Reuben Branson came to Taney County (named after Supreme Court Justice Roger B. Taney) in the early 1880s and opened a general store near the White River. His store became the post office in 1882, officially listed as Branson, Missouri. Apparently Mr. Branson found a buyer for his store in 1884, when William Hawkins was appointed the second postmaster. In the late 1880s, a one-room school was constructed on a site now known as the "Old Branson School Park" located on West Highway 76. Hawkins was postmaster in 1902 when the name of the city was changed to Lucia. It was officially known as that for only two years, according to United States Post Office records, and became Branson again in 1904. Reuben Branson lived to see considerable change in his namesake town before he died in Forsyth in 1935.
Interest in Branson as a community with good business prospects surged when it was learned that the railroad would soon come to it. An early merchant to open an establishment was Samuel Parnell who brought his stock goods from his Kirbyville store in 1903. In 1904 a new bank, hotel and livery stable were opened and a telephone line between Forsyth, Kirbyville and Branson was completed. In 1905 a new school district was organized and a school was built on Seventh Street between Pacific and College Streets. By 1910 a church was built on the corner of Fourth and Pacific Streets, and in 1912 a hardware store was opened. The Winch Spoke Company built spokes and other wagon parts, the American Pencil Company of New York had a logging factory here, and another brick structure was being built across the street from the hardware store -- all signs of the growing prosperity. The first steel bridge in the county was being constructed to cross the White River at Branson.
Just a few weeks after the hardware store opened in August of 1912 Branson's business section burned. The city had enough pioneering spirit to rebuild itself better than before and to continue its growth. In 1912 and 1913 the construction of Powersite Dam at Ozark Beach created Lake Taneycomo, which inspired several settlers to go into the business of float trips, and a ferry packet hauled passengers and mail freight between Branson and Rockaway Beach.
On April 1, 1912 the City of Branson was incorporated with a Mayor-Aldermanic Council type of government. The first mayor was C.H. Nichols. Little is known about Branson's first government as no records are on file for any council meetings until January 9, 1928. However, ordinances show on September 22, 1913, the first telephone and power franchises were granted. In 1926 a contract was signed to drill the first well for public use.
Today the city of Branson encompasses approximately eleven square miles. The latest census figures show 4,484 residents and a total assessed evaluation of property of $65,524,700. The Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce reports a yearly average of almost five million visitors.
The lush beauty of forested bluffs, clear streams, blue lakes, springs and a moderate climate are resources that provide the basis for a flourishing tourist trade.
This information was provided courtesy of the Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce.