Pertle Springs: Serving the Generations
By Mike Greife
For generations of University of Central Missouri students, Pertle Springs has been a campus retreat. Home to Lake Cena and the Keth Memorial Golf Course, it has played an important role in the history of UCM and Warrensburg since it was first developed as a private resort in the late 19th century.
The origins of the Pertle Springs recreation area date back to 1886, when Warrensburg businessman James H. Christopher developed the 300 acres on the south side of Warrensburg into a resort.
Pertle Springs featured the healing waters of a mineral spring that fed four lakes on the property. Hotel Minnewawa, built on the hill north of Lake Cena, was built in three stages, with the final building housing 300 guest rooms. The hotel contained restaurants, a barbershop and a summer residence for the Christopher family. Guests were transported from the Warrensburg train depot and downtown hotels by the "dummy train" and could take advantage of a boathouse and a fleet of canoes and rowboats.
The resort also featured a meeting hall that seated 3,500 people and was the site of the first Chautauqua meeting held in Missouri. A large gazebo was built over the original spring, which fed a fountain.
The popularity of mineral spring resorts waned as the American public became more mobile, and patronage of the resort dropped through the 1920s. Many of the original buildings had deteriorated over the years and were razed, and Hotel Minnewawa was empty when it burned in 1926. Christopher rebuilt a smaller lodge in the same location in 1929.
Although Pertle Springs was no longer a bustling resort in the late 1920s, the property gained new life when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed legislation in 1933 creating the Civilian Conservation Corps. The U.S. government leased 15 acres of the property just southeast of the Pertle Springs lodge from the Christopher family as a location for CCC Company 1771-V.
In response to the Great Depression, the CCC offered unemployed men an opportunity to work, conserving the country's natural resources. From 1934 to 1939, the camp at Pertle Springs housed an average of 150 World War I and Spanish American War veterans. The camp contained nine barracks buildings, along with a dining hall, hospital, headquarters building, recreation hall, machine shop and garages.