About Country Maid Stoves

Suppertime Stoves, Ltd. Began in 1979, with the founding fathers being two Amish brothers Elmo and Mark Stoll and their wives. The two brothers had been trying to make their living off the dairy farm, being in partnership in southern Ontario.

The younger of the two, Mark, and his family had just returned to Ontario after having spent 10 years in the small Central American country Honduras.

Mark and his wife moved into the small tenant house on the farm. Being Amish, they of course had no hydro, phone, fax, T.V., etc. Mark needed a cookstove but was unable to find on that suited his need. A cookstove was designed to cook meals and do the family baking so a second stove would be needed to heat the house. This seemed unappealing and not efficient to him, to keep two fires burning in so small a house.

So, after much discussion, Mark and Elmo decided to design a heater and cookstove combination, using the downdraft principle. They called this stove The Pioneer Maid, it being the very first cookstove ever to be air tight. And use the down draft principle. It instantly became a hit among the Amish people and soon word got around, and after some advertising, also became available to the general public. They began cranking out an average of 300 units every year.

After about 5 years or so of being in production, one of our best dealers in Missouri told us that he had been selling Cunningham heating stoves made by a man called Sumner Cunningham living in VA., but he was going out of business. He felt the hearing stove was good enough that someone should keep on making them. After investigation and careful consideration, the rights to manufacture the Cunningham were purchased.

The next 17 years had been spent making the Cunningham available to the Amish only, because the stove had never been tested for UL or ULC approval. The cost to do so seemed prohibitive and besides they were busy enough keeping the Amish market supplied along with manufacturing The Pioneer Maid and an economy model dubbed The Baker’s Choice who had also come into the picture.

Finally, in the winter of 2002 and the spring of 2003, we decided to give serious consideration to the Cunningham. It seemed that more and more people were interested in heating stoves, and no insurance company would approve of installing a stove that was not UL approved.

So the Cunningham was redesigned, using past experience to revolutionize the concept. So now today the Cunningham heating stove is being offered to you.

We feel satisfied that if Sumner Cunningham were able to see what we did to his stove, he would approve and give his blessings to the new concept.

The Story of Humble Hannah

It is said that necessity is the mother of invention.

We agree, and that best sums up how our airtight cookstove, the PIONEER MAID, first came to be.

For years we were looking for a good cookstove. We tried out various different types of cookstoves, and looked at a lot more. None of them impressed us as a stove we would enjoy having in our own kitchen, or recommending to others.

It is true, some of the stoves we looked at were better than others. But for the most part the fireboxes were too small. And holding a fire was difficult. The burn could not be controlled. Almost all were non-airtight and wasteful and inefficient.

Finally we gave up our search. We went to work to design our own. That was late is 1978 and early 1979. A year later we were building our first prototype, a crude test model we dubbed “Humble Hannah”. It was a homely steel box with makeshift lids and doors, and no legs, so that you had to bend over to cook on it. We propped it up on concrete blocks to run our first tests.

Humble as she was, we were impresses by her performance, and after thoroughly testing her in our own kitchen, we built a second prototype, then a third.

By the fall of 1980, we offered our first units for sale. The response from the marketplace was gratifying. Even though those first units has some bugs in them, and needed some changes made, we were pleased by the overall acceptance of the stove. No one who used one wanted to return to a conventional type cookstove.

The more we experimented and tested, the more convinced we were that we had come across an idea whose time had come. We had the evidence that it was possible to create a better cookstove, a cookstove combining today’s technological advancements with the common-sense ideas of grandmother’s day. We spent thousands of dollars researching and designing this stove, and then redesigning it. We talked with experts in the field, engineers, metallurgists, stove manufacturers, distributors, and retailers. In addition, of course we relied heavily upon those in the best position to evaluate a cookstove – the housewives who use them.

Today Humble Hannah rests quietly in the corner of our warehouse, too bashful and homely to appear in public, waiting for some future date when she will be reassigned to her rightful place in a great museum! Meanwhile, she need never be ashamed of her offspring – her daughters are doing well all across the land, from Alaska to Maine, from the Yukon to Prince Edward Island, quietly bringing the airtight revolution into the kitchen.