Learn Your Branson History at the Branson Centennial Museum

The Branson Centennial Museum is a celebration of Branson’s past, present and future, featuring several exhibits honoring area traditions, performers and history.

I stopped in the museum last week and spent some time reading up on the fascinating history of the area and how this well-known town became all that it is today.

The museum opened its doors in 2012, exactly 100 years after the city of Branson was incorporated. The White River Valley Historical Society and the Chamber of Commerce put forth a team effort to consistently educate the visitors and residents with educational exhibits encompassing the history of the Branson area.

The exhibits regularly rotate throughout the year so you’re bound to see something new each and every time you stop in. Currently there are several different exhibits to explore as well as a short video about the importance of Table Rock Dam to watch.

Each display features interesting historic items and photographs like the original cash register of the Owen family’s drugstore on the corner of Main and Commercial in historic downtown Branson. (For those who don’t know, the Owen family played a large part in the development of the city of Branson.) The antique cash register was discovered in the basement of the “If The Shoe Fits” shop on Commercial Street in downtown Branson.

One of my favorite exhibits was a timeline that highlighted some of the important historical dates in the city’s history. I learned a lot reading through it and loved looking at all the old photos. It was fun to compare pictures of Branson 150 years ago to the way it looks today. The timeline also told the story of the very first permanent residents of the land that is now downtown Branson. The land was owned by 15-year-old teenage Calvin Smith Gayler and his 14-year-old wife. They moved to their White River property back in 1839 and began farming the land and harvesting fruit from their large garden. And today it’s a popular location for shopping and dining in Branson.

History buffs will love the Branson Centennial Museum as well as those who are just curious about the tri-lakes area and its humble beginnings. Visitors will also enjoy the small gift shop and large collection of books about Branson for sale.

The museum is at 101 Veterans Blvd. in historic downtown Branson, just up the road from The Landing. Hours are 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. and admission is free.

For more information, please visit www.wrvhs.org.

New Book Features Historic Images of Branson

Branson MoAnita Roberts, an Ozark native, has written a new book detailing the history, community and people that make up the Ozarks with historic photographs.

The book, “Images of America: Branson” was pieced together with the help of the Branson Centennial Museum and the White River Valley Historical Society, according to the Branson Tri-Lakes News.

The images featured in the book trace Branson’s history all the way back to the rugged, forest that served as a hiding spot for outlaws up to the Branson tourism boom that helped make the live music show capitol of the world what it is today.

The DuttonsFind “Images of America: Branson” at your local bookstore or online at http://www.arcadiapublishing.com/.

To read the full article for more details about the author, Anita Roberts, click here.

Discover the History, Fun and Beauty of the Shepherd of the Hills Homestead Tour

This week I decided to go on the Shepherd of the Hills Homestead Tour. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a while now and I’m glad I finally did it! Even if you’ve been to Branson hundreds of times already, the homestead tour is one of those things you just need to experience in order to get a well-rounded experience of Branson and all that it encompasses.

The Shepherd of the Hills Homestead Tour takes you back to the late 1800’s when Branson was just hill after hill of natural wildlife, breathtaking views and a few settlers who had decided to call the Ozarks home.

Two such settlers, John and Anna Ross were considered wealthy in their time, as they made $365 a year (or $1 a day) and were the owners of a “large” log cabin and piece of land in the backwoods of Mutton Hollow. The first stop of the hour-long tram tour was the Ross’s cabin, also known as “Old Matt’s Cabin” which stands in its original location on the homestead. My tour guide, Jacob lead the way through each room of the home while detailing the significance of each historical artifact contained within those walls. It was really interesting to see that the kitchen was built entirely with Anna’s 4’11” frame in mind, featuring a low-standing stove and a short door frame that would result in headaches for anyone over five feet tall. Even cooler, was the kitchen’s original decorative flooring which had been worn away by the shuffling of shoes in certain areas.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Next Jacob took us to the Morgan Community Church, which had been saved from demolition and relocated to the Shepherd of the Hills Homestead in 1991. It was built in 1901 and was very much like many of the other churches in the area where Harold Bell Wright traveled around preaching. Today, the beautiful and historical church can be rented out for various events and weddings.

Inspiration Tower is another highlight of the tour. Jacob stopped the tram so I could strain my neck to see to the top of the gigantic tower that stands 230 feet above the ground. I also got to snap some photos of an amazing view that stretches 65 miles across the limestone, tree-covered hills of Mutton Hollow on a clear day. I really enjoyed hearing about about the rumors of a “haint” (or ghost) that roamed that stretch of land and was mentioned in Wright’s novel Shepherd of the Hills.

The homestead tour also included stops at the pavilion where Wright pitched his tent to write the infamous Shepherd of the Hills novel, the outdoor theater that has been hosting the Shepherd of the Hills Outdoor Drama for 55 years now, an old moonshine still and Little Pete’s Cave.

In my opinion, the tour was over too soon and I could have sat there all day listening to the stories about the Baldknobbers, Harold Bell Wright and what the homestead was like more than 100 years ago.

If you haven’t had the chance to go on the Shepherd of the Hills Historic Homestead tour, I would highly suggest you try it out. It’s enjoyable for all members of the family, especially those history buffs and it will give you a renewed appreciation for the entire Branson area.

For tickets or more information, visit http://www.bransonshows.com/activity/HistoricHomesteadTour.cfm.

The Shepherd of the Hills Homestead is located at 5586 W. 76 Country Blvd., Branson, MO 65616, just a half mile north of White Water.