I had a wonderful experience last week that was specifically related to my love of all things book and history. I got together with three close friends who are also writers for a mini-writer's retreat in Branson, Missouri. It was wonderful to spend time with Cheryl Hodde, (writing as Hannah Alexander), Lissa Halls Johnson, and Nancy Toback. Cheryl took us sightseeing one day, after I'd expressed an interest in one of my favorite authors, Harold Bell Wright, who lived in Missouri over 100 years ago.
|My collection of Harold Bell Wright books, many of them first editions. I've read them all, most of them more than once
Harold Bell Wright wrote 19 books in the early 1900's, with the most famous being The Shepherd of the Hills, which sold over one million copies and made him the first writer who earned over one million dollars on fiction.
|The original, hand-written manuscript of Shepherd of the Hills
We were looking for the Harold Bell Wright museum, which we eventually found, but first Cheryl accidentally stopped at what she thought was the museum. I was thrilled to discover she'd made a wonderful mistake, when we got out and started looking around.
I couldn't believe what we'd stumbled upon. It was the actual location of Matt's cabin...the man who was the hero of Shepherd of the Hills. Wright had met Matt in the Ozark Mountains and wove his book around him, his family, and the cabin where he lived. The picture to the right is Matt's actual cabin, now over 100 years old. In the foreground is the well, and beyond is a barn, outhouse and woodshed.
It was after hours, so we weren't able to go inside, but I was happy to be able to peek in the windows and get pictures of the area. On up the path we located the restored Shepherd of the Hills church that the family and community attended.
Later, we did find the museum, and I got to see artifacts from his writing, such as several manuscripts, his writing desk, personal family furniture, his vast fishing collection of rods, lures, tackle boxes, and more, along with a lot of misc. items. I was amazed to discover what a talented man he'd been. Not only had he been a pastor in his early years before switching to full-time writing (believing he would reach many more people that way), he was also a baseball player and an artist. I've included a photo below of a couple of his paintings hanging in the museum.
It was a thrilling adventure for an author who is also an avid reader, to stumble across such treasures from one of my own favorite authors!