It's said that the Nehai Lake area was once occupied by a peaceful tribe of Hopewell Indians and later the Osage.  Evidence of Native Americans can be seen in trail markers known as "thong trees", mounds, and arrowheads found around the lake.  The name Nehai Tonkayea literally means Chief "Big Neck" in the Osage language.  It is rumored that the Osage chief is buried in one of the mounds.
In the early 1960's, a group of gentlemen envisioned a lake formed from a branch of Mussel Fork Creek.  At the time Fairview was the name given the planned 300 acre lake and was a favorite picnic spot for local residents.  By 1966 the Nehai Tonkayea Lake Association was created and became the biggest development in Chariton county. The lake was designed to fill slowly over a 5 to 7 year period to prevent mud and debris and provide clear water.
The 1970's brought many improvments to Lake Nehai.  Streets were formed, electricity, telephone, and water became available, the clubhouse and restaurant, pool, ball fields and golf course were built.
In 1988, The Lake Nehai Prairie was approved by the Conservation Commission.  The remains of the tallgrass prairie of the 15 million acres that once covered the state of Missouri are located on the eastern side of the lake.  Visitors today can see what the first settlers viewed over 300 years ago.
In the 1990's the Ski Club made its appearance and with it came the first of many ski shows and fishing tournaments. Fire protection arrived with Fire Station #3 of the Bynumville Fire Department located just around the corner from the main gate.