- In 1957, Gordon McLain purchased land located just off Route 6 in Coal Valley, Illinois. It took almost two years to clear the ground and construct the first building.
- In 1959, Mr. McLain, a masonry contractor with an interest in exotic animals, opened the gates to the public. The McLain’s Wild Animal Farm was a family owned and operated venture.
- Mrs. Charles Deere Wiman purchased the farm and additional land in January of 1963. In May 1963, she deeded the farm to the County of Rock Island. The zoo was named Niabi, which means "young deer spared by the hunter" in the Osage Indian language.