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Memories from the Homestead: William Driver opened the Shepherd of the Hills Homestead to the public

     Here at the Shepherd of the Hills Homestead and Adventure Park, there have been a total of six owners since 1894 when the 160-acre farm was claimed by J.K. and Anna Ross, and their son Charles. Today I'd like to provide a closer look at the second owner of the farm, Coach William Driver.




     Thanks to Mr. Driver this property would become the tourist hotspot for all of The Shepherd of the Hills readers. Folks showed up in large numbers to see a community they had read about.  

 

    It was in late 1910 when Mr. and Mrs. Ross decided to sell the farm, located south of Garber along the Taney/Stone County line. Times had been extremely busy for Mr. Ross. He had been Garber's postmaster since April 1907, and had been making the daily commute across the valley a distance of two and a half miles. In addition to postmaster, Ross was also the weekly Garber newspaper columnist, general store proprietor, and railroad station agent. All of this daily workload at age 58, he showed no signs of slowing down. Their plan was to move permanently to Garber and build a new home close to the post office/general store site, so he could walk a few steps to work every day. 

 

     It's not exactly known how William Driver found out that the Ross farm was for sale. According to the weekly newspaper columns that Ross wrote, the first mention of Driver appears in the Taney County Republican newspaper on December 22, 1910. Mr. Ross wrote, "W.L. Driver of Washburn College of Topeka, Kans., came in Monday and is stopping at Hollister, while here he will acquire the title to the Matthew's farm of 'the Shepherd of the Hills' fame."

 

     Thanks to information from the Office of the Taney County Recorder, the sale date passing ownership to Mr. Driver happened to be on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1910. Construction on the new Ross home was underway by spring 1911 and was completed in June at Garber.

 

     Going through all the weekly Garber columns in the Taney County Republican newspaper for 1911, it was stated Driver rented the Ross cabin to Jessie Burt of Fort Scott, Kansas. Burt went to work immediately, following Driver's instructions to remodel the cabin to get it ready for the tourists. By September 1911, the new rock work was nearly done. Soon, Burt's wife and son joined him as work continued into 1912 and the homestead officially opened. After a few years, the Burts moved back to Kansas. Driver hired the Lon Irwin family from Gretna to be the new caretakers of the property as the summertime visitors continued in large numbers.

 

     I'd like to take a moment and discuss Driver's athletic career. In 1909 he was the Athletic Director at Washburn University in Topeka, taking the football coaching job in 1911. After coaching two seasons, he accepted the football position at Ole Miss and would remain with them for two seasons. By 1917, Driver was over the basketball program at Texas A&M and in 1920 went back to football, this time accepting the coaching position at Texas Christian. By the way, their record for the 1920-21 season was nine wins, one loss, and they won the Southwest Conference Championship. 

 

     Heading to the west coast, Driver took the football and basketball coaching positions at the University of California-Davis and remained there through the end of 1927. Overall, his career football record was 58-45-7 and his overall basketball record was 67-56.

 

     In 1926 Driver sold the Shepherd of the Hills property to Horace McDaniel from Springfield, who purchased it for $3,000. McDaniel's sister Lizze would buy it for a dollar and she took the beloved farm to its next chapter in our community history.

 

     Driver (born in Missouri in 1883) remained a California resident the rest of his life, passing away in Tulare on November 29, 1941 at the age of fifty-eight.

 

     A special thanks to the staff of the archive department at Washburn University for their assistance in locating the yearbook photo of Mr. Driver. 

 

     Join me for a tour of the farm here at The Shepherd of the Hills Homestead and Adventure Park, and I'll show you the changes to the cabin with before and after photos and discuss Driver's contribution in getting this beautiful property open to the public. 

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