By SABRA HOEPPNER
(WARRENSBURG, Mo., digitalBURG) – A Warrensburg native and a recent graduate of the University of Central Missouri hosted a presentation of her documentary film, “Pertle Springs: The Eternal Attraction,” on April 3 in the Johnson County Historical Society’s Culp Building.
The documentary provided a detailed timeline of Pertle Springs from its origination to present time. The presentation, which was free and open to the public, attracted a crowd of about 70 people.
“I am a little overwhelmed, I wasn’t expecting this many people to show up,” said Ellen Becker, the film’s creator. “But I am thrilled you all showed up this evening to watch my documentary and I hope you enjoy it.”
The film begins with William Purtle and his discovery of the spring and damming of the lakes. Then, it moves on to J.H. Christopher’s purchase of the land in 1884. Christopher transformed the land into a resort and hotel, which became one of Missouri’s largest attractions.
This is when the spelling of Purtle was changed. Christopher believed that replacing the letter “U” with the letter “E” in Purtle made the name more appealing to the eye. People from all over the country came to Pertle Springs to enjoy a vacation get-away. Christopher even owned a pet bear whose home is now a research cave for biology students.
The hotel burned down in 1926, which ultimately put an end to the resort. Through the 1930s and 1940s, the land was leased by the government and utilized as a Civilian Conservation Corps camp for soldiers. The documentary wraps up with the university’s purchase of the land, outlining the connection between the park and the university.
An interview with President Ambrose reveals possible future plans for Pertle Springs, such as the construction of student apartments that face the lake.
Among the crowd at the presentation was Lisa Irle, curator at the Johnson County Historical Society and a primary source of information for Becker’s documentary.
“Adventurous souls who like a ramble have walked around the grounds of Pertle enjoying nature, looking for artifacts, finding the foundation stones of the abandoned buildings and wondering what must have happened there,” Irle said.
She said Pertle Springs holds a fascination for many people, especially those who grew up here and have fond memories of Warrensburg.
“We appreciate the care Ellen took with the research in creating a beautiful documentary film,” Irle said. “We are surely glad for this record of Pertle Springs and hope to continue showing the film to interested visitors.”
Becker graduated from UCM in December 2013 with a Master of Arts in mass communication. She created the historical documentary as part of her thesis project during her last semester.
“She had to tie in at least one communicative theory and develop it into how it related to the project,” said Stephen Price, assistant professor of communication who was a primary consultant for Becker in creating the documentary. “She chose framing theory and how she would be framing the history of Pertle Springs for viewers of her documentary.”
Becker said when she learned a documentary was an option, she got excited for the project. She said she had to incorporate a written component to go along with her documentary.
“We were able to tailor it to be the project I wanted it to be as well as still following the thesis guidelines, which was really neat,” Becker said.
Becker was a reporter for the Muleskinner in 2009 before getting hired as assistant news editor in September 2010. In January 2011, she moved up to news editor and became managing editor in August 2012.
Becker’s documentary was selected for inclusion at the 2014 Missouri Conference on History in a panel titled, “Approaches to Historic Preservation,” which took place March 18 in Jefferson City.
“There were a lot of professors and doctors giving speeches on their research papers, I was the only documentary there,” Becker said.
She said presenting her documentary and sharing her research at the conference helped prepare her for the presentation in Warrensburg.
Becker’s documentary will also be shown during the Old Drum Day Festival in the afternoon Friday, April 12, at the Mary Miller Smiser Heritage Library, 302 N. Main St.