Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Historic Sites of Branson, Missouri - Part Two

Long before the world ever heard of Branson, Missouri, this rough and picturesque mountain setting in the Ozarks was made famous by the talented novelist Harold Bell Wright.

Wright's 1907 book, The Shepherd of the Hills, brought the mountains, valleys and wilderness of the Branson area to life for readers around the world. A remarkable achievement in Southern literature, the book was the first novel in history to sell more than 1,000,000 copies. It also sparked a flood of visitors to the Missouri Ozarks, initiating the tourism industry that would eventually make Branson what it is today.

The Shepherd of the Hills is a haunting story about a man who suddenly appears in the mountains seeking peace and redemption for a dark secret. He endears himself to the people of the area and, in the process, comes to better understand life, love, nature and God. It is a magnificent book that has been enjoyed by millions of readers and is as timeless today as it was when written.

Many of the sites associated with the Shepherd of the Hills can still be seen today at the Ruth and Paul Henning State Conservation Area in Branson. The park offers beautiful Ozarks' vistas that include the valleys, mountains and forests brought to life in the book. Wright based his novel on real places around Branson and in doing so preserved forever the settings of a century ago.

Paul Henning, a native of Missouri and the creator of such classic television shows as The Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres and Petticoat Junction, fell in love with the settings described by Wright and, with his wife Ruth, preserved many of the locations from the book. Thanks to their civic mindedness, much of the land is now incorporated in the Henning State Conservation Area.

To learn more, please visit www.exploresouthernhistory.com/branson1 and look for the link. If you have not read Shepherd of the Hills, it can be read for free online by clicking here. The book is also still in print and available through most bookstores.

Our series on the historic sites of Branson, Missouri, will continue.

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