Way back when there was a minister who had preached in New York and Kansas when he exposed he has Tuberculosis. He was told if he went deep into the Ozark Mountains it would be good for his health.
In 1896 Harold Bell Wright took the train as far as he could and got off at the end of the line at Marionville, Mo. He proceeded on by horseback and finally got to the flood swollen White River. He followed it into the hills along the ridge near Mutton Hollow he met up with some homesteaders John and Anna Ross at their cabin.
He was invited to spend the night but we fell in love with them and the area and spent the whole summer. Not having anything important to do he started writing a fiction story about the homestead and he gave the homesteaders the name of Old Matt and Aunt Mollie.
He returned to the cabin for eight years while his health slowly improved. In 1902 there was a terrible drought and all the streams wasted as did the homesteaders livestock and the wildlife and it was a hard time for all those living off the land.
In 1904 Mr. Wright kept writing all about the folks from the Ozark Mountain Country though he didn’t get his book published until 1907.
The Missouri-Pacific Railroad completed the track of the White River Line through the Roark Valley in 1906. My wife and I took a ride on the Branson Scenic Railroad over those tracks and the railroad folks told us that those miles of track through these Ozark Mountains were the hardest and most costly miles on the whole railroad. They couldn’t climb over the mountain tops so they had to move along the sides and to do that they had to carve out a shelf in the mountain side to lay the track on. Canyons had to be either bridged or filled with rock and in a couple places where they couldn’t get over or around they had to tunnel by hand through solid rock with just hand tools, horses and dynamite.
The published novel came to the Branson area in 1908 and was dispersed from the Garber post office, where J.K.Ross had become postmaster. Soon after the book was published it became very popular and was even translated in foreign countries and folks began to really get attracted in the hills and about the folks that Harold Bell Wright had written about in his novel. Visitors or what we now call tourists began showing up at the new town of Branson that was incorporated in 1912. The trail up the mountain ridge from Branson which was positioned along the White river all the way up to the little cabin that became known as Old Matts cabin.
Sammy Lane Resort was names after one of the books characters and all their boats they ferried folks with along Lake Taneycomo were named after characters. Even the old Sparky Taxi Cab was used to haul folks out the Dewey Bald Road to Old Matts cabin and the homestead that became named the Shepherd of the Hills Homestead.
Lizzie McDaniel purchased the homestead after John and Anna had passed away in 1923. She started fixing up the old place and bring together memorabilia to show the tourists. She lived in the house and kept the living room to show the visitors.
Dr. Bruce and Mary Trimble, with their son Mark, acquired the homestead after Lizzie McDaniel’s death in 1946. They leased the buildings until they were bought in 1970. After the parents had died Mark continued to put on reenactments of the book at the Shepherd of the Hills Theater. Hundreds of local folks have found employment at the Shepherd of the hills Homestead and Theater.
The show continues to go on to this day in much the same manner as it had for about 40 years based on the Shepherd of the Hills book written about 100 years ago.
In1985 the place was sold to one of the main actors of the show My Gary Snadon. The Character he played in the play was Wash Gibbs, leader of the disreputable Bald Knobber gang. The Bald Knobbers became the name of the first Live Entertainment Show on the old mountain road that we all recognize today as Hiway 76 or Country Music Blvd. or the Strip to us locals. duke energy customer service