When Duane and Mary Wiltberger purchased the property in 1997, they named it Koinania, after the Biblical Greek word for fellowship, to reflect that their new home would be a place of fellowship for friends and family. Eventually they relocated permanently to Koinania Valley Ranch in Black, MO from northern Illinois in 1999 with their (now grown) three daughters. Taking early retirement from his job as a corporate HVAC mechanic, Duane built or remodeled most of the structures on the property with the help of his family, friends, and other relatives. A car enthusiast, Duane can be found working on his latest project in the garage or taking a drive down the country roads. Mary was a retired homeschooling mom and a never-retiring homemaker with a gift for hospitality. She was also a dedicated entrepreneur and was the primary contact for all things Koinania.
Mary was diagnosed with 2 different cancers in Jan of 2020 and went to be with the Lord Aug 22nd, 2021. Mary and Duane’s youngest daughter Emily has decided to carry on the legacy and is now running the ranch with her husband Jason and their 3 children.
Emily has her mother’s gift of hospitality and she loves cooking. She previously was a massage therapist and is currently balancing running the business and taking care of life on the ranch. Jason is an army veteran and worked in the oildfield for many years before they decided to come back home to Missouri and take over the business. He’s a jack-of-all-trades and can be found fixing things and doing the maintenance required to run the place. Both Emily and Jason have a passion for Jesus, the great outdoors, and homesteading. They plan to add more things to the place, like a garden, beef cattle, chickens and bees.
There is nothing that the Wiltbergers and Hicks enjoy more than having their friends and family close by and they look forward to welcoming you to the family.
The Cottage is the place that started it all.
While the Wiltbergers originally intended for Koinania Valley Ranch to be a working farm and place to take an early retirement, it quickly became clear that their city friends loved to come and visit. When the opportunity to purchase the Cottage came up in 2000 the vision for a more comprehensive getaway location started to become a reality. The Wiltbergers bought it since it was next door to the property. They wanted to be their own next-door neighbor! They thought it would be a good place for their parents to live in their older years but that did not happen so they decided to put it to another use. The Cottage was designed to bless Pastors and their families with a place they could come to get away from the duties of the church and become husbands and fathers to their family without the concerns of the church responsibilities even if only for a weekend or a week. They had seen too many Pastors burn out and wanted to be part of the change. They offered it free to Pastor families or charged just a love offering. Soon it became clear that it wasn’t only pastors and their families who needed rest and restoration, so they began renting it to friends and friends of friends. It has been wonderful to witness the rejuvenating effects of a stay at Koinania Cottage for so many families. When Emily and Jason moved back here from Texas to run the ranch, they moved into the cottage with their family October of 2021.
The property is 200 acres of woods and pasture land surrounded on 3 sides by the Mark Twain National Forest. In addition to the Hicks home aka the Cottage, the property includes 4 rentals: the Ranch House (East and West Wings), the Fisherman’s Cabin, and the newly renovated Hummingbird House. The Hummingbird House is named in honor of Mary who loved to sit on the porch and watch the numerous hummingbirds at the feeders. It was Mary and Duane’s previous home. Jason and Emily built Duane a 2 bedroom cabin on the property. There are also several barns and a working garage. The pasture is host to a variety of animals, there is fishing in the lake, and fishing and swimming in the private river front.
The Wiltbergers call it a lake; others call it a pond. It is 1/3 acre in size fed by a spring with water entering it and going out a pipe constantly. It is clear and you can see the fish swimming around. They have paddle boats for their guests to rent to go out on the water for exercise or to fish from.
There are benches by the shoreline for fishing and sitting or relaxing. Watch the turtles sun themselves, see fish swimming around, maybe spot a duck during migration, or see deer across the water. Listen to the woodpeckers and watch hummingbirds at the feeders. See blue birds, robins, cardinals, hawks and maybe even spot an eagle!
The Ranch House: When the building was first built, the Ranch House was the home of the Wiltberger family. As more and more people came to visit, the space evolved from a simple single-family dwelling with attached garage, through many iterations, until it reached its current evolution as two joined single-family dwellings. In fact, the only reason Duane stopped adding on to the building was because they finally reached the propane tank!
The Fisherman’s Cabin: Located near the Ranch House, but nestled in the trees, the Fisherman’s Cabin at Koinania Valley Ranch, was built in 2007 by Mennonites. The shell was delivered by wide-load trailer and then hooked up to the utilities. The interior was finished off by Duane and student helpers. The Cabin is one of the all-time favorite rentals because of its peaceful lake views from the porch and the feeling of privacy tucked back in the woods.
The Hummingbird House: This was the most recent home of Duane and Mary. Many a guest has sat on the porch with the Wiltbergers and talked about life there. Duane decided it was too much house for just himself so he is moving to a smaller place they built on the property. They have now renovated it for guests and it will take the place of the cottage, as it is also 3 bedrooms with 2 baths.
Jason and Emily have plans to expand in the future with more cabins and possibly some Yurts an/or RV sites.