100 years of history
Like many communities that sprang up during homesteading days, Branson underwent a period of rapid growth, flourished and then began to fade, yet, unlike many, refused to die, continuing to hang on, a mere shadow of the booming little agricultural trade center it once was.
For a few good years in the mid-period of the 1910 to 1930 homesteading days of the area, the rains came and the crops produced abundantly in fields of newly turned sod. A rapidly growing little town, closely tied to a railroad supply line, capitalized on meeting the needs of the rambunctious new farming and the already established ranching community.
A switching track at the present day location of Branson was called Wilson Switch. By the year 1915 the nucleus of a little settlement had begun to spring up, and on August 19th a post office called Coloflats, in recognition of the surrounding prairie land, was officially opened in Henry Stage’s Snodgrass grocery store.
In June of 1916, Lawrence Athey, a former resident of Pennsylvania, received a patent for the land on which Branson was located and within a month sold it to Josiah F. Branson for the sum of $1,350.00 Branson, an ambitious townsite developer of the area, immediately had his newly acquired property surveyed and platted for a townsite.
By 1918 a depot was established, and with this in place the little community rapidly took off. That year a county fair ws held there, and the town was renamed Banson, after its founder. By 1920 the town had more than 400 residents supported by a bank, three hotels, two dry goods stores, seven grocery stores, one general store, two hardwate stores, one drug store, a meat market, two lumber yards, one bean elevator and three garages and two blacksmith shops, bridging the transition from horse-drawn vehicles to the auto.
The booming little town was incorporated March 2, 1921, and by 1923 claimed a population of 1,000 people. But by the mid-1920s the bubble had been punctured. The rains slacked off, and the weather patterns turned to normalcy. The population began to decline. Some of the settlers began to realize that the hope of eking out a living on 320 or even 640 acres was an impractical dream. Moving on, they set their sights on other goals and other dreams. The devastating blow to the community, however, came with the combination of drought of Dust Bowl proportions, and the national economic Depression of the thirties.
However, at the close of World War II there was a brief resurgence of activity within the town. Returning veterans held pleasant memories of their homes and, with the optimism of youth, attempted to rebuild their lives here. Some with ranching backgrounds were able to become a part of family operations or go to work on area ranches, but attempting to build a livelihood within the town was more difficult.
By 1980, most of the younger people had moved away, all businesses but the wholesale gas business had closed, and many of the older residents had been taken by death, particularly the husbands. School population was rapidly dwindling because of the absence of young families. The 1990s found a community struggling but unwilling to die. Gradually, a few new families began to move in. The search for a quieter, more relaxed life style brought some new residents. Some established residence in the town and commuted elsewhere to work.
As Branson moves into the 21st Century there remains that feeling of a close community and perhaps some new dynamics that can assure the continuance of the little commnunity that struggles but refuses to give up.
(Excerpt from “The Branson Story” by Richard Louden, 1999)