Planning a trip? Explore tabs on the left, then click “Add” to start planning. Create Your Trip
Discover the historical past of Branson, MO.
There are no records, and only sparse evidence, of the first human occupation of the area surrounding Branson. Scholars theorize that the ancestors of the Osage Indians appeared in central Missouri sometime in the 14th century. These people were nomads, following game around the region east of the Mississippi between the Missouri and Arkansas Rivers. The tribe lived this way for centuries, dominating other tribes who shared their homelands and aggressively attacking any others who invaded their territory. When the first Anglo men began to arrive in the region in the early 1700s, the Osage were engaged in war with tribes from the southern woodlands as well as with many of the plains Indians.
After Spain claimed the region, Spanish and French traders began plying their goods with the Osage in exchange for fur, but the warring traditions of the Osage disconcerted the Spanish and contributed to the crown's decision to transfer the Louisiana Territory back to France. One month later, the area was sold to the United States as part of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. The following decades were tragic for the Osage people, as the United States government made and broke treaties and forced the Osage into submission. The subsequent end of Indian occupation opened the door to homesteaders.
Moving west from Kentucky and Tennessee, English, Irish and Scottish farmers carved an existence and created a unique culture in the Ozark Mountains. Pride and individuality came with these people, who thrived on the isolation that the deep woods provided, becoming fiercely independent and suspicious of outsiders. This isolation served to preserve their culture well into the 20th century.
Existence for these settlers was tough, with limited soil for farming along the river valleys and steep, heavily forested slopes that made raising livestock a challenge. In fact, timber was what actually proved to be first practical economic stabilizer. To satisfy the railroad's insatiable hunger for crossties, farmers became loggers and sawyers, while once-forested tracts of land were clear-cut. As more and more farmland became available, strawberries and tobacco became cash crops, contributing to the area's cash flow. In 1837, the Missouri State Legislature created Taney County and named the town of Forsyth as the county seat. The area grew for the next 20 years, as lumber, ranching and farming drove the economy.
This progress would all end in 1861, though, when civil war literally tore the area apart. Taney County lay on the border between the Confederacy and the Union, with the land changing hands many times during the war. Battles left innocent citizens dying and wounded, homes broken and burned, and the area's infrastructure devastated. Once the war was over, the few who remained tried to rebuild, but it would be nearly a half a century before the gashes left by the war scarred over.
Among the war's ill side effects were the renegades and outlaws who used the turmoil of conflict and the ruggedness of the Ozarks as an opportunity to practice their violent ways of life. The region's most feared outlaw during the war was Alf Bolin, who along with his gang ambushed stages and caravans along the roads leading north out of Taney County. (Legends of gold bullion hidden in the hills around Branson still bring treasure-hunters to the area today.) As this lawlessness continued, it eventually gave birth to the band of 13 vigilantes who would become known as the Bald Knobbers (after their meeting place atop Snap's Bald). Dispensing their own brand of justice, the group swelled to include more than 1,000 members in just a few months; the governor of Missouri was actually forced to step in and stop them.
Meanwhile, the region's population continued to grow. A demand for electricity in the towns and villages, coupled with a desperate need to control the devastating floods that ravaged the White River Valley, led to an ambitious plan. As early as 1907, government officials and engineers began masterminding the construction of a dam on the White River, up river from Branson. But the first dam would come four years later, 12 miles downstream, near the county seat of Forsyth. The water that backed up behind Powersite Dam created Lake Taneycomo, the first major lake in Missouri, and began the alteration of the landscape and way of life of Branson. World War II delayed construction of the next dam until 1947. When completed, Bull Shoals Dam backed up the waters of the river 75 miles to the base of Powersite Dam.
However, flooding continued until 1958 when Table Rock Dam was built above the warm waters of Lake Taneycomo, creating a 50,000 surface-acre water wonderland just south of Branson. The new lake changed many things. Cold water from the bottom of Table Rock created a quality trout fishery in adjacent Taneycomo, while the warm waters of Table Rock heated things up in Branson, leading visitors to began arriving in droves.
Entrepreneurs began to take advantage of this influx of tourists. A limestone cave northwest of Branson was eventually transformed into Silver Dollar City, one of the nation's most popular theme parks. A novel by Harold Bell Wright that had drawn attention to the area since 1907 became the setting for the Shepherd of the Hills outdoor drama. An amphitheater was built in a rolling pasture, and each year, hundreds of thousands of theatergoers come to relive the telling of this story of love, betrayal and forgiveness.
The roots of modern-day Branson's economy lie deep within the hills and culture of the mountains. Ozark Mountain jug bands were always locally popular, and two long-suffering groups, the Baldknobbers and the Presleys, were finally able to build theaters along Highway 76 in the late 1960s. Their popularity was instantaneous, yielding regularly sold-out crowds. Several nationally known entertainers took notice of these groups' successes, moving to Branson to take advantage of the throngs of entertainment-tourists hungry. Today, no less than 40 theaters line the streets of this entertainment mecca.
Copyright © 1999-2009 wcities.com All rights Reserved - Contact wcities to report incorrect information
- 2 mi
- Branson West
- 9 mi
- 10 mi
- 26 mi
- 29 mi
- Eureka Springs
- 33 mi
- 40 mi
- 44 mi
- Mountain Home
- 51 mi
- 54 mi