The Steelgraves are the embodiment of the wealthy, ruthless, and powerful family that are ubiquitous to the American Western dramas. Although they will be suspected of some of the misdeeds that occur and to be behind other serious crimes, this is mostly OOC (Out of Character) knowledge. Therefore, while they will come under suspicion, it will not be common knowledge that they are the culprits.
None of the Steelgraves are pleasant, but they are not all psychopaths or obvious villain types. Their activities are more subtle.
1780s to 1800s
British Colonel Randolph Steelgrave, the younger son of the Earl of Steelgrave, was captured during the Revolutionary War. When the war ended, he chose to remain in the Colonies and sent for his wife and children to join him. While wealth, station, and power waned with the British family line, ex-Colonel Randolph Steelgrave made a fortune in shipping and trade with the West Indies. By the 1800s, the Steelgraves were one of the most powerful families in the Northeast.
After the success of the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804-1806, the Steelgraves began expanding their business interests into the western territories. For the most part, they met with little resistance.
Missoula was founded in 1860 as Hellgate Trading Post while still part of Washington Territory. By 1866, the settlement had moved east, 5 miles (8 km) upstream, and was renamed Missoula Mills, later shortened to Missoula.
By 1860, the Steelgraves had one major rival to their dominance in the western and northwestern territories. John Caleb Harper, the eldest of Ishmael and Kimi’s children, was as brilliant as his father when it came to spotting and taking advantage of business opportunities. He had expanded the Harper family holdings into shipping and South American coffee, building on timber, mining, and prospecting concerns created by his father, Ishmael. The Harpers were also investors in the burgeoning western railroad industry, owned several overland freight companies that included the lucrative business of wagon trains.
Steelgraves vs. Harpers
Elijah Steelgrave, his wife Elinor, and their brood of rowdy, wild, and arrogant children moved west so that Elijah could oversee the family’s western business interests. He built an elaborate mansion overlooking the Bitterroot River, making the eventual city of Missoula the Steelgrave family’s western headquarters. Elijah and Elinor settled in to establish their holdings which included plans to take the rich and fertile Chogun Valley originally claimed and homesteaded by Ishmael Harper for their sons.
A major problem for the Steelgraves was that they considered the Harpers lesser members of society, mainly because they were of Scottish Highlander descent but also due to their Blackfeet blood. There was also historical enmity. British Steelgraves had been killed during the Jacobite Uprising in Scotland (1745). The Harpers had immigrated from Scotland, voluntarily or otherwise, right after the uprising so it was assumed their ancestors fought the Steelgrave ancestors. How much the rumors of gold and the Legend of Ishmael’s Cross fueled their desire to take the land is unknown.
They were unsuccessful in their endeavors. Ishmael Harper had made sure that the lands he claimed were rightfully and legally his. The Harper Legacy Trust ensured that they would be inherited by the eldest son in each generation. A bitter rivalry arose between the families as a result of the Steelgraves constant efforts to undermine and destroy the Harpers’ business interests and to claim Lost Lake Ranch.
The enmity took on a deeper level when Jess Harper, the youngest son of John Caleb Harper, was forced to shoot and kill Calvin Steelgrave, the next to youngest of the Steelgrave clan at that time.
Elijah died from injuries received after a fall from his horse. Elinor, his wife, took over. If anything, Elinor fostered a far more dangerous sort of enmity toward the Harpers that would be ingrained into her children as well.
Steelgrave Family (c. 1870s)
The Steelgraves are adoptable, therefore, the information on each character will be rather vague. Ages are general, but where each falls in the chronological hierarchy is fixed.
- Status: Living
- Age: Mid-to-late 60s
Elinor Steelgrave is a handsome woman in her sixties. She is very petite, almost delicate looking, but her appearance disguises a spine of steel. In demeanor, she is invariably polite in a condescending manner. She is highly intelligent and manages the family’s business concerns with an iron fist, just like she applies to the family.
While Elinor maintains a mansion in Missoula, Montana that overlooks the Bitterroot River, she has recently purchased a large ranch near the town of Whitefish and relocated there.
- Status: Living
- Age: Late 30s
Benjamin Steelgrave is the eldest son and nominally in charge of the ranch and businesses, at his mother’s discretion and under her rule. Along with his wife, Nona, and two young sons, he has moved to the new ranch in Whitefish. Benjamin would be considered a gentleman rancher as he has no inclination to actually work the range. He is a rather handsome and elegant man who, like his mother, has a somewhat condescending air when he speaks. He is not unintelligent, but he is not the brains of the family.
James “Ace” Steelgrave is the next in line of the Steelgrave brothers. He is probably the most intelligent of the siblings and the deadliest. Ace is charming and cunning, and only comes truly alive when it is time to kill. However, Ace manages to goad his target into drawing first, therefore never facing murder charges. He is proud of his legend, but has one goal for the future, goad Jess Harper into a gunfight.
Ace spent several years drifting and honing both his gunfighter skills and reputation. Currently, Ace is the self-proclaimed marshal of Whitefish.
- Status: Living
- Age: Mid-30s
Clayton is employed as the foreman of Evergreen Ranch, the Steelgraves’ ranch in Whitefish. He is the family member that is least interested in perpetuating the feud with the Harpers. He has longed for a ranch to work and, under other circumstances, would have likely gone on the drift. He is generally good with horses, cattle, and people. He enjoys working and playing hard. Clayton is also good-natured, usually quick to smile and laugh. Despite the fact that Jess Harper killed his younger brother, he would like to see the feud ended.
He is married to Janet Redmond and they have four children (two boys, two girls)
- Status: Living
- Age: 30s
Zeke has taken over the management of most of the Steelgrave’s non-ranching business interests. Of course, he answers to Elinor when it comes to business decisions, but as he has a very keen business sense, she does not interfere often. Zeke, like his elder sibling and mother, loathes everything Harper and does not bother to disguise it. He is also cunning enough to interfere with the Harpers’ various business interests without being overt or having it easily traced to him.
- Status: Deceased
- Age: 22 at time of death
Calvin “Cal” Steelgrave was spoiled, arrogant, and truly psychotic. He was the family hellion and used to getting what he wanted or taking it if there was resistance, women included. He also considered himself as good a gunfighter as any that’d ever been born. While carousing with his brothers in Missoula, he spotted Regina Cantrell being escorted by her future brother-in-law, seventeen-year-old Jess Harper. He caught her coming out of a store and tried to drag her into an alley and assault her. Jess heard the struggle and beat Calvin severely, even though he was younger and less experienced. A few hours later, Calvin lay in wait, intending to shoot Regina. Instead, Jess killed him.
Much to the fury of the Steelgraves, the shooting was ruled self-defense and Jess was not charged. The Steelgraves vowed vengeance leading to Jess leaving home.
- Status: Living
- Age: Mid-to-late 20s
Leah is a lovely and pampered young woman with a nasty streak where men are concerned. She seems to enjoy luring them into her web and then crying foul, forcing her brothers to send them packing, usually not very gently. Most men call her bewitching. Those that have been caught in her trap, call her a witch.
Brand: Intertwined SGR
Size: 165,000 acres claimed (257.8125 sq. miles).
Evergreen Ranch is located west of Whitefish and north west of Kalispell. Its southwestern border butts onto Lost Lake Ranch’s northeastern border. The ranch’s manor house is closer to the burgeoning settlement of Whitefish than to Kalispell and the Steelgraves hold sway in the town.
What is now the Steelgrave’s Evergreen Ranch used to be several small spreads. They were gradually purchased by the Steelgraves and combined into one large holding. The major income generating livestock are purebred Angus cattle and Quarter Horses.
Although Evergreen is smaller in overall land area, it does have more grazing for livestock allowing them to run more cattle and horses on it. The ranch competes, often brutally, with the Harpers for contracts with the army and Indian Agents to provide beef and horses.
The map below is not to scale.