Most of 1903
and 1904 Wright was ill. During
that time he served as pastor for about a year at the Forest Avenue Christian Church
in Kansas City, Missouri, then went to Branson to rest and recuperate,
before assuming pastoral duties in Lebanon.
Wright pastored in Lebanon from 1905 to 1907 and used many of the
features in or near the town, which he called Corinth, in his third book, The Calling of Dan Matthews. But because he portrayed the
town of Lebanon, its citizens and church members, in a negative way, the town never really celebrated the connection.
To be fair, Wright's comment about
Lebanon were devastating:
"Neighboring towns that were born when
Corinth [Lebanon] was middle-aged, flourished and have become cities of
importance. The country round about has grown rich and prosperous. Each
year more and heavier trains thunder past on their way to and from the
great city by the distant river, stopping only to take water. But in this
swiftly moving stream of life Corinth is caught in an eddy. Her small
world has come to swing in a very small circle--it can scarcely be said to
swing at all. The very children stop growing when they become men and
women, and are content to dream the dreams their fathers' fathers dreamed,
even as they live in the houses the fathers of their fathers built. Only
the trees that line the unpaved streets have grown....
Poor Corinth! So are gone the days of
her true glory--the glory of her usefulness, while the days of her
promised honor and power are not yet fulfilled.
And because the town of this story is what it is, there came to dwell in
it a Spirit--a strange, mysterious power--playful, vicious, deadly; a
Something to be at once feared and courted; to be denied--yet confessed in
the denial; a dreaded enemy, a welcome friend, an all-powerful Ally.
But today there are interesting
Wright-related things to see in Lebanon, especially if your guide is
Eric Tudor, the most knowledgeable local HBW collector, student, and
author. You can look at the
large house Wright lived in, a deacon’s chair and a pew from the church
he pastored (displayed in the Lebanon Historical Society Museum), the
empty lot where the Christian Church once stood, the location of the Old
Academy, and the
Richard Parks Bland Statue in front of the court house (prominent in The
Calling of Dan Matthews).
Wright saw in the statue of (then dead)
Richard Parks Bland a symbol of the (then dead) town itself. Evidently, as
Wright read the quotation from one of Bland's speeches inscribed on the
front of the monument --
“I do speak for
the great masses of the Mississippi valley when I say that we will not
submit to the domination of any political party, however much we may love
it, that lays the sacrificing hand upon silver and will demonetize it.”
-- he perceived something sad
and meaningless about Bland's life. Unlike the permanent contributions of
such leaders as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton,
Benjamin Franklin and Abraham Lincoln, everything Bland had accomplished
during a lifetime of effort was now completely irrelevant -- and therefore
a perfect monument to stand in the heart of "Corinth," a once promising
but now dead and irrelevant town.
says the statue was made out of cast iron, but the real statue was made
out of pure zinc. Cast into the metal are the words "Western White Bronze
Company, Des Moines, Iowa." White bronze is a nickname for zinc.
I don't suppose many citizens
would embrace an author who said such things about their home town, or
their home town hero.
to see postcard photos of several of these sites.
Nearby Bennett Spring, where “a river bursts full-grown from the
ground," was one of Wright’s favorite places to fish and relax, and he
had Dan Matthews spend important time there as well.
|Old Laclede County Courthouse.
Burned 1920. Statue of Richard Parks Bland remains to this day. Printers screen
||"In the Shadow of the Old Academy
made famous by Harold Bell Wright" Appears to be a photo
of a photo. 4 1/2" x 6" glossy photo.
|Handwritten on back: "Old
Academy about 1889." This is printers screen of photo.
||"First Christian Church of
Lebanon, MO in 1890's," on back. Photo pasted on
card. Line drawn on front to Dr. McComb
|Home of Harold Bell Wright in Lebanon.
8" x 10" glossy photo. Stamp on back
says: "August 26, 1969."
||Home of Harold Bell Wright as seen in
2002. Courtesy Jo Ellen Brittain whose parents live across the
|Home of HBW (behind woman's head)
c.1910-20. Photo Courtesy Jo Ellen Brittain, whose parents live
across the street.
||A closer look at HBW's home behind the
woman in the car.
|Dan Mathias, teacher at the old Academy
and second [Laclede} County Superintendent of education. (From
photo printed in "The First Hundred Years 1849-1949, a history
of Lebanon Missouri."
||Cabinet card (4.25" by 6.5") with photo
of Richard Parks Bland statue, which plays a prominent role in The
Calling of Dan Matthews. See inscription below. Also
on reverse is handwritten, "Presented by your friend Marvin (?)
McDaniel, June 17, 1902."
||(Reverse of card above)
|Panoramic glossy photo, 4" x
12" Handwritten on back: " Sunday School Convention,
Christian Church, Lebanon, Mo"
||Seated man with white beard and cane may be Dr.
Tour: (Courtesy of Eric Tudor)
- From Interstate Highway 44, exit at Missouri
5, Jefferson Street, and turn northwest toward downtown Lebanon. At
Hayes Street turn right one block to see Harold Bell Wright's
home on the right corner just before Adams Ave.
on Hayes one block to Washington and turn left to Commercial
street. The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) was
located on the far right (North) corner of Commercial and
- Continue on Washington one more block to Second
Street and turn left to the Richard Parks Bland Statue in front of the
courthouse at Adams and Second Street.
- Continue on Second
Street two blocks to Madison Avenue. Go right on Madison to
the "end" of the street where it turns to the right and
becomes Bennett. Directly in front of you (before you turn) is
the former home of a lumber baron (one of the first in
Lebanon) that had a connection to the railroad. This is rumored
to be where Wright visited and where he often read aloud his
manuscript (would have been Shepherd of the Hills) to the
townsfolk. It is also rumored that it was in this home that a
suggestion was made to change the original title from "The
Strength of the Hills" to "The Shepherd of the
- Continue on Bennett to
Jefferson, turn right on Jefferson and then immediately left on Line
Avenue (Missouri 5). Drive North past Catalpa, Kuhn, Sunset,
and Bluebird streets on the left, and then turn right on County Road
YY. That street will make a sweeping 90 degree turn to the
left (North). Immediately at the end of the turn is a little
road (YY-200) that turns sharply back to the right. About one
long block back that road is an empty field on your left. That
is where The Old Academy stood until shortly after Wright
left Lebanon for Redlands, California.