An Historic Effort in Ozark

John and Culah Nixon, ardent volunteers and donors of the local historical society, help preserve Christian County’s history.

Massive leather-bound plat books chronicling the settlement of Christian County line one wall. Vibrant paintings by Howard Garrison, longtime owner of Riverside Inn, hang on another. Relics of wrought iron and rough-hewn wood fill the center of the room, and a portrait of legendary lawman Buff Lamb keeps an ever-watchful eye from one corner, not far from a replica Baldknobber’s mask.

The archives and artifacts of the Christian County Museum are on full display beneath the high ceiling of the renovated Ozark community building, a landmark on the town square. You can’t tell now, but the WPA-built structure would have collapsed if not for the dedication of transplants to the county.

John Nixon and his wife, Culah, helped lead the renovation of the historic Ozark community center, now the home of the Christian County Museum.

John and Culah Nixon moved from Springfield to Ozark in 1971. To integrate into their new community, they began volunteering with the Christian County Historical Society. Over the years, they grew into leaders and, ultimately, benefactors with the organization.

In 2010, the city solicited bids for the vacant community building, stipulating it couldn’t be demolished or its unique “giraffe rock” exterior altered. As the only bidders, for a paltry $25, the society had a new permanent home — but a significant amount of housekeeping lay ahead.

Not long after the purchase, a roof inspection revealed one of the trusses had sheared off.

“We just fell into it, then it about fell in on us,” John remembers. The building was immediately condemned and sat vacant for two years.

Supported by contributions from the late Rayo Howard, Bill Hanks and the Nixon’s donor-advised family foundation, roof work began in 2012.

John volunteered to oversee the final phase of the project, relying on his background as an environmental engineer, while continuing to gather donations. Twelve columns now support the roof, each one bearing the names of donors to the renovation.

The Christian County Museum is located on the southeast corner of the town square in Ozark.

In all, the project cost about $300,000, a significant sum for an organization that had to “scratch around” to cover $1,000 for annual operating expenses a decade prior.

“When the city inspector told us to come down and pick up our occupancy permit, that was a real milestone,” John says.

The museum officially opened the doors of its permanent home in 2018, ready to share the stories of the county’s past well into the future.

The museum houses the collection of the Christian County Historical Society, including an original 1840s-era coverlet, settlement records and a recreation of a Baldknobber’s mask.

This story was originally published in the CFO’s Annual Report FY2018. You can read the full publication here.