The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

February 16, 2014

Jo Ellis: Restored barn becomes events center

CARTHAGE, Mo. — Northwest of Carthage, in a barn well over 100 years old, couples are saying their wedding vows, church families are gathering and kids are having exciting birthday parties.

Bruce and Chris Westwood, who migrated in 2001 from Utah to Southwest Missouri, purchased the 73-acre Civil War Arena ranch property in 2012 and started restoration of the barn, converting it into a rustic events center. The two-story structure that Chris “fell in love with” originally held 16 horse stalls and a huge loft.

It had not been used to house animals in several decades. The barn apparently had been built to last because other than cleaning it out, the Westwoods only had to do a bit of patching, put in some windows and light fixtures, and add a new floor to the loft to make it usable as an event venue. The seating capacity is about 150.

On my visit last week, I was given a friendly and enthusiastic greeting by some cute baby goats and two young blond females of the canine variety — a Great Pyrenees/Labrador mix.

Although the exact date of the original construction is unknown, the Westwoods found a clue in the loft. Several dated signatures ranging from 1894 to 1907 were found (and preserved) on a door leading to a small closetlike structure that housed a pulley. Chris said she is puzzled as to the use of the closet because the hole in the floor was not large enough to pull anything through. “I’ve never been able to find anyone that could tell me what it is,” she said.

The Westwoods also added an upper deck to the back of the barn that overlooks a large pond, well stocked with all kinds of fish. A portion of the barn interior was used for restrooms, and dressing rooms for brides and grooms. There are no cooking facilities, but there is a prep room with a refrigerator and sink for caterers to use.

The Westwoods’ niece, Lena Baron, and her family are current caretakers of the ranch, living in the 1930s house on the property. As my first tour guide, on our way to the barn, she led me past three huge gnarled trees that are easily over a century old. They were beautiful even in their leafless condition.

The one nearest the barn is dubbed the “Wedding Tree,” because it serves as a backdrop for outdoor ceremonies. Around it are the foundation remains of a scale that was used to weigh grains; several artifacts have been found near it.

“It’s so serene and beautiful here,” Baron said. “It’s been really neat to restore it.”

There are outbuildings that Chris said were built later than the barn, but on old stone foundations. A large corn crib next to the barn works as a storage area, and a lean-to on the crib will be used to house a “lending closet” for decorative materials customers might want to use for their events.

It’s a sort of a “pay it forward” philosophy. “They can use anything in there without charge,” Chris said. “We just ask them to leave something when they’re done.”

The ranch actually has two venues. Toward the back of the property is a huge building formerly known as the Civil War Arena where previous owners featured rodeo events, even including bull riding. It has tiered seating and an inside track for go-kart races that are held every other Saturday through April. Chris said competitors come “from all over,” and spectators are welcome.

Eventually, that venue may be turned back to some purpose that again features livestock, Chris said. The main goal now, she said, is to sell the home they currently live in so they can move into their house on the ranch.

Civil War Ranch is closed on Sundays, but the venues may be rented any other day of the week for small or large parties, and for full or half-days. It is a great location for seniors to take their graduation photos. Carriage rides and fireworks displays over the pond may be added for a fee. Rates are posted on the website

The first event was held on July 4 of last year. Since then, there have been dozens of weddings and family reunions. Chris is hoping that despite the severe winter, Mother Nature will bring refreshing rains and warm sun to encourage all the bulbs she has planted to bloom in time for the first wedding of the year, slated for next month.

ADDRESS CORRESPONDENCE to Jo Ellis, c/o The Joplin Globe, Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802 or email

Text Only
Local News
  • 0420earthday.jpg Prairie State Park kicks off Earth Day events

    Prairie State Park began celebrating Earth Day early with an event Saturday that provided a chance for people of all ages to learn more about how they can protect the environment.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Joplin Catholic schools to hold annual spring auction

    The Joplin Area Catholic Schools spring auction will be staged Saturday at the Jack Lawton Webb Convention Center, 5300 S. Range Line Road in Joplin.

    April 19, 2014

  • Wally Kennedy MUG72.jpg Wally Kennedy: Another pizza choice and ice cream on the way

    A new pizza restaurant is coming to the northwest corner of Stone’s Corner in the Village of Airport Drive. Piez is opening this week in a storefront that formerly housed Quincy Magoo’s, 6039 N. Main Street Road, which has been closed for more than two years.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • mike pound_cnhi .jpg Mike Pound: No more hiding Easter eggs or emotions

    Well, that’s a wrap on the Easter egg hunts. For about 15 years we have staged not one, but two Easter egg hunts for our now 16-year-old daughter, Emma.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • 041914 Wedding1_72.jpg VIDEO: Cancer patient walks down aisle in wedding thrown by friends

    A year ago, Schandera Jordan was diagnosed with a rare form cervical cancer. And months after a radical hysterectomy, doctors confirmed the worst: The cancer had spread to her lungs and pancreas.

    April 19, 2014 2 Photos

  • r041614giregabby.jpg SLIDE SHOW: Teen with cystic fibrosis finds widespread support

    When the Nevada Show Choir performs its spring show on stage, it’s impossible to pick out the student with cystic fibrosis because there are no outward clues.
    Gabby Gire, 18, is just another performer. She sings, she dances, she smiles for the audience.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo 1 Slideshow

  • Enrollment open for Joplin summer school

    Enrollment is now open for the Joplin school district’s summer school session, which will run Wednesday, June 4, though Tuesday, July 1.

    April 19, 2014

  • r041814capbus4.jpg Funding shortfall could hinder public transportation in Southeast Kansas

    For the past two years, Pittsburg State University sophomore Travis Cook has been using public transportation to get to and from his classes. He began using the bus his freshman year, when he didn’t have a vehicle to drive even to the grocery store — which is said to be the case for many who use the service.

    April 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • Bruner denied change of venue for murder trial

    Circuit Judge Gayle Crane has denied a change of venue for a defendant charged with fatally shooting an assistant football coach at Missouri Southern State University. The attorney for Jeffrey Bruner claimed pretrial publicity as the reason for seeking a change of venue in Jasper County Circuit Court.

    April 18, 2014

  • Russell family sues city, Joplin police

    Family members of a teenage girl whose suicide a year ago brought them into conflict with police officers and emergency medical technicians are suing the city and the Joplin Police Department. Kevin and Julissa Russell and their son, Brant Russell, are the plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed in Jasper County Circuit Court. The action filed on the Russells’ behalf by Kansas City attorney Andrew Protzman names the city, the Police Department and Officers Austin Wolf and Tyler Christensen as defendants.

    April 18, 2014

Must Read


Missouri Republicans are considering a new approach to prevent federal agents from enforcing laws the state considers to be infringements on gun rights: barring them from future careers in state law enforcement agencies. Do you think this proposal has merit?

     View Results
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter