Harold Bell Wright’s novel The Shepherd of the Hills introduced readers across the world to the Missouri Ozarks. The inspiration for Wright’s fictional story came from his time in the White River region near Branson. Throughout the 1890s, Wright made several trips to the area and developed a connection to the land and the locals. The people he met, like John and Anna Ross, became the key characters in his novel. The Shepherd of the Hills found immediate success. The novel became the first book to sell one million copies in the United States and has been adapted to film four times.
Following its publishing in 1907, The Shepherd of the Hills inspired readers to travel to the Ozarks to experience the hills and characters immortalized in his book. The arrival of the railroad the same year made traveling to the Ozarks as easy as buying a ticket. Over the next decade, visitors came by train to the Ozarks in search of “Old Matt’s Cabin,” the fictional name given to the Ross homestead. Local entrepreneurs capitalized on the book’s success, opening businesses named for characters and places in the book. Although the sensationalism of the book has subsided, film and play adaptations of The Shepherd of the Hills still attract visitors to the beauty and character of the Ozarks today.
Categories: Arts & Culture
Creator: Harold Bell Wright
Contributing Institution: The Springfield-Greene County Library District
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