The Shepherd of the Hills
Long before Branson was known for the musical shows and attractions that bring visitors to the region today, it was well known for being the setting of “The Shepherd of the Hills” by Harold Bell Wright. This book takes place in the city of Branson as well as the Ozark Mountains that surround the city, and part of the book was written during his extended visits to Branson.
The book is a mostly a fictional account of some of the regions folk tales. The book was also translated into a number of languages since its debut in 1907. A stage version of the book was presented for 57 years on the original farm property Wright visited. Unfortunately, this venue is due to close this year. The book came into being after Wright was advised by his doctor to find more suitable climates for the season, due to his various health issues. This resulted in him starting to visit the Ozark Mountains area around the turn of the century. It was here that he met two farmers, a man and his wife named John and Anna Ross who became the inspiration for Old Matt and Aunt Mollie in the book. After befriending them, he returned for several years to stay on their land throughout his visit. Many of the people whom he came to know during his annual visits also inspired other characters for the book.
The novel was adapted for a film in 1941 which starred film legends like John Wayne, Betty field and Harry Carey just to mention a few. It has also been the basis for three other films, with the 1941 original being the most popular version of Harold Wright’s book. This was also the basis for the outdoor performance in Branson which featured over 80 actors and forty horses. It also featured an impressive burning down of a cabin during each performance and was considered one of the best outdoor performances in town, if not the country. It will surely be missed and hopefully will find a home in another location. Until then, many stores carry the book which would be fun to share with the family while relaxing in your Branson cabin.