Near where the Branson Entertainment Strip (a.k.a. state highway 76) meets highway 13, in a little town once known as Lakeview (now Branson West), hidden in a deep hollow are the decaying facilities of the Lost Silver Mine Theater, which opened in 1983. Not quite lost to history – yet – the concrete steps/seats are gathering moss, woooden letters occasionally flutter to the ground from creaking signage. In the amphitheater at the bottom of the hollow, remanants of stagecraft are melting into the ground. Here the story of the Lost Silver Mine and the Yocum Dollar played out summer nights in the early Branson ‘boom’.
The Lost Silver Mine theater was owned, operated and supplied with a creative narrative by Artie Ayres, who like his father, was obsessed by the legend of the Yocum Dollar. Numerous different story lines have described the origins of the fabled coin (no authentic one has ever been found) and the silver mine where its ore was dug. Despite extensive searches and diligent research, no authenticatable specimen has yet been produced.
The legend itself has been around for 150 years or more. The Yocum (Y-o-a-c-h-u-m is an earlier spelling) brothers arrived in the upper White River country sometime after the War of 1812. They traded with the Delaware Indians who, as the legend says, happened to have a silver mine in the area. The details vary in different versions or more elaborate tellings, but tales of lost mines and buried treasure are not uncommon in this region. One rumored location of the lost mine was at the junction of the James and White Rivers, now under 150 feet of water. Artie Ayres, owner of the Lost Silver Mine Theater and author of Traces of Silver about the legend, has most likely had the best return on this silver investment of all the generations of fortune hunters and tellers of tall silver tales.
Find more extensive background for this entertainment relic on our new book, James Fork of the White.
Real photo postcard by Hall. Probably taken in Stone County, Missouri, but Arkansas sounded more primitive. The hog’s board collar is to keep it out of fenced gardens. Cattle and hogs were released in the woods to feed themselves. The destructive rooting of feral pigs was, and still is, an environmental problem.
Though the hillbilly icon didn’t emerge for several decades, the Ozarks has been depicted as a primitive place inhabited by people living a pioneer lifestyle since the early 1800s. This mythos was rejected by progressive Springfieldians, but in Galena, and the White River Hills, it was a component of tourism.
Arkansas was held to be slightly more regressive than southern Missouri but only slightly so.
(Page 72 in the forthcoming book, James Fork of the White: Transformation of an Ozark River.)
We’re moving our Lens & Pen Press blog from Blogger to Word Press and will consolidate the two current blogs into one for our books–the Beautiful and Enduring Ozarks, the James Fork of the White (coming 2017), Damming the Osage, Mystery of the Irish Wilderness and See the Ozarks–and many other favorite topics of discussion. The archive of L&P posts is still available at http://lensandpen.blogspot.com/ The posts on our separate Damming the Osage website remain available at http://www.dammingtheosage.com/the-blog/
To bridge this move from one platform to another, below is the most recent (Blogger) post about Table Rock and the pre-dam White River landscape:
Shortly after Empire District Electric built Powersite Dam across the White River, creating Lake Taneycomo, the big electric company announced plans to build a 200-foot dam upriver at Table Rock Bluff.
“Table Rock Dam will be built across the big sandbar,” reads the handwritten caption.
Real photo postcard, 1920s, by Payne Johnson, Branson, Mo.
Most bluffs along Ozark rivers are named. Table Rock Bluff had a relatively flat top and was accessible by road. A visit to this overlook was on many vacationers’ itinerary. For decades locals anticipated seeing machinery in the valley below building a huge dam. That this never occurred frustrated dam supporters and led them to question if the utility really intended to proceed. They didn’t.
The Army Corps would build Table Rock Dam many years later but the Corps didn’t build it at Table Rock. They moved the location two miles upstream to a more stable geological site, but kept the name. Table Rock Bluff remains a popular scenic overlook, but is now fenced for safety – unlike the past as shown here.
COMING IN 2017: JAMES FORK OF THE WHITE: Transformation of an Ozark River.
Sample pages from this new book can be seen at www.beautifulozarks.com
Our earlier ‘river book,’ DAMMING THE OSAGE, can be seen at www.dammingtheosage.com