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Branson - History

Branson History

The ancestors of the Osage Indians appeared in central Missouri around the 14th century. They were a nomadic tribe, defending their territory from other tribes for centuries but the first Anglo arrivals in the early 1700s spelt tragedy for the Osage. Spain first claimed the region, but disconcerted with the warring traditions of the Osage the region was transferred back to France in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Territory and one month later sold to the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase.

As the US government made and broke treatises with the Osage, they were eventually forced into submission and the end of native American occupation meant the region was opened up to settlers. Coming from Kentucky and Tennessee, English, Irish and Scottish farmers settled in the area and created a unique and isolated culture in the Ozark Mountains, with timber proving to be the area's greatest natural resource. The origin of the word Ozark is unknown, although the most widely accepted definition is that the word comes from the French phrase meaning 'to the Arkansas' or aux-Ark, which referred to either the river or an outpost. As more timber was cleared to satisfy the ever-expanding railroads, more and more farmland was made available and strawberries and tobacco became important crops. Lumber, ranching and farming drove the local economy until 1861 when civil war tore the area apart and destroyed its infrastructure. But the population of the region continued to slowly grow. Reuben Branson opened a general store near White River in the early 1880s and his store became the post office in 1882, officially listed as Branson, Missouri.

A demand for electricity coupled with the need to control the flood-prone White River Valley, meant the construction of a dam on White River in 1911, thus creating Lake Tanycomo, the first major lake in Missouri. Bull Shoals Dam was constructed after WWII in 1947 and lastly Table Rock Dam, built in 1958, created a huge water oasis just south of Branson.

Visitors had begun arriving in the 1930s, attracted to the beauty of the area and lake activities. Visitor numbers continued to expand as Branson was promoted as an inexpensive holiday destination and entrepreneurs began to take advantage of the influx, creating theme parks and outdoor theaters that still draws thousands of visitors today. Branson's entertainers began performing for their local and visiting audiences in the early 1950s. Ozark Mountain jug bands were always popular locally and two groups, the Baldknobbers and the Presleys, performed wherever they could until they were able to build theaters along Hwy 76 in the late 1960s. Nationally known entertainers began moving to Branson to take advantage of its growing reputation as a place for live entertainment.

Today Branson is known as the Live Country Music Capital of the World, with over 50 theaters in existence, and welcomes about 7 million visitors annually.

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