History of Branson

Branson History

In 1882, Reuben Branson opened a general store and post office in the area. Branson was formally incorporated in 1912, and construction of the Powersite Dam nearby on the White River which would form Lake Taneycomo was completed.

In 1894 William Henry Lynch bought Marble Cave (renamed Marvel Cave) and began charging visitors to tour it. Hugo and Mary Herschend leased the cave for 99 years in 1950 and began hosting square dances in it. The Herschend Family modernized the cave with electricity and concrete staircases, and in 1960, the Herschends opened Silver Dollar City which was a re-creation of a frontier town that featured five shops, a church and a log cabin with actors that played out the feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys.

Harold Bell Wright published his novel about the Ozarks, The Shepherd of the Hills, in 1907. The Old Mill Theater began its first outdoor production based on the novel in 1960. The show known as The Shepherd of the Hills Outdoor Drama & Homestead was ended with a final performance of its outdoor drama on October 19, 2013. It is also the home of Inspiration Tower, the Sons of the Pioneers show, and other attractions. The Harold Bell Wright Museum is located within The World's Largest Toy Museum complex. Mayor of Branson for 12 years & entrepreneur Jim Owen built the 1st theater in 1934 on Commercial Street, originally called "The Hillbilly Theater" which began to attract people from far and wide to tour the area. 1959 saw the completion of Table Rock Dam on the White River, which created Table Rock Lake. In 1959, the Baldknobbers Jamboree opened the first live music show in Branson.

In 1962 Paul Henning, inspired by a Boy Scout camping trip to the Ozarks, created The Beverly Hillbillies which ran on first-run television until 1971. The first five episodes of Season 8 in 1969 are set in the Branson area when the Clampetts returned to their home. Henning later donated 1,534 acres (6.21 km2) for the Ruth and Paul Henning Conservation Area near Branson. He also donated the modified 1921 Oldsmobile truck used as the vehicle in the series to the College of the Ozarks where it is on display in the Ralph Foster Museum.

The Presley Family (no relation to Elvis Presley) became the first to move their show (Presleys' Country Jubilee) to Highway 76 in 1967, followed a year later by the Baldknobbers. Eventually Branson would have more than 50 theaters, most of them located on Highway 76.