In the quietude of eventide, when the stream of life's activities is softly burying —itself in the bosom of night, when its wavelets are falling asleep, and when its current no longer speaks even in whispers, O. L. Branson—quiet —meditative —all alone—wrapped in the tinted shroud of twilight, goes out into the garden of rhetoric, plucks from the flowrets of language the choicest garlands of speech that ever rang forth from the palate of a man, arranges these posies of thouhgt in superb diction with the dainty touch of an artist's skill, plaits them into full—bloom wreathes of oratory; and then comes forth again, in the wee small hours of the night, surcharged with roseate eloquence, ready to deliver a flowery address on the morrow.

Ah! the sweet peonies of human thought—the gladiolases of entrancing speech! How they warble forth in musical resonance over that magnolia tongue! How the inmost recesses of the human soul unfold like huge poppies to receive into their daised cells the nectar of his magic words.

Branson is easily the most polished orator in the state; and a collection of his model orations should be published in book form, be adopted by the state superintendent of public instruction, and be placed in the school libraries throughout the entire state.


The line of demarcation between eloquence and oratory is more pronounced than most people think. Eloquence is logic and diction built up togeher in perfect climaxes, and effectively delivered; oratory is an inspiration born of the occasion, gathered from one's audience and hurled back at them with telling effect. The orator on such occasions is merely a verbal clearing house for a multitude of burning ideas that have been transmitted to him telapathically from his audience. These he assimilates and classifies, sub consciously, and then reflects them back to his hearers in a current of beatuiful and fluent language. Branson's addresses are usually thoroughly prepared in advance. In this sense he may not always be oratorical, but he is invariably eloquent.

Size and voice are two of the greatest assets to a public speaker. A dwarf excites sympathy, while a giant commands respect; each of them, on account of his size, flnds it easy to gain and hold attention. An out—reaching voice that is clear and full is also indispensable. Branson has all of these advantages. He is tall, graceful, dignified, of commanding presence; has a good voice, thoroughly trained; speaks slowly and articulates perfectly.

Following are a few extracts taken from his superbly eloquent address delivered to the high school graduating class at Volga, S. D., in May, 1905:

"I always feel an inspiration on an occasion of this kind that I never experience upon any other; for while it brings its sorrow in a measure, because from this time forward those who are graduating here are expected to fight the battle of life for themselves, yet I never stand in the presence of the youth of our land but what I feel as though the joyous hour of spring is here —

'Mighty nature bounds as from her birth,
'The sun is in the heavens and life on the earth;
'Flowers in the valley, splendor in the beam,
'Health on the gale, and freshness in the stream.'

"Hail! beautiful morning time, when to these young men and women all nature seems to be in harmony . The golden sunlight of morning is resting upon the horizon and shedding its brilliant rays over their young lives; fresh buds are bursting, song birds are singing, the whole Universe is joining in that glad hallelujah chorus— singing to the angels beyond the stars; and what message shall I bring to them that will help to guide them in the great journey they are soon to begin?

*   *   *   *   *   *

"Then too, whatever you do, do well. Dont' be a weakling; don't be a frittering frailty; but in everything you undertake, be master of the situation. See the greatest of the Roman senators quietly walking down the aisle of the Roman senate, never dreaming of danger; see those sixteen blades of steel pierce his flesh, and as the blood flowed from sixteen wounds his soul went to make its peace with the Great Judge in Heaven. The angry mob that gathered about his prostrate form demanded justice and swore vengeance upon Brutus, but quietly and calmly Mark Antony stood over the dead body of Julius Caesar, master of the situation.

"Hear the thunder of cannon and the rattle of musketry upon the field of battle; see the charge and countercharge at the point of the bayonet, and finally see the Union forces in disorderly retreat. But, listen! away in the distance I hear the clattering of hoofs, and finally I see a black charger all covered with foam hurrying to the scene of action, and Phil Sheridan rides up the Shenandoah, master of the situation.

*   *   *   *   *   *

"Take your lesson from the 'thunderbolt of war.' More than a hundred times he led the armies of France to victory. He lowered the colors of the enemy at Austerlitz, and stood triumphant in the face of shot and shell at Lodi Bridge. He led his conquering heroes to the summit of the Alps and carried the Eagles of France to victory beyond the clouds. But, in an unguarded moment,

'There was a sound of revelry by night,
And Belgium's capital had gathered there
Her beauty and her chivarly,'
and while the red wine flowed and the merry dance went on, the Duke of Wellington was marshalling the forces that carried the day at Waterloo; and the pendulum of time ceased to swing for Napoleon on the rock—bound coast of St. Helena."

Once more we catch our orator in a different mood. This time, with his silvery tongue inlaid with "pearls from many seas," we see him standing before a joint—session of our state legislature, sounding forth the praises of the martyred McKinley. Space forbids the use of more than a few paragraphs of this able eulogy:

"When I think of the greatness of my theme, I almost hesitate at the thought of even attempting to approach it, but when I think of his splendid character that shines forth as brilliantly as the light—house that marks the pathway of the mariner at the midnight hour, I am inspired to go forward and do my duty; not because I believe I can tell the story better, not because I believe I can sing his praises more sweetly, but because I believe down deep in my heart that some of the most beautiful lessons in the world's history are to be found in the life of William McKinley.

*   *   *   *   *   *

"In June, 1896, in the city of St. Louis, the Republican National Convention was held. That mighty host of delegates from every state in the Union was determined to bring back to our country that cofidence and prestige that seemed to be swiftly departing from us. They called for a leader; the trumpets were sounding, the bugles rang forth; and the knightly McKinley came forward as the man of the hour. His spurs had already been won in the halls of our national congress, and the voters of the nation were quick to rally around his standard. The contest came—one of the fiercest that has ever been known in the history of politics. For days and weeks two great political parties of the nation were doing battle royal; but on the evening of election day, when the smoke of battle had cleared away, it was found that the hosts of democracy were retreating, and the victorious banner of the republican party went streaming by.

"Was there ever such an hour as that? Have you ever stood by the sea—shore and watched the ebbing of the tide? the receding waters drifting—drifting, until it seemed as though they were gone forever? Then the change comes. You can see the returning waters, the sea—gulls, the canoe and all that ride upon the bosom of the mighty deep, come gliding merrily in to greet the sea—shore. So with the condition of our nation. After hope had fled and confidence had gone almost forever, the incoming tide brought us the greatest period of prosperity ever known in the history of our country."

A man may say certain things to you and mislead you temporarily in shaping your estimate of his real make—up; but when he begins to write, then you see the real man himself come to the surface. A few days since while doing a little Pinkerton work in the north central part of the state with a view to picking up some more data in the life of Mr. Branson with which to enrich this article, we ran across a letter dated July 20, 1910, written by him to one of his friends, which shows better than we can express, the sincerity of the man about whom we are writing, and his loyalty to his friends. We herein publish a part of it:


"As the years have come and gone I have made many new acquaintances, but whenever I want a real good visit, I cling to the old ones. I have always appreciated your friendship and goodwill.

"As I grow older I think I can truthfully say I become stronger in the hope that every transaction which the First National (the bank of which Mr. Branson is president) may have may be honorable and square in every particular. I appreciate fully the value of our friends, for without them we could never have accomplished the few things that we have.

"That your future may be bright and your business career successful is the wish of one of the best friends you have ever had,

O. L. Branson."


It is seldom that a man of strong literary tastes is successful in business. Branson is an exception. He is a happy combination of oratory, business, refreshing sociability and tact. On the stump he is an effective political orator. Always unique in his opening remarks, he catches his audiences with ease and holds them to the end. On the other hand, as a banker and business man, he is quiet, considerate, approachable, fair, honest and aggressive.

At present Mr. Branson is president of the First National Bank of Mitchell, an institution which he took hold of thirteen years ago and when its existence was hovering in the balance, placed it upon a Gibraltar basis; raised its capital stock from scarcely enough to meet its pay roll, to $100,000 and has watched its deposits climb up from mere nothing to $550,000. He took the institution out of its old one—story, rented building and housed it in an elegant new pressed—brick, three—story structure of its own.

He is also president of the corporation of 0. L. Branson & Co. of Mitchell, and is president of a number of smaller banks throughout the state.


In his younger days Mr. Branson held various minor offices. In 1902 he was sent to the state senate from Davison county; two year later he was re—elected. In 1906 he was elected Mayor of Mitchell and at the close of his first term he refused to become candidate for his own successor. He was however, a candidate !or Congress that year. Early in the campaign he said: "Our boys are going to lose; I am going to withdraw." He withdrew. His prediction came true. The "boys" with whom he had trained, lost; but 0. L. Branson had withdrawn in time to save himself for future days. He says he is out of politics except to repay his friends for their support in the past.

Nonsense! A new story will be written inside of ten years.


Mr. Branson was born in Whiteside county, Illinois, February 3, 1861; moved to Iowa with his parents who settled at La Moille, Marshall county, in 1868. Afew years later the family removed to Manning, in Carroll county, where his parents still reside.

His early days were spent on a farm. At the youthful age of fifteen he became a teacher in the public schools of Carroll county, and at eighteen, he was elected principal of the Arcadia schools.

In 1885 he was elected cashier of the Rawlin County Bank, in Atwood, Kansas. This position he held for two years. He then organized at Atwood a bank of his own, remaining at the head of the institution four years. During these six years in Atwood, he spent his nights reading law, and he was finally admitted to the Kansas bar. Later he removed to Osmond, Nebraska, where he engaged in banking and in the practice of law. His marked ability as a trial lawyer soon won attention, and despite the fact that he only used litigation as a side—line, his legal practice soon became so large that it demanded all of his time. At the high tide of his success he left Osmond to come to Mitchell, South Dakota, where he bought the controlling interest of the First National Bank, yet when he left Osmond he turned over to other attorneys for trial thirteen cases in district court, besides all of the smaller cases which he had listed up. Had he remained active in the legal profession he would no doubt today be one of the conspicuous legal lights of the country.

One of Mr. Branson's leading traits is his ability to make friends, and to hold them. He is never too busy to be interviewed and he is always ready to shake hands. As he takes you by the hand you can instantaneously feel the pulsations from his great heartstrings vibrating through your whole being. At once you feel the magnetism of an abiding friendship. When you start to leave, he invariably accosts you with the appeal, "Don't be in a hurry! sit down and stay awhile longer." Blessed—thrice blessed, is any man with such a temperament!

Enviable record! Noble manhood! Illustrious statesman! South Dakota will ever be proud of him and she will continue to honor him.


©2002, Virginia A. Cisewski
All Rights Reserved