See the Missouri areas that
inspired great authors
by Kathy Barnett
have to live in New York to write a best-selling novel. You
don’t have to live in Hollywood to have that book turned into a
hit movie or television series either. So what is the secret?
What is the common denominator? The link is to live the life of
a Missourian. When in Missouri, visit the roads to the homes of
four famous authors that are open to the public so you can
relive their stories. Stand in the same spots where they stood
and touch mementos that were woven into the storylines of their
|Main Street U.S.A. Disneyland
was patterned after the main street in Marceline, Mo.
Walt Disney returned to Marceline to take notes and
photos when designing his theme park.
Walt Disney Hometown Museum, Marceline, Mo.
Many do not
know the connection of Walt Disney to the small Missouri town of
Marceline located in Chariton and Linn Counties. With a
population of only 2,221 in the 2010 census, it is known as a
hometown community based on traditional family values and
progressive economic development. It was Disney’s hometown as a
small boy with big dreams. He was only five years old when he
first came to Marceline by train. Later in life upon returning,
the train depot evoked his first memories of pulling into
Marceline. Today, the Walt Disney Hometown Museum is housed in
the now-restored Santa Fe Depot. The main focus, of course, is
during his childhood years. There is also a unique collection of
family artifacts displayed there and has never been seen
anywhere else in the world. Main Street USA in Disneyland was
patterned from Disney’s memories of Marceline and his view of
the main street through town. The street has even been renamed
“Main Street USA.”
|The Walt Disney Hometown Museum
is located in the restored Santa Fe Railroad Depot in
Marceline, Missouri. Walt was only 5 when his family
first moved to Marceline
where they arrived by train
and Walt was infatuated with train from then on.
Photo credit Walt Disney Hometown Museum, Marceline,
to take the time to visit the Disney Farm where Walt lived. The
house is not open to the public and the farm is privately owned.
However, you can sense the artistic electricity in the area and
you are welcome to view the home from outside. Behind the house
is where Walt’s Dreaming Tree stood. Although the original fell
in 2015, a cottonwood sapling had been planted nearby in 2004 by
his grandson. Under those branches is where Walt learned to
draw, write and dream of magical things to come. Today the “Son
of the Dreaming Tree” may be visited by the public along with
the Disney barn from dawn until until sunset.
The barn was the
setting for Walt’s very first try at presenting a show. He
dressed his pets and farm animals in costumes and sold tickets
to the neighbors for 10 cents each to the “Disney Circus.”
However, his audience left unimpressed and his mother made him
refund the money. It was a valuable lesson to him that he
carried for the rest of his life: “Give the audience more than
they expect and they’ll walk away happy customers.”
Visitors from all over the World have left their written
message to Walt on the interior walls of the barn.
|Thousands of notes have been
written to Walt Disney on the walls of the rebuilt barn
on the Disney family homestead. Open to the public
from dawn until dusk.
Photo credit Walt Disney Hometown Museum, Marceline,
visit on a weekend between May through October, you are in for a
special treat. The Uptown Theatre opens to the public and offers
FREE movies. This nostalgic building is where Walt saw his first
movie as a child. His movie, “The Great Locomotive Chase”
premiered there in 1956. Walt and Roy Disney were both in
attendance for that premier. In 1998, “The Spirit of Mickey”
premiered with free commemorative tickets to each child. Mickey
Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck and Pluto attended that
premier. Now under new ownership, renovations are in progress
along with the Bed and Breakfast housed upstairs. It features
Disney-themed rooms and a railroad-themed room, each with a
private bath, shower, central air and cable TV. A full breakfast
is delivered to your room.
|Walt Disney watched his very
first movie at the Uptown Theatre and later premiered
one of his feature films “The Great Locomotive Chase”
there. Photo credit Walt
Disney Hometown Museum, Marceline, Mo.
passed away, the Disney connections and memories in Marceline
linger. Citizens of Marceline asked for a commemorative stamp to
be issued in his honor, which was granted in 1968. The Post
Office was renamed the Walt Disney Post Office in 2003. It’s the
only federal building named for Mr. Disney. So be sure to stop
by and have a letter to home hand cancelled with Marceline’s
one-of-a-kind Disney cancellation as a souvenir.
Disney, most people already know Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain,
grew up in Missouri because he described life of his hometown in
his popular novels of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Both
books were recreated into famous movies. After an apprenticeship
with a printer, Twain worked as a typesetter and contributed
articles to the newspaper of his older brother. Some of these
articles, along with Twain’s writing desk, typewriter, and first
editions of major works are on display at the Mark Twain Museum
in downtown Hannibal.
Hannibal, located north of St. Louis on the Mississippi
River, showcases tons of exciting historical attractions
connected to the famous characters. First and foremost is a tour
of Main Street because the stories started there. Explore eight
historic properties including his boyhood home, Becky Thatcher’s
home and the museum for one ticket price. At the Interpretive
Center, explore interactive exhibits for all ages. See how Twain
turned his childhood friends into the famous characters of his
novels. Ride a raft; paint the fence. Experience live
performances and storytelling during summer months. The Museum
Gallery features 15 original Norman Rockwell paintings depicting
scenes from his novels.
|The stories started here – at
Mark Twain’s boyhood home.
Take a self-guided tour
through eight historic properties and museums in
Photos credit Hannibal Convention
and Visitors Bureau.
newest family-friendly attraction is Karlock Kars and Pop
Culture Museum located in a renovated three-story brick building
near the river.
Owned by Jackie and Steve Karlock, an eight dollar self – guided
tour reveals classic cars and artifacts, such as arcade games,
signs, movie props and historic juke boxes.
A novelty shop on the first floor is a great place for
finding a unique item to take home from Hannibal. The Karlock
family also operates a haunted house and wax museum on the
spooky side of Hannibal. Located at 215 Hill Street, don’t let
the exterior fool you. That skeleton peering through the top
window warns visitors that something sinister is going on
inside! You’ll first enter a Holiday Magic area, offering small
gifts and holiday items. Next, you’ll enter a dark room where
you’ll be greeted by the unblinking stares of 27 wax figures,
artfully sculpted by Martin Krewson. Go through another doorway
and…the terror begins!
|The newest museum in Hannibal is
the Karlock Kars and Pop Culture Museum housing
classic cars and loads of artifacts. Photos credit
Hannibal Convention and Visitors Bureau.
If you are
able to visit in the fall, consider going during the annual
Autumn Historic Folklife Festival. This year’s date is Oct. 15
and 16. Over 100 artisans and craftsmen demonstrate the
lifestyle and folk art from the 1800’s. Find food vendors
cooking over wood stoves and musicians strolling the streets
through the crowd. There is a children’s craft area, a wine
garden, and cider fresh from the apple press.
was infatuated with the riverboats seen on the Mississippi
River. He even became a riverboat pilot for a short while before
settling in Connecticut. So in his honor, it is appropriate to
take an excursion or dinner cruise on the Mark Twain Riverboat
and soak in the sights of the beautiful Mississippi River. The
evening dinner cruise is a buffet meal and features dancing to
live musical entertainment. Allow a good two hours for this
cruise while the afternoon sightseeing cruises last about one
hour. There are only a few weekends left for cruises as they
close the end of October and resume next May.
|The Mark Twain Riverboat offers
sightseeing and dinner buffet cruises along the
through October. Photos credit
Hannibal Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Last on the list, but
certainly not the least, take a Mark Twain Cave tour. Twain
wrote about this cave in five of his books. Experienced guides
will escort you on a one-hour tour through smooth walkways with
no steps. Be sure to take a light jacket as the cave is 52
degrees year round. Also, wear comfortable walking shoes. Unlike
the characters of Tom Sawyer and Becki Thatcher, you won’t have
to find your own way out. Visitors to the Mark Twain Cave
Complex can also sluice for gemstones. Bags of gemstones can be
purchased at the rock shop on site. Examples of the
semi-precious gems you may find while using the 50-foot sluice
are included with your bag. Experience “Mark Twain Live” by Jim
Waddell at Cave Hollow Theatre, located within the Mark Twain
Cave Complex. Raconteur Jim Waddell reweaves yarns first spun by
Mark Twain, the creator of some of our most treasured
literature. This presentation has been lauded by Twainian
scholars for its authenticity of deliverance and mannerisms.
Performances Wed. – Sun. at 2 PM April – November.
|The Mark Twain Cave Complex
proudly boasts both Missouri’s newest and oldest show
Photos credit Hannibal Convention and
Another Missouri cave is what
attracted visitors to Branson in the first place. Today, Silver
Dollar City is one of the top theme parks in the nation. It
wasn’t always so. Before the theme park was Marvel Cave, home to
two characters in Harold Bell Wright’s novel “Shepherd of the
Hills.” Pete was a simple-minded character and roamed about the
someone who took care of him from the cave. Pete refers to that
character throughout as “God.”
|Visitors in Marvel Cave Photo
credit Kathy Barnett
Old Matt and the Shepherd's
common history (which only The Shepherd knows at the outset)
involves Old Matt's daughter, who died while giving birth to her
son (and Old Matt's grandson), Pete Howard. Unbeknownst to the
Matthews, Mad Howard is Pete's father, and thus The Shepherd is
Pete's grandfather. Pete calls his dad “God” because his dad
takes care of him while hiding in Marvel Cave. He tries to teach
Pete about God and Pete only understands God is good and his
father is good, so his father must be “God.”
|Kathy Barnett's own copy
Photo credit Kathy
|Shepherd of the Hills
Inspiration Tower Photo credit Kathy Barnett
Harold Bell Wright was a
best-selling American writer of fiction, essays and non-fiction
during the first half of the 20th century.
Between 1903 and 1942, this minister-turned-author wrote 19
books, several scripts for stage plays, and several magazine
articles. At least 15 movies were made from his novels. Seven of
Wright's books appeared on the top ten best seller lists, two of
them twice. He's best known for his work, “The Shepherd of the
Hills.” It was later made into a movie by the same name starring
John Wayne as young Matt. This tale of life in the Ozarks
continues to draw thousands of devotees to outdoor performances
where visitors can also see the cabin where the real Old Matt
and Aunt Mollie lived. Wright
is referred to as “the Shepherd” of the book since he was
allowed to camp out and live on the property near the cabin
while writing his book.
|Tour Old Matt’s Cabin near
Inspiration Point where author Harold Bell Wright camped
on the property while working on his book, “Shepherd
of the Hils”
Photo credit Kathy Barnett
|The Baldknobbers are a gang of
robbers who terrorize the countryside wearing
frightening masks with horns at their
top and who
rob banks and settlers as they see fit.
play features more than 80 actors, 40 horses,
an actual nightly burning of the cabin by the
Photo credit Kathy Barnett
Marvel Cave was originally
called Marble Cave, after explorers in 1882 saw what they
thought was marble on the cave's ceiling. This started the
Marble Cave Mining Company, although later realizing there was
no marble, ceased operations. William Lynch purchased the cave
in 1889, and soon after opened the cave to the public. Cave
tours continued into the early 1900s, and Wright was one of its
visitors. Once his book was published in 1907, nationwide
interest in the Ozarks began, drawing visitors who wanted to see
the self-reliant and stoic hill people, the wooded valleys, the
mountain “balds” and the incredible cave Wright had described.
In 1950, Hugo Herschend
leased the cave for 99 years. The Herschends made renovations to
the cave, and in 1960 they opened the theme park,
Silver Dollar City, on the surface above the cave. In the
same year, “The Shepherd of the Hills” was made into an outdoor
drama at The Old Mill Theater to promote the area to tourists.
It continues in its 58th seasons in 2017 and is also
the home of Inspiration Tower, the Sons of the Pioneers show and
other gift shops and attractions. The Harold Bell Wright Museum
is located within the World’s Largest Toy Museum complex nearby.
Marvel Cave is now known for being one of the largest caves in
Missouri, having one of the largest cave entry rooms (the
Cathedral Room) of any cave in North America, and for being one
of the longest running tourist attractions in the Ozarks.
of books written by Laura Ingalls Wilder tell the stories of her
growing up in the big woods of Wisconsin, the prairie of Kansas,
the banks of Plum Creek near Walnut Grove, Minnesota and De
Smet, South Dakota. The link to Missouri, is they were all
written while living in Missouri during her later years. Laura
and Almanzo moved to Rocky Ridge Farm near Mansfield, Missouri
in 1894. Original manuscripts, Pa’s fiddle, and other artifacts
are displayed. You can tour the historic home and see the actual
spot where Laura wrote, the museum of articles and momentos, the
vegetable garden and even visit the nearby grave where Almanzo
and Laura are buried. They lived at Rocky Ridge for more than 60
|Laura’s home on Rocky Ridge
where she wrote the books.
Photo credit Laura
Ingalls Wilder Museum, Mansfield Mo.
movie pilot was filmed for the television series running from
1974 to 1982, viewers may still catch periodic reruns of the
show. A movie based on that series is finally in the works by
|Pa’s Fiddle is displayed at the
museum in Mansfield, Mo.
Photo credit Laura Ingalls
Wilder Museum, Mansfield Mo.
born and raised right in the center of all four locations –
Sedalia, Mo. I love to write and I love the movies. So who
knows? Maybe I have a chance to make it after all. Only the
Ads fund American Roads and Global Highways
so please consider them for your needed
If you enjoy the articles we offer, donations
are always welcome.