Branson Missouri is a well known tourist destination in southwest Missouri, one that draws millions each year for musical and other entertainment in a family-friendly environment. But I would bet a majority of those visiting don’t know why this otherwise remote corner of the Midwest became the phenomenon it is.
To understand, visit the museum dedicated to Harold Bell Wright, the original Shepherd of the Hills.
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Who Was Harold Bell Wright?
Harold Bell Wright was born into poverty in 1872 with a drunken, dysfunctional father who abandoned the family when Harold was 11. The boy eventually found his way to college and a calling for the ministry.
That’s what took him from Ohio to the little town of Pierce City in southwest Missouri. He wrote for his congregation, reading various stories from the pulpit. But he was so frustrated with his second novel that, at one point, he tossed it into his wood burning stove. Fortunately, a friend retrieved it.
“The Shepherd of the Hills,” published in 1907, has sold more than two million copies and has been translated into at least seven languages. John Wayne starred in a movie by the same name in 1941.
Wright was the first American author to sell more than one million books. In so doing, he changed the landscape of the Missouri Ozarks forever. Long before there were paved roads in this part of the world, travelers began coming in search of the beauty, the peace and the unassuming lifestyle that Wright brought to life so beautifully.
The Original Shepherd of the Hills
You learn this story at the Harold Bell Wright Museum, a few small rooms inside the larger Toy Museum in Branson. You’ll see the desk at which Harold Bell Wright worked and some of the other furnishings from his simple home and ministry. And there you will also see the original hand-written draft of Shepherd of the Hills that was once tossed into the fire.
It’s a simple experience in Branson, a place where neon lights, flashing billboards and glittery advertisements call to the hordes of traffic and human beings that find their way to these beautiful hills. But it all began with a story from an eloquent storyteller who found his own calling in these beautiful Ozark hills.
Get Your Copy of Shepherd of the Hills