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Who Was Reuben Branson, and Why is the City Named for Him?

It’s widely known that Branson – the Live Music Capital of the World – is named for Reuben S. Branson, who came to the area in the 1880s. But who was he, and how exactly did the city come to be named for him? Here’s a look:

Reuben S. Branson was born in Gasconade County, Missouri, in 1853 – the ninth of 13 children born to Valentine and Alpha Branson. He had been brought up on the family farm, but possessed a thirst for knowledge beyond the “common schooling” that the children otherwise received. He was an avid reader, and obtained further formal education at his own expense, which enabled him to become a teacher; he taught school in Osage and Gasconade Counties. In 1877, he married Mary T. Cooper; they had two children – Lucy and James.

In 1880, Reuben and Mary moved their family to Brookline Station in Green County, where Reuben went into the drug business. He worked at that for a few months, then took his stock and relocated to Taney County, where he opened a general store near the White River. In 1882, his store also became a post office (with Reuben as postmaster), officially listed as Branson, Missouri.

In 1884, Reuben was elected assessor of the county, at which point he sold his store to William Hawkins. After serving one term as assessor, Reuben became county and circuit clerk and recorder. He later opened a distillery near Forsyth, was involved in milling and operated a boardinghouse. Interest in Branson – a community with good business prospects – grew when it was learned that the railroad would be coming to town.

In 1902, the name of the city was changed to Lucia; however, it became Branson once again in 1904. Reuben Branson lived long enough to see major changes and growth in his namesake town – including the first steel bridge in the county, which crossed the White River. He died in 1935, and his family spread to other parts of the country (as well as England; he was recently discovered to be a great-great-uncle of entrepreneur Richard Branson). However, members of the Branson family still reside in Taney County, a living testament to the man who got the whole business started.

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