April 17, 2009

The History of Branson, Missouri

Today, Branson Missouri is the live music capital of the world and a city bustling with tourism and action. It was not always this way, considering the fact that Branson got its start as a tiny little river town. From its humble start, it quickly grew over the years to one of the top family destinations in the country.

How Branson Began

In 1837, Taney County, the county in which Branson is located was developed. Many years later, in 1882, Reuben Branson built a general store and post office, and the location became known as Branson, Missouri, named after the owner.

The year 1884 saw a great migration of settlers to the Ozark area in search of free land and a better life, allowing Branson to become homesteaded, with each family getting 160 acre lots. In 1912 Branson was officially incorporated with 1,200 residents, and business began to come to the city. The Winch Spoke Company and American Pencil Company were just a few of the companies that set up shop here.

The Birth of Branson Tourism

Throughout the following years, tourism began with the birth of Silver Dollar City and Marvel Cave founded by William Henry Lynch in 1894. As early as 1904 a resort city began to form, with the creation of a new bank, hotel, stable, and resorts, all of which were formed to accommodate the local travelers and workers.

The famous author Harold Bell Wright wrote the book “The Shepherd of the Hills” in 1907, which brought thousands of tourists to the city in order to experience the Ozark country for itself. This spurred Branson tourism even further, and made it a must see destination. His work is now depicted in a theatrical performance, several times weekly in downtown Branson.

The Beginning of Branson Shows

In 1959, an enterprising family began putting on shows in the basement of the Branson City Hall with nothing but folding chairs. The Mabes family entertained visitors with their wit and musical charm, and called themselves, “The Baldknobbers.” They toured the area putting on shows with homemade instruments while their wives stood by the roadside with signs for advertisement. Today, they are one of the most popular Branson shows.

Another entertaining family, the Presleys, started their own show alongside a road, just west of Branson. The erected a small metal building and played each night for anyone who happened to be passing by. It was slow going, but they too also developed into one of the most popular local Branson shows.

Growth and Development in Branson from 1950’s to Present

In 1963 The Table Rock Dam was completed, which created the first major lake for fishing in the area and stopped the constant threat of flooding that had terrorized the waterfront town. In the mid 1970’s a two lane road was blasted through the area to cut down on the driving time to get to Branson, and a short decade later, the amount of shops, shows, and dining options along the newly constructed Highway 76 skyrocketed. A tribute to the rapid growth was evidenced by the fact that in 1959, Baldknobbers was the only area show, and by 1980 there were 16 Branson entertainment options.

Major news publication began to see the potential of Branson Missouri beginning in 1991 when it was featured in Time magazine, The Wall Street Journal, and People magazine. The hit show 60 Minutes also did a spotlight on the town and started a flow of tourism that fed the cities growing tourism market.

After the public media attention many big name stars began to see the potential of this booming waterfront town. Ray Stevens, Moe Brandy, Mel Tillis, and Andy Williams are just some of the stars who began to bring their business and attention to Branson.

In recent years Branson’s tourism industries have continued to grow, with the addition of the massive Branson Landing with its rows of huge outlet stores, fine dining, and entertainment options. Championship golf courses have formed vacation resort destinations, and a new convention center has brought in big businesses looking for convenient meeting facilities. In 2009 ground was broken on the brand new Branson Airport, which will be sure to bring even more traffic to this booming city.

Even though it started off as only a humble river town, Branson Missouri has grown in an exciting city full of entertainment choices and activities. With more than 100 live shows, 12 golf courses, and three large fishing lakes, it is easy to see why Branson is now considered one of the premier vacation destinations.

About the author:

Mark Ruda is a current resident of Branson, Missouri. He is currently a marketing director for one of the top providers of Branson condo rentals and Missouri cabin rentals: Thousand Hills Golf Resort. Mark’s experience with Branson tourism make him an excellent source on anything Branson, whether you want to know more about Branson lodging or just find a great restaurant in town.


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