Nixa traces its origins back to the mid-1800s with the movement of farmers and traders into this fertile soil region of Southwest Missouri. The first settlers were farmers who chose to locate their homes along the wooded streams in the vicinity of present day Nixa. The growing community quickly became known as a stopover or crossroads site, as the community was about a half-day’s ride with a team of horses from Springfield. It became a convenient stopping point for teamsters hauling supplies from Arkansas to Springfield and for those traveling to the lower James River and Arkansas.
One of Nixa’s early civic leaders was Nicholas A. Inman, a blacksmith who moved from Tennessee in 1852. Inman established a partnership with Joe Weaver and opened a blacksmith shop in Ozark. Inman’s family home site of 160 acres adjoins the present day corporate boundaries of Nixa.
As the community continued to grow and new settlers and businesses opened in this “crossroads” site, a post office was opened. At a town meeting held to select a name for the community and post office, it was suggested that the town be named after Inman because of his years of service to the community. Another suggestion that “nix” best described the community, as it was “nothing but a crossroads” (Collins, 1989). An “a,” Inman’s middle initial, was added to “nix,” arriving at the community’s name—Nixa. Nixa officially incorporated as a village on June 10, 1902.
As with many other communities in Southwest Missouri, Nixa’s early economy was based on agriculture and farming. Grain crops, dairy and beef cattle, and vegetables were the primary products of the area. Flour and corn mills were established near Nixa on the Finley River, at Linden and Riverdale. As the cattle industry grew in importance, mills specializing in stock feed took over. The dairy industry also continued to grow, and in 1924 a cooperative cheese factory was set up in Nixa. During the Great Depression, the cooperative was taken over by the Wilson Packing Company. Fruit and vegetables were also important to the area’s economy, with the first tomato cannery established in 1889. Tomatoes became an important cash crop for farmers during the Great Depression and the cannery provided jobs for Nixa’s villagers. The city’s tomato canning industry declined at the onset of WWII due to loss of manpower and production take-over by large canneries.
The early businesses and industries that catered to the local agricultural economy are no longer in existence. A decreasing demand for the area’s produce, the depression years and the continued growth of Springfield as the region’s commercial center, all contributed to the closing of these early businesses. Nixa, however, continued to grow in both population and local economic base after WWII. Improvements to the area’s major transportation routes, including Highways 160 and 14, stimulated residential and business growth in Nixa. Industrial development and employment opportunities in nearby Springfield during the 1960’s and 1970’s resulted in corresponding growth in Nixa, as the city became a residential community for workers commuting to Springfield. While many Nixa residents continue to rely on employment in Springfield, Nixa has experienced rapid growth and a diversification of its economic base over the past decade. Today, Nixa continues to function as a “crossroads” or mid-point location. Since most early residents of Nixa had little cash, “swapping of goods” was a common practice – wood for flour, molasses for bran, and beef for meal (Collins, 1989).
Today, Nixa continues to function as a “crossroads” or mid-point location between Springfield and the Branson/Tri-Lakes area, attracting both residential and commercial development.
Rapid residential growth has spurred new business development in Nixa. Several new retail, convenience and service-oriented businesses have located in the community since 1990 and expansion of existing industries is underway. Financial institutions have constructed new offices and three Springfield hospitals have opened satellite medical clinics to serve the growing Nixa population. City Center includes Nixa City Hall, recently updated and expanded, Nixa Utilities and Nixa Police Station.
Nixa continues to eXpand in all directions and in all aspects of a community.