The Marvelous Marvel Cave: Branson Begins, Volume I
The Marvelous Marvel Cave: Branson Begins, Volume I



Long before Silver Dollar City, before the Shepherd of the Hills Farm, and before Talking Rocks Cavern, there was a wild place in the Missouri Ozarks. This is the little-known history of the hardy settlers who homesteaded the bald knobs and the deep hollows with many rare, never-before-published photos of that wonderful era of 1880-1920 near present day Branson, Missouri.


About this Project


The Marvelous Marvel Cave:

Branson Begins: Volume I

Written by Rick J. Gunter

 This is a soon to be published book about the history behind a special place in the Missouri Ozarks near Branson, Missouri. It is a special place with world class rides and roller coasters. It is also a place to view the crafts of a former era, such as blacksmithing, glass blowing, wood carving, pottery, candles and much more. It is a magical place where the Ozark history of the 1880s comes alive. The place is a very unique theme park called Silver Dollar City and it all began with a cave.



A Magical Place in the Ozarks

If you have ever been to Branson, Missouri, you know what I’m talking about. Silver Dollar City is unlike any other theme park. It’s a place beneath the cool shade trees on an Ozark hill. It’s an Ozark Mountain town stuck in the 1880s, where the crafts, rides, food, and entertainment take you back in time.

My book, The Marvelous Marble Cave: Branson Begins, Volume I, is a time machine of sorts, that’s takes you back to the real things that happened on those Ozark hilltops. The history goes way back. Marvel Cave was a deep dark hole in the ground, originally known as The Devils Den. The Spanish Conquistadores tried to mine silver there in the 1600s. The crude ladders they used are still down there today. They were a mystery to everyone who explored the depths of the cave—until now. 

You will discover the history behind a 1880s mining company that opened a mine in the cave. They were looking for silver, lead, and marble, but were disappointed when none was found. In the end, they mined the large deposits of bat guano used in the pharmaceutical industries and for making gunpowder. The company had a dream of opening the cave for tours and founding a tourist resort. However, the location was in the backwoods of the rough White River hills and difficult to travel to.

The Branson of today is contrasted against the simple life of the Ozark hills as Harold Bell Wright described it. Branson is a tourist town that is losing its history. People don’t come there for the same reasons they did 100 years ago. Every year, historic buildings are torn down to build new hotels, restaurants, and places to shop. Most of the old attractions, such as Sammy Lane’s lookout, the signal tree and Jim Lane’s cabin have been forgotten. They build more highways and theaters until little of the history is left in place.

Parts of this story have been told before in other publications but I guarantee that there will be stories you have never heard. Some of the stories may sound a little different than what you have heard before. That is because there were literally years of exhaustive research done for this book. I have done my best to present an account of what really happened.

You will also see many photographs that have never been published. I have spent many years tracking down these rare photos. Many of them are one of a kind and give a glimpse into a world as it has never been seen before.



This will be a quality publication on slick paper in full-color. The will contain the old historical photographs in sepia, black and white. It will also contain the photographs of Silver Dollar City and Branson area locations as they appear today. These will not be small photos you have to squint at. Many will splash across the entire page all the way to the edge. Much of the story, such as short biographies of the people and selected historical tidbits will be presented in colorful insets and sidebars.


Where Will the Money Go?

Most of the book is already written and the historic photographs are in my personal collection. However, their will be a lot of digital restoration, cropping, and resizing of the historical photos. The book text must be edited for publication and the layout design is a major task. I would like to be able to farm out some of the work to speed up the process. All of that takes work and money.

 Producing this book is a much larger task than most local history books. The entire book will be full-color on every page with colored backgrounds, full-bleed (all the way to the edge) photos, and informational sidebars. Yet, it is my goal to produce the book as frugally as possible, in order to deliver a very high value book to each customer at a price that is less than what a comparable book would cost in a book store.

My goal amount will be a little larger than similar publishing projects on KickStarter. That is more is required for the layout design of the book cover and pages. We have contacted a book designer who is, without a doubt, the very best in the business.

In case you didn’t know: KickStarter is an “all-or-nothing” process. If I do not raise the target amount, then I receive nothing.


What is Your Reward?

The contributor rewards are still being worked out. Although is seems fairly certain that the main reward will be one copy of the printed book for about $35.00 and that will include the postage for shipping it to your door.



I hate to be legalistic about anything but please be aware that this Prefundia site is not the actual KickStarter project description. This is only a test site for the planned KickStarter project. Everything is subject to change before the final listing and I expect things to change. So absolutely nothing implied here is to be considered a binding contract between me and anyone reading this information. I am NOT soliciting contributions from this Prefundia site. The actual project will be listed at a later time on the KickStarter site.



Rick Gunter -- I’ve been crazy over the history of the Missouri Ozarks all my life. I grew up near an 1880’s Ozark ghost town filled with history and lots of haunted places to explore.  My favorite thing was to sit in front of a crackling fireplace and listen to the stories from the old folks of exciting days gone by.

I’ve worked for more than thirty years as software design engineer for several classified military projects. I’ve lived and worked in Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, Maryland, New Jersey, Colorado, and Tennessee. I’ve been a lot of places and met a lot of wonder people but my love of history, writing, and the Ozarks has always called me back home.


Now my dream is to write about the Ozark hills that I love. I have researched and written several historical articles for magazines, local newspapers, and I have been a contributing editor for an online Christian magazine.  Now I am ready to do bigger things.


Risks and challenges

The book is mostly written but the research continues. If I run across something interesting before the book is printed, I will do my best to get it included. The majority of the historic photographs used in the book are in my collection.

The major challenge for us will be getting the book out quickly. The monetary goal set for this project is for the bare bones cost of doing the book entirely on our own. If more money is raised, we can farm out much more of the book layout design. Although I would like to tell you the book will be out next week, I know that isn’t realistic. The project delivery date for this project may be several months—mainly because we live in the real world where everything takes time. We will keep all the project backers informed of progress by emailing regular progress reports.



Frequently asked questions will added when they are presented.



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