Branson / Cook Genealogy



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Ira owned a team of horses that he used when working with various crews to build the roads of many towns and countrysides in Missouri, Colorado, Oregon and California. His youngest son, Bill (William Franklin) Branson, recalls the name of one of those towns: Springfield, Oregon.  There are memories of him telling stories about Pagosa Springs, Colorado, located just over the border from Tres Piedras (which was located on the northern border of New Mexico). It is therefore assumed that Ira met Clara during his stay in Colorado where he was working with his team of horses. Bill Branson remembers Ira telling him that he began learning to work with the horse team when he was only nine, working with his father who was a roadmaster in Missouri. The Santa Fe Trail just happens to run from Independence, Missouri to Santa Fe, New Mexico, which is a short distance from Tres Piedras. Perhaps Ira was involved in building some of the roads that led off of the Santa Fe Trail into Colorado. This famous trail was originally built during the Civil War to facilitate the movement of troops to the southern territories of New Mexico, Arizona and Texas. In any event, it's fairly certain that many roads in that area were built by Ira and his crews. Without a doubt, Ira played a small, but significant role in the taming of the west.

Much like his ancestors, Ira was possessed with a boundless desire to "go west, young man". Although he settled near the coast of California, I suppose he would have kept moving westward had not the Pacific Ocean been there. This man, who died in 1968, was among the last generation of Bransons to participate in this nation-building enterprise, although at least one of his descendants is carrying on the road-building tradition to this day. Ira's great grandson, Stephen Kramer, works with the road building crews for the County of Contra Costa in California. There is little wonder where he got his love for working outdoors and playing his part in creating and improving the byways of our land.  After Ira and Clara married, they traveled in a wagon northward through Colorado into Oregon where he worked building roads in the Eugene area. After obtaining a contract to build the road for a small town south of San Francisco, he and his family boarded a train and traveled south to California.  His gear and team of horses were traveling along with them in a box car.  After his jobs in that area were finished, he moved his family north of San Francisco into Sonoma County.

From about 1913 until about 1948, he served as the Sonoma County Roadmaster. During this time, he became aware of some hunting property for sale in the mountain range between the Redwood Highway and the ocean. Over a period of several years, he purchased a total of 120 acres. This property had no road access at the time of purchase. In order to access the property, he had to walk over some rough terrain for a distance of about two miles, carting his hunting and camping gear with him. It was during these hunting excursions that he was able to provide fresh meat for his family and crew, including wild boar and venison. (His hunting license cost $1.00 per year).  As time went on, this property became the favorite place for Ira and his family to gather on the weekends and during holidays.

To this day, the property remains in a family trust and still serves as a family gathering place. Ira's descendants have fond memories involving what is affectionately called "the ranch". The guardian of the property, William Franklin Branson, has made every effort to keep the property in it's original pristine condition. With the exception of a small, one-room cabin, the campsite and surrounding acreage, looks very much the way it did when Ira made his first hike into the campsite. Future generations, I am sure, will be compelled to carry on in this tradition.

Located near Warm Springs damn in Sonoma County, in the heart of the California Wine Country, there exists a lasting tribute to Ira's road-building efforts. If you visit the fish hatchery building near that site and take the time to survey the immediate area, you will come across a display of one of Ira's early road graders. It was one of the smaller ones used to grade the roads into the ranch and other nearby properties.

Of note in regard to this subject, Ira's wife, Clara, often spent many hours preparing meals for Ira's crew members. In addition to running the household, raising the children and helping her neighbors with their minor health problems, Clara was no less of a hard worker than her husband.

Ira and Clara started a family right away. Within the first two and a half years of their marriage, they had two children. During their sojourns in Colorado, Ira would contract his team to various road-building companies, often being away from his family for a week at a time. During one such time, when Clara and the two small children were alone, the home in which they were living was approached by an Indian and Clara, feeling quite vulnerable, pulled out her rifle and waited for the man to come on to the porch. She held the rifle at the door, while trying to keep her children hidden and quiet, watching as the door handle started moving. For a while, the intruder tried to enter the house, but eventually gave up and wandered off. It was a frightening experience for Clara because the Indians in those parts were known to be rather unfriendly at times. At some point in their trek northward, they must have met up with some friendly Indians, because I happen to be in possession of a silver bracelet that she gave me when I was a child. She told me it was purchased from a tribe of Indians in Colorado around the turn of the century.

Ira and Clara settled in the Alexander Valley, near Geyserville, California, and remained there until about 1935, when they moved into town. That was about the same time that Ira purchased the hunting property. They had seven children, one of whom was a twin of their daughter, Irene, who died in infancy. Their youngest child, William, was born in 1922, when Clara was forty years old. When he was born, he was already an uncle, since most of his older siblings were married with children of their own. Ira was active in the local Grange and Oddfellows organizations and Clara was active in the Rebecca's Lodge. She also was known to help out her neighbors by lending a helpful hand when minor health problems arose. Her healing abilities were inherited by her two daughters, Irene and Minnie, both of whom went into the nursing profession. Although Clara had no knowledge of this, her great granddaughter, Lara Busch, has also entered that noble profession.

The Bransons in our nation's history played a part in just about every major event, including the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Civil War and World War II. It is very likely that at least one Branson marched in those first unfortunate campaigns, which resulted in George Washington building Fort Necessity shortly before Braddock's defeat during the French and Indian War. A Lt. Col. David Branson was involved in the last battle of the Civil War at Palmito Ranch, Texas, and participated in the formation of the Lincoln Institute in Jefferson City, Missouri. (See Bransons in Civil War)

Eleven generations after Thomas L. Branson emigrated to America, many of his descendants eagerly served in World War II to defend the world against the rampages of a madman. (See Bransons in the military). The inherent character of the typical Branson is one that is firmly attached to freedom. These people were not content to remain in the protected domains of the large cities, but were compelled to search out new and untamed adventures that helped to build this nation. Even today, Ira's only remaining son, Bill Branson, prefers to live in the country or spend time at the ranch, hiking, camping and enjoying nature.


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