitive edge over old Uncle Freeman who was not as liberal. Ole Freeman was like Henry Ford and the Model T, “Ya can have any color ya want, so long as it’s black.”
Before you knew it Dennis was backlogged with orders, so he went outside of the Amish community and hired ole Leroy Thom from Montana Machine to help him build his stoves. Ole Obadiah was really pouring the coals to cookstove sales as he has one of them fancy websites where English folk can buy stoves from all over the world right from their living rooms without even havin’ to load up and head down to the store. Unfortunately ole Leroy’s shop caught on fire and one of the mast boys got really sick and passed away, this made it really hard for Dennis to fill all the orders, so Obadiah filled ’em with kitchen queens instead.
After 2000 came and no one got y2k’d and the world kept on goin’ crazy, Dennis decided that God had a callin’ on his life to do more than build stoves, so he sold out to the Mast family and moved his family up to the west Kootenai where there was another Amish community that was more to his likin’. Dennis got involved with a church in Eureka and ended up leavin’ the Amish lifestyle all together and living for God without having to worry about what clothes he had on, or if his buggy was too fancy. His whole family has a real fire for God now and is involved in ministry.
The Mast family built the Energy Queen for a few more years but never could bring back the demand for their stoves like there was when Dennis owned the company, so they went back to building log homes like that had been doing for a long time. Eventually Mr. Mast turned over the name Montana Energy Queen to Obadiah’s as he sold more Energy Queens than anyone else, and they are still selling the Kitchen Queen along with many other brands. Maybe someday Obadiah’s will decide to resurrect the name with a stove of their own. Ole Obadiah is still kickin’ around the idea, but for now he is content with working together with Kitchen Queen stoves and helping make the Queen even better with a heat shield for the back and glass doors for the firebox and oven. Someday he says he wants to build a cookstove that will burn clean enough to meet EPA specs. Right now wood cookstoves are exempt, but that does not mean they can’t burn cleaner. Obadiah’s has introduced the Cuisinier from JA Roby which is rated at less than 2 grams particulate per hour! That already gives them a large cookstove that can meet the EPA standard along with the rest of the JA Roby Cookstove line, which is EPA certified.
For me, and many of my fellow Yaaksters, we all love our Montana Energy Queens; they keep us toasty warm!
– Montana Mountainman.