Sunday, April 13, 2014

History Came to Life Last Week

By Miralee Ferrell

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.
 I purchased a 30 minute DVD narrated by his son, Norman, and I'm anxious to watch it. I'm also going to try to carve out time to read a couple of my favorites books of his again. If you're interested, I believe many of his books are now out of copyright and can be purchased at a very low price on Kindle, and some of them may even be free.

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!


  1. Miralee, It sounds like you and your friends had a great time. I loved your interesting post and the wonderful pictures you shared. We have been to Branson several times but have never visited the museum of Harold Bell Wright. Sounds like a must if we get up there again. Thank you for sharing!

    mauback55 at gmail dot com

    mauback55 at gmail dot com

  2. I really like that little white church. It looks like there are a lot of stories hidden in its walls. Been to Branson and enjoyed it very much. Thanks for your post. sm, wileygreen1(at)ahoodot)com

  3. I've been to Branson many times and seen the Shepherd of the Hills play a couple of times, but I didn't know about the Wright museum. I'm glad you got to learn more about a writer you admire.

  4. Thats so cool. I know who Harold Bell Wright is I read The calling of Dan Matthews and still remember that book. Also read and I think still have Shepherd of the hills.

  5. Miralee, I am so happy for you that you got to make this trip and found unexpected things you love. It amazes me how many of yesteryears homes are still intact. Don't think many of those now will last that long. I have only been able to go to Branson once and it was with a group to see the stage shows, but didn't get to go exploring. Sounds like he was a great author. Thanks for new information on the past. Maxie mac262(at)me(dot)com

  6. Sounds like a wonderful trip, Miralee. I love visiting historical places and learning more about who lived there, what happened at that time and what people did. I read The Shepherd of the Hills many, many years ago. Now I have to find it and read it again. I'll have to look for some of his others. Thanks for letting us share your trip. Branson and the surrounding area is a fascinating place to visit, and not just for the shows and shopping.

  7. Thanks, ladies! If any of you go, the museum is connected to The Biggest Toy Museum in the World...(although it's not huge) you can find it that way. It's also only a few blocks from the Titanic exhibit. The cabin and church were in a different spot, maybe a half-mile to a mile away, and it was called The Shepherd of the Hills rather than Harold Bell Wright. I'm so glad we found both!