A Guide to the Branson Area History

There’s a distinct and unique culture when it comes to the Branson area.  We’ve grown from a population of hillbillies and baldknobbers to a forward-thinking, family-oriented community.  Back in the late 1950’s and 60’s, the town of Branson was known for its laid back atmosphere, with fishing trips, revolutionary live country music that drew people from all over the country, and guided tour excursions.  Since then, the Branson experience has been amped up!  Which, we love!  Fast rides, high-energy live shows, more museums and attractions, and so on.  There’s something for everyone to sink their teeth in while visiting Branson!

But, let’s talk roots and the history of Branson, so when you come visit this gorgeous hill country, you can understand our lakes, our beginnings, and how Ozark Mountain Country history continues to impact all of us.

Here’s a bit of recommended reading.  Pick up a copy of Shepherd of the Hills by Harold Bell Wright.  It’s a fun read and in some places you may want to read aloud so you can pick up the dialect.  It will make it easier to decipher what’s being said.  Mr.Wright wrote this story about the local area in 1907 and offers insight on hill people folklore.  Shepherd of the Hills introduces a strange man who is kind, but holds a grudge in his heart.  However, as he meets with the locals and learns about them, he is given the opportunity to forgive and heal.  

Shepherd of the Hills went on to become a Hollywood movie in 1941, directed by Henry Hathaway.  Hathaway also directed other westerns, such as True Grit.  The Shepherd of the Hills movie also stars the legendary John Wayne as Young Matt, the story’s hero.

When you visit Branson, come visit Shepherd of the Hills.  Here you can see a live drama production of Mr.Wright’s Shepherd of the Hills.  Sit under the stars in the outdoor amphitheater and see how love conquers all!  Also, visit Matt’s Cabin and Inspiration Point, where Harold Bell Wright wrote The Shepherd of the Hills.  Inspiration Point offers the highest views in the area of the Ozark Hills.

The White River Valley Historical Society is the guardian of Taney County’s history.  Their online foot print is huge and stores publications, articles, and collections that preserve our culture.  If you have family that has been a part of the area, the WRVHS would be a great starting place to begin learning about your ancestors.  

A topic of interest about the area are the Bald Knobbers.  They were a vigilante group from the Civil War who initially guarded the area and were reputable members of society.  The Taney County chapter, however, became synonymous with trouble due to the actions of a few members.  The White River Valley Historical Society holds informational classes about the Bald Knobbers.  You will see remnants of the impression that this group made on the culture to this day.  They are referenced in the Shepherd of the Hills book and drama production and by one of the original shows of the 76 Music District, The Baldknobbers.

The White River Valley Historical Society Museum is located in Forsyth, Missouri off the square.  On top of being a library, they also have a research library, book store, and gift shop.  The Branson Centennial Museum is located in Historic Downtown Branson.  Here you can learn about the Branson area and its history.  Admission is free, but they accept donations.  Either location would be the perfect stop for the history buff in your group!  

This little mountain town is full of quirks, historical significance, and memories!  We’ve had visitors from all over the country for generations.  Just because our visitors don’t reside in the Branson area most of the year, doesn’t mean that the visitors aren’t a part of this area’s history.  Not hardly!  With every story shared and every memory created, the legacy of Branson and this Ozark region continues.  While what happens today is vital and important for learning and happiness, reflecting on the past and the history allows for a firm foundation for life to build and grow!

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