The History of Silver Dollar City in Branson, MO

Branson Missouri has, by all accounts, become the entertainment capital of the Ozarks. Millions of visitors come to call every year to see the shows and experience the thrills and laughter that Silver Dollar City has to offer. To some, Branson would seem an odd place to develop such a mecca of entertainment, and in truth, entertainment was never the plan for Silver Dollar City.

In 1869, miners, led by Henry T. Blow from St. Louis, set out to mine the cave for lead. They quickly abandoned their mission after discovering there was no lead, however there did appear to be a wall of marble inspiring them to name the cave, Marble Cave. It would be over a decade before anyone would enter the cave again in hopes of finding lead. Yet again, all they were to discover was a wall that appeared to be marble but was in fact lime stone. What they did find was Guano, also known as bat manure, which could be mined and sold as fertilizer. So in 1884 T. Hodges Jones purchased the cave and the surrounding area and began mining. In addition to mining, Jones had planned for the development of a town that would be known as Marble City. Unfortunately, very little development actually occurred and, by 1889 the cave had been emptied and the company closed. As luck would have it, Jones was able to sell the cave and some of the surrounding land to Canadian William Henry Lynch, who believed the cave would be a wonderful tourist attraction. The early years of tourism to the cave were shaky, but soon settled into a steady pace. The running of the cave fell to Mr. Lynch’s daughters after his death in 1927. The daughters renamed the cave to Marvel Cave and kept up the business until 1950 when they would lease the property to Hugo and Mary Herschend from Chicago in a 99 year agreement.

The Herschends believed that more attractions would draw more tourism and they were right. They began developing the surrounding land to include a frontier style town with shops and a show depicting the Hatfield and McCoy feud. They also installed a train to carry the visitors to the surface of the cave. The growth and success of Silver Dollar City and Marvel Cave has continued over the years and shows no signs of slowing down.

About the Author: Kevin is a guest contributor from Amazing Branson Rentals, a vacation rental company in Branson, MO near Silver Dollar City offering vacation rentals and cabins.

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