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1916, Eyes

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1924, Man
1924, Mine
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Postcards of Characters from The Shepherd of the Hills

Click on Pictures to Enlarge

 

 
 
 

Harold Bell Wright--who was a novelist, after all--said there was only one real person in or near Branson whom he incorporated wholesale into his 1907 novel, The Shepherd of the Hills. That person was "Uncle Ike," the postmaster at Notch, whose real name was Levi Morrill. In addition, Wright stated that "Old Matt" and "Aunt Molly" bore some resemblance to J. K. Ross and his wife, Molly, whom Wright had stayed with during occasional visits from about 1896 to 1906. In late 1906, a few months before The Shepherd of the Hills was published, J. K. and Molly moved  from the soon-to-be-famous "Old Matt's Cabin" to Garber, Missouri, about one mile north of the cabin. Here J. K. ran the general store and post office that had been built by Joel B. Garber. "Old Matt" and "Aunt Molly," as the tourists and tour guides called them (and as they sometimes called themselves), lived and worked in Garber until their deaths in 1923. I believe all the photos of Matt and Molly that appear on this page were taken in Garber. For more information about Garber...

J.K. Ross, Garber, Missouri, Old Matt 1. Garber, Mo. (About 1910. The building has a flat roof. Poster to left of door is about the 4th of July. Other signs refer to Marvel Cave and Cardui Woman's Tonic. Old Matt is on right. A short spur of RR tracks behind buggy. Building to left is Bob Cantwell's General Mercantile. Divided back, AZO stamp box.) Photo courtesy Dave Hadsell, information courtesy John Fullerton.
J.K. Ross, Garber, Missouri, Old Matt 2. Uncle Matt.  AZO stamp box. (Apparently this photo was taken within minutes of the above photo.) Courtesy Dave Hadsell. (It seems that some of the people who wrote captions on the postcards were not familiar with the story. There was no "Uncle Matt" in The Shepherd of the Hills, but there was an Old Matt and an Uncle Ike. This is a photo of J.K. Ross, identified by the people of Branson as the "original" Old Matt.)
 
2b. Old Matt's Store, Garber, Mo. 236 Hall Photo Co. eb
J.K. Ross, Garber, Missouri, Old Matt 3. [There is no inscription on the front of this card.  It shows "Old Matt" standing in front of his store and post office at Garber, about 1-1/2 miles north of Uncle Ike's post office. Handwriting on the back says: "August 4, 1921. This is post office at Garber, MO. The railroad is just in front of this house."  The sign just above his head is for the Fourth Liberty Loan, which was issued by the U.S. government, October, 1918. In this photo the building has pitched roof instead of the original flat roof.] gc
J.K. Ross, Garber, Missouri, Old Matt, Clodfelter 4. "Old Matts" Post Office, Garber, MO. (Burned 1928) Payne, Branson, MO. John Fullerton informs me the lady holding the mailbag is Ada Clodfelter, postmistress 1928-1932. Note flagpole and ropes, and room has been added on right. gc.
J.K. Ross, Garber, Missouri, Old Matt 5. Old Matt and Aunt Mollie, "Shepherd of the Hills." (J. K. and Molly Ross) gc
J.K. Ross, Garber, Missouri, Old Matt 6. Mo. P. RY. Garber, Mo. [Abbr. for Missouri Pacific Railway] "Old Matt" (J. K. Ross) is the man facing the camera, waiting for the train. On the left is a stack of RR ties, and a post for exchanging U.S. Mail. On right is train depot, which appears to be part of a RR box car. Man with back to camera is identified in handwritten note as "Archie." Someone wrote on card that train is "northbound passenger," but John Fullerton, Garber expert, says "the train seen in the photo is actually going south towards Branson, the photographer is looking west. This section of track that passes thru Garber runs east to west."   Photo Courtesy Robert McCarty
Cabin121.jpg (41547 bytes) 7. "Aunt Mollie"  7 Hall Photo Co.  gc
J.K. Ross, Garber, Missouri, Old Matt 8.  "Old Matt"  5 Hall Photo Co.  [This is obviously a companion card to the one above. They were apparently photographed within minutes of each other, possibly beside the tent that was erected near Old Matt's Cabin, said to be the tent in which Harold Bell Wright wrote The Shepherd of the Hills. But it is at least as likely it was taken beside their house in Garber. Click here to see photo of Matt and Mollie sitting together beside the same tent, wearing the same clothes.] gc
J.K. Ross, Garber, Missouri, Old Matt 9. J. K. Ross, "Old Matt" of "The Shepherd of the Hills,"  Payne, Branson, MO [This photo was evidently taken near his store at Garber where he split railroad ties by the train tracks.] gc  The credit on this photo says it was taken by Payne, who took many Branson area photos that appear on this site. The next photo, below, is the same photo, but says it is by Stoner, who also took many photos included on this site. My guess is that one photographer bought the negative from the other.
J.K. Ross, Garber, Missouri, Old Matt 10. "Old Matt" [at Garber, MO.] Stoner. Courtesy Dave Hadsell
J.K. Ross, Garber, Missouri, Old Matt, Aunt Mollie 11. Aunt Mollie.  Uncle Mat.  N4  (J. K. and Molly Ross. Note RR tracks behind them.  This photo must have been taken near the Garber store and post office.) gc
J.K. Ross, Garber, Missouri, Old Matt, Aunt Mollie 12. Mrs. J.K. Ross (Aunt Mollie) of "The Shepherd of the Hills," Payne, Branson, MO. eb
J.K. Ross, Garber, Missouri, Old Matt, Aunt Mollie 13. Aunt Molly. AZO. This photo may have been posed at Old Matt's Cabin, but it was more likely taken where they actually lived--at their home in Garber. Courtesy Larry Allen.
J.K. Ross, Garber, Missouri, Old Matt, Aunt Mollie 14. Old Matt & Aunt Mollie Leading characters in Harold Bell Wright's immortal Story Shepherd of the Hills.  Though this card does not say the photo was by George Hall, the same photo on other, Real Photo, cards is identified as "3 Hall Photo Company." Courtesy Dave Hadsell.
sammypc.jpg (37306 bytes) 14. "Sammy Lane (Grace Shearer), the Heroine of "Shepherd Of The Hills"  This is a real photo (Kodak) postcard.  Kodak began producing photo postcards in 1950.  gc
15. Young Matt (Charles Ross). Hero of -- "Shepherd of the Hills," Artist's Conception. eb

16. Young Mat and Sammy Lane. Reverse says, "This picture is of Susie Morrill, and Charley Ross who were Sammy Lane, and Young Matt. It was made by Harold Bell Wright in Uncle Ike's (Levi Morrill's) home, to be used on the front cover of the book, however, Wright would not promise them a royalty from the book, and for this reason they refused to let him use the picture." Courtesy Dave Hadsell [The message on the back is certainly nonsense. The Shepherd of the Hills was a novel, not a biography, so it didn't need any photos.. Wright resisted any attempts to identify the "real" Sammy and Matt. They never used photos on the cover of Wright's books, and this is not a very good photo, anyway. And the covers and the royalties were determined by the publisher, not the author. --Gerry Chudleigh]
sohactorsincabin.jpg (55258 bytes) 17.  "Old Matt and Aunt Mollie in the Old Cabin.  Note--Picture Taken By Young Matt by Lantern Light While Harold B. Wright Was There."  Kodak Real Photo Postcard. gc  [This card appears to be a snapshot of a previously existing photo. Kodak postcards first appeared in 1950. Wright died in 1944, and Matt and Molly (J. K. and Molly Ross) died in 1923. I see nothing that looks like the inside of "Old Matt's Cabin" and, of course, the people are models, not the real Rosses. The fireplace appears to be a paper show prop. It is extremely unlikely Harold Bell Wright or Young Matt were there -- or even alive when this picture was taken. This may be a photo of actors on the stage of the Shepherd of the Hills outdoor play. -- Gerry Chudleigh]
J.K. Ross, Garber, Missouri, Old Matt, Aunt Mollie 18. This is not a postcard, but a 2" by 3" photo of Old Matt and Aunt Molly taken by Dow Tate in the spring of 1919. Nahum Tate, who  provided these photos, says, "The child that Aunt Mollie is holding is my Sister, Sammy Lane Tate (age 15 months) and the boy holding Uncle Matt's hand is my Brother, Ewing Stovall Tate (age 3 yrs)." [They appear to be standing next to the Garber train "depot" seen in photo #6 above.]
J.K. Ross, Garber, Missouri, Old Matt, Aunt Mollie 19. This is not a postcard, but a 2" by 3" photo of Old Matt and Aunt Molly (J. K. and Molly Ross), taken by Dow Tate on a trip to Branson in 1913. Courtesy Nahum Tate.
20. Garber Post Office as it appeared in 1956 when it closed. Courtesy John Fullerton and Captain Trapp.
21. Ada B. Clodfelter hanging the mail for the train, Garber, MO., summer 1928.  Courtesy John Fullerton and Captain Trapp.
22. Fiddlin'Jake of the Shepherd of the Hills. Courtesy Dave Hadsell
23. The Ozark Fiddler N7. [There is nothing on this card that indicates this is from the Branson area or that the fiddler is Fiddlin' Jake] Courtesy Dave Hadsell
24. In the Heart of Harold Bell Wright's Shepherd of the Hills country. Jim Lane, The Original Jim Lane Cabin (Bea Deissroth, owner), Sammy Lane. Copyright 1949 Bea Deissroth.
25. The Old Shepherd's (Truman Powell) Homestead. Courtesy Dave Hadsell
26. Front: "Zeke Wheeler and Sammy Lane at Wash Gibbs Cabin." Back: "This is Zeke Wheeler or (Oscar R. Morrill), and Sammy Lane or (Susie B. Morrill) brother and sister at the original Wash Gibb's cabin on Roark Creek. Notice Sammy's side saddle on the dunn colored mule that was supposed to be Wash Gibb's mule." Courtesy Dave Hadsell
27. "Front: Sammy Lane and Mandy Ford." Back: "Susie B. Morrill and Nettle B. (Sharp) Morrill who were Sammy Lane, and Mandy Ford in Harold Bell Wright's novel, The Shepherd of the Hills." Courtesy Dave Hadsell
28. Front: Just below the oval photo, in the gray area the following is printed: "Truman S. Powell -- The Shepherd of the Hills." But just below that, in the white area it says: "The Old Shepherd -- Dod Howitt." ("Dod" is a typographical error. In Wright's book the Shepherd's name was Dad Howitt.) On the back of the card it says: "Truman S. Powell (The Old Shepherd) Who discovered the Beautiful Fairy Cave and advised his Son how to develop it." Courtesy Dave Hadsell
   

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This Harold Bell Wright web site is written and produced by Gerry Chudleigh with the help of many friends.
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Last updated 12/02/13