Written by Klaire Howerton
Posted by Mark Ruda
Shepherd of the Hills, Branson, MO
Shepherd of the Hills is the story that put Branson on the map and is one of the main reasons people visit today.
When folks hear ‘Shepherd of the Hills’ in Branson, Missouri, some folks think of the book written by Harold Bell Wright. Some might think of Old Matt’s Cabin or the Inspiration Tower or horseback rides. Still others might think of the Vigilante Extreme ZipRider. The truth is, Shepherd of the Hills, located off of Highway 76, encompasses all of these things – and lots more! It’s a historic place you’ll want to be sure to visit.
Shepherd of the Hills, Historically
The unique history of Shepherd of the Hills began with a homestead, an ill minster and a book. In the late 1800s, a couple by the name of John and Anna Ross began homesteading on 160 acres in the Ozarks (an area just west of modern day Branson). In 1896, a minister from Kansas suffering from consumption (none other than Harold Bell Wright), arrived in the area, seeking a better climate for his health. Due to some severe flooding along the White River, Wright temporarily (or so he thought) set up shop on the Ross’s homestead to wait out the poor weather. And the rest is history – Wright spent the next several years deeply immersed in the people, the culture and the landscape that inspired his book, “Shepherd of the Hills,” that was published in 1907. The characters in Wright’s book (many of them based off of his friends) became legendary and drew dozens of visitors to the Ross’s Ozarks homestead where Wright had written his book. In 1910, tired of the attention, the Ross’s sold the homestead to an M.R. Driver, who turned the cabin (Old Matt’s Cabin) into an inn where tourists could dine. It was a huge hit. Throughout the years, the land changed hands and continued to grow as a tourist destination. In the late 1920s, a Ms. McDaniel began reenacting plays of the Shepherd of the Hills book. Fast forward to the 1960s and the theater business was booming – the play was one of the area’s biggest draws. In the ‘70s, daytime amenities were added to the nightly play lineup and in 1989, the 230 foot Inspiration Tower was built on the site of Harold Bell Wright’s first campground, Inspiration Point. Today, thousands of visitors pass through Shepherd of the Hills each year – what would Wright think of that?
Shepherd of the Hills, Modern Day
One of the most popular features of Shepherd of the Hills is still the nightly outdoor drama, which showcases the epic story of love, tragedy and redemption in the Ozarks. Folks also love going up in the Inspiration Tower, which, true to its name, gives visitors a very inspiring view. If you like music and good food, you’ll want to check out The Sons of the Pioneers Chuckwagon Dinner Show, featuring Grammy Hall of Fame performers and an authentic chuckwagon meal. If you’re more of the adventuring type, saddle up and take a horseback trail ride through the homestead, or get a bird’s eye view from the Vigilante Extreme ZipRider. And if you come to visit Shepherd of the Hills during the holidays, drive through the Trail of Lights, one of the longest and most festive Christmas light displays in the Ozarks!
Shepherd of the Hills has dozens of opportunities for you to immerse yourself in this historic homestead. After a visit here, you’ll understand why Harold Bell Wright decided to stop and stay awhile.
For more information on the Shepherd of the Hills visit www.theshepherdofthehills.com