J. H. Christopher purchased the land just one and half miles south of Warrensburg in 1884 that came to be known as Pertle Springs. The faith leaders of the community approached Christopher in 1886 and asked if he would support bringing Sam Jones and Sam Small, traveling evangelists, to the community for a summer encampment. In 1886 he constructed Hotel Minnewawa to serve guests and built a large tabernacle to accommodate the anticipated crowd. Other attendees, who did not stay at the Hotel Minnewawa, lived in tents, which were erected on the grounds of Pertle Springs. Some organizations erected permanent "cottages" that dotted the Pertle Springs landscape for years to come. The 1886 summer encampment was successful and other fraternal, civic, and political organizations sought Warrensburg as a place to hold annual meetings and conferences, including a Chautauqua Assembly that focused on temperance and an assembly by the Grand Army of the Republic. Conveniently situated on the East/West traversing Missouri Pacific Line, Warrensburg and J. H. Christopher continued to develop Pertle Springs as an attraction by building a series a lakes where visitors could engage in boating and swimming during their visits.
In 1887 the St. Louis Sunday School Association erected a building to use for the St. Louis Sunday Schools during the Sam Jones' camp meetings. The building was constructed on the hill south of the springs and was a "twelve sided building, 30 feet across, the foundations of stone, the walls 38 or 40 feet, and surrounded with a Turkish roof." The Johnson County Missouri camp headquarters was constructed just east of the St. Louis building. In 1888 a bowling alley, temporary merry-go-round, and boat house were added. The Fourth of July celebrations held there were legendary. Despite these additions, local leaders announced in July of 1889: "The Chautauqua idea has not yet taken deep hold of the community, and the people do not rally to the support of the directors." The directors noted: "The present system of transportation is not only expensive to families, but to busy people involves too much inconvenience and loss of time. We must have a dummy line before the beginning of another assembly."
In 1890 Pertle Springs entered its second phase of significant growth when Christopher built a dummy line that ran from a depot constructed on Holden street to Pertle Springs. The dummy line allowed for quicker access to and from Pertle Springs and significantly increased the number of organizations that used Pertle Springs for their meetings. Sam Jones returned for a camp meeting in the summer of 1890 and the Warrensburg Standard noted "Jones preached to about 4,000 in the morning and as many more at night. In all there were at least seven thousand people on the grounds at some time during the day, as the dummy carried something over five thousand,...."
The period from 1890 to 1900 seemed to be the heyday for the resort as the automobile had not yet displaced the Union Pacific train as the main source of transportation for visitors that came to the springs. Christopher continued to improve Pertle Springs and Warrensburg when the city of Warrensburg granted him a franchise to supply the city with water. In 1894 he constructed a water works, which included a a tower and power house and also a water reservoir. By 1900 the Sam Jones camp meetings had ended but the Sunday school conventions, fourth of July celebrations, and other civic institutions still drew visitors to the resort.
After 1900 Christopher turned to hosting County Fairs and Sunday School Conventions and focused on improving Pertle Springs. In 1902 Christopher funded the construction of a new depot at the Dummy terminal, a new boat house, and a merry-go-round. The hotel also received some upgrades. In 1903 the large tabernacle that Sam Jones used for his gatherings was torn down and replaced with a new structure, which came to be referred to as the "Convention Hall."In December of 1905 Christopher remodeled the Hotel Estes in downtown Warrensburg and the dummy line that conveniently ran in front of the hotel quickly facilitated guest travel to and from the hotel to Pertle Springs.
In 1921 Pertle Springs suffered severe storm damage and a dam, which was constructed near the Stewart Cottage, partially washed away and eroded the bedding under the track for the dummy line and damaged the dummy line depot platform. It is unclear whether or not the storm damage factored into the decision to discontinue the use of the dummy line, but in March of 1922 Christopher made a decision to sell the dummy line and equipment.
In April of 1926 the Hotel Minnewawa burned and Pertle Springs's golden years continued to wind down. A structure was later built on the hotel site and came to be known as the "Lodge." In January of 1931 James H. Christopher died at the age of eighty-three while vacationing in New Smyrna, Florida, with his wife.
During the Great Depression some of the land that had been used for the resort became home to a Civilian Conservation Camp for Veterans. The CCC built additional structures on the Pertle Springs landscape and some of their remnants can still be seen on the landscape today.
The University of Central Missouri purchased Pertle Springs and its surrounding lands in 1959. The "Lodge" was demolished in January 1986 after it was determined that the home was beyond repair. Under the stewardship of the university, Pertle Springs became a center for campus gatherings and social events. UCM students and the general public continued to take advantage of the wooded acreage, picnic areas and opportunities for boating and fishing in Lake Cena. A nine-hole, sand green golf course was constructed in 1964 on acreage just south of Lake Cena and later the golf course was expanded to 18 holes, which included grass greens. The course was named Keth Memorial Golf Course in 1972 after the late Earl Keth, who served as Mules head basketball coach from 1946 to 1961. Keth was the guiding force behind development of men's golf as an intercollegiate sport at UCM as well as the construction of the golf course. Additionally, a swimming pool with shower facilities and a pro shop, built through the generosity of local donors, were added to the recreational facilities lineup in the 1960s.
The turn of the calendar to the 21st century brought a new vision to Pertle Springs. In 2002 the pool closed. In 2008 plans were implemented to update the Keth Memorial Golf Course and develop it into a state-of-the-art public facility. The building that housed the pro shop was razed, and a driving range was built with four indoor bays, new putting greens and a chipping area. A new clubhouse was developed that included a pro shop, banquet room, professional kitchen facilities and three offices, providing new life to Pertle Springs as a gathering place for the campus and community.
Today Pertle Springs Park hosts many outdoor recreation activities like biking, hiking and fishing. Visitors can walk or ride on a number of trails around the park and its lakes. They can also visit the renamed Mules National Golf Club for a round of golf on the refurbished 18 hole golf course. Over the last twenty years, UCM students have conducted biological and cultural resource research at Pertle for their classes.