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
  • Ballot issues dominate GOP event

    A maze of campaign yard signs lined the sidewalk at Big Spring Park, leading up to a line of local candidates for public office with rolled-up sleeves shaking hands with potential voters.

    July 24, 2014

  • Mike Pound: It’s time for some football

    The arrests, the announced suspensions and the contract disputes can mean only one thing: Somebody is ready for some football.

    July 24, 2014

  • Landfill opponents seek answers

    The Baxter Springs High School auditorium was filled with hundreds of Cherokee County residents Thursday night as Galena city officials answered questions and listened to comments regarding a proposed landfill at Riverton.

    July 24, 2014

  • Hanaway says leadership missing under Gov. Nixon

    When Republican gubernatorial hopeful Catherine Hanaway walked into the banquet room at Granny Shaffer’s Restaurant this week, she was greeted by some of Joplin’s more prominent business leaders.

    July 24, 2014

  • Neosho athletes bring home silver

    For 19-year-old Dominque Dechant, it was the trip of a lifetime. She and three other athletes from Neosho traveled last month to Newark, New Jersey, as part of the Missouri Special Olympics girls basketball team.

    July 24, 2014

  • r072414msw.jpg VIDEO: Carterville company expands to third generation

    What began as Ray “Mac” McCoy’s side job in his home 55 years ago has grown not only in square footage and reach, but in generations. This summer, a third generation took over the reins of MSW — Mac’s Specialty Woodwork — that now exceeds 90,000 square feet and creates custom furniture for chain restaurants coast to coast.

    July 24, 2014 2 Photos

  • Shrine Bowl band, cheerleaders, players arrive in Pittsburg this week

    Band members were the first Kansas Shrine Bowl participants to arrive at Pittsburg State University this week.

    July 24, 2014

  • Galena council rescinds landfill decisions

    The Galena City Council voted Wednesday to rescind decisions it made two weeks ago regarding a proposed landfill at Riverton.

    July 23, 2014

  • Miami council waives fees for barbecue event

    The Miami City Council voted Tuesday to waive $3,750 in usage fees for Miami Elks Lodge No. 1320 for an upcoming barbecue championship at the Miami Fairgrounds.

    July 23, 2014

  • Carthage prepares for Marian Days

    The 37th annual Marian Days celebration will start in two weeks, and planning is well under way for the event that will bring tens of thousands of Catholics of Vietnamese descent to Carthage.

    July 23, 2014

Must Read


Amendment 8 in Missouri proposes a special lottery ticket to help fund state veterans homes. How will you vote?

For it.
Against it.
     View Results
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter