Back in August, before the Southern Gospel Music Picnic at Silver Dollar City began, I was looking for some interesting facts about Branson, Missouri to share with you all. Well, what I found was quite interesting! Ya’ll are never going to guess! Many may be familiar with Branson being know as the “live music capitol of the world,” or so they claim. (Because of the amount of live shows…) But the beginnings of this town was far, far away from the music industry!
The town was named after a man called Reuben Branson. Around 1882, this gentleman opened a general store which eventually became the post office. In that same time period (1880’s – 90’s), TOMATO CANNING was one of the most lucrative businesses in the area! Yep, that means before Branson was known as the “live music capitol of the world,” it was famous for tomatoes. Bet ya’ didn’t know that! Now, to put the icing on the cake…while we were at Silver Dollar City, we saw many artists sing in the Red Gold Heritage Hall – and as I was standing in line at that theater, big as day on the side of the building, a sign read, “Homegrown plump and juicy tomatoes.” I chucked to myself. Coincidence? While leaving the theater I saw another sign that said, “Ozark beauty – hand picked tomatoes.” So, what I read on the internet was true! Branson is known for its tomatoes! LOL
Tourism was also born in Branson by an unlikely key event. Once again, I was surprised to find out that people didn’t flock to this area of the Ozarks to hear a show on the strip…they came to see the country hills. In 1907, a man by the name of Harold Bell Wright wrote a book called “The Shepherd of the Hills.” This novel became a nationwide best seller. In fact, for many years it was a required work to be read in the classroom, and in the 20th century, its been the second best seller in America, after the Holy Bible. Now that’s impressive! When people read this work, they came all across the country to see the land this story was set in. Yes, a novel began tourism in Branson! As one who claims the Ozarks as home, I can personally agree that this classic is all that’s it made up to be. I’ve read the book (a GREAT read, BTW!) And also have been to the “Inspiration Tower” that overlooks the exact hills and trails that were written of in the volume. Inside the tower, there is found a lot of info on Mr. Wright and the people who inspired “The Shepherd of the Hills.” (The characters in the novel were inspired by real people who settled the land!)
So there it is! Now you know a little something about Branson that’s…different! The tomatoes made me laugh. I was never expecting to find out that a place as popular as Branson was known for tomatoes in 1880! On the other hand, “The Shepherd of the Hills” stopped me in my tracks. Harold Bell Wright was a Believer, a country preacher who wrote a novel centered around Christian values – and 100 years later, the only book that can beat its sales are the Holy Scriptures themselves. Wow – what a testimony!