Fun facts about Branson’s History
Officially founded in 1912, Branson has been a popular tourist destination from its earliest days as a town—and for a good half century before that! People initially flocked to the area to enjoy the natural beauty and recreation of the Ozarks. Before long, folks came to see the wonders of Marvel Cave, Branson’s first family attraction. The cave was offered by Canadian mining expert, William Henry Lynch, who began running public tours in 1894.
Around the same time, minister Harold Bell Wright moved to the area for the health benefits of its temperate climate, staying at the homestead of John and Anna Ross. His experiences at the Rosses and with others who lived in the surrounding hills were fodder for his best-selling 1907 novel, “The Shepherd of the Hills”. The success of his book brought many new people into the area to visit the Ross homestead and to see the cave he described. Over time, the book sold millions of copies and even inspired four movies, including John Wayne’s first Technicolor film.
The Rosses eventually sold the homestead to Miss Lizzie McDaniel of Springfield, who essentially produced the first show in Branson as she presented a dramatization of “The Shepherd of the Hills” on its front lawn.
As the town grew, it needed the infrastructure to support the influx of people coming to live in the area. Ozark Beach Dam, or Powersite Dam, was built near Forsyth in 1913. This created Lake Taneycomo, which drew even more settlers and visitors. Meanwhile, construction of the White River Line Railroad made it much easier for people to visit via its stop in nearby Hollister.
It was 1954 before Branson became nationally known as an entertainment town, when legendary country singer Red Foley moved from Nashville to Springfield to host his television show, “Ozark Jubilee.” This prestigious entertainment brought notoriety to the area, as well as many more inhabitants, requiring even more municipal infrastructure and resources for its people and businesses to thrive. Things changed for the better in 1959 when Table Rock Dam was completed, bringing much-needed hydro-electric power to support Branson’s rapid growth.
Thus, the foundation of what would become the future Branson was set with the development of both natural and dramatic attractions, combined with some of the best fishing lakes in the country, which continue to draw visitors to the area. From the 1960’s until today, Branson has grown exponentially to offer ever greater entertainment while capitalizing on its natural beauty and outdoor recreation activities, providing family friendly fun for all ages.
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