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Shade Thornton

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About Shade Thornton

  • Lost Lake Ranch

ID Card

  • Role
    Main Character
  • Playby
    Robert Fuller
  • Full Name
    Jesse Shade Thornton
  • Goes By
  • Profession
  • Position
  • Birth Date
  • Status
  • Height
    5' 11"
  • Hair Color
  • Eye Color
    Dark Blue

Physical Description

harper-bio3.jpgShade Thornton is tall and of medium build, well muscled with a wiry frame. Shade's hair is thick and wavy with a tendency to curl when damp. It is raven's wing black with strands of silver here and there. He wears it short, slightly longer on top, and usually has neatly trimmed sideburns. Shade's eyes are deep set and a dark shade of cobalt blue. His eyelashes are black, long and thick. His eyebrows are black, naturally well-shaped, and tilt upward slightly on the inside.

He is very hygiene conscious and will clean up or bathe whenever there's an opportunity. Shade does not mind getting dirty and sweaty from a hard day's work, but at the end of it, he likes a hot bath. If possible, he also washes up and shaves before heading out for the day. He normally dresses in durable work clothes: denim pants, bib-front or button-down workshirt, leather vest, gloves, and low-heeled boots.

It is very rare that Shade will be seen without his gunbelt and gun.


Marks and Scars

  • Star shaped scar on left shoulder from gunshot wound (Civil War, May 12, 1865): Shot at the Battle of Palmitto Ranch, Texas.
  • Round scar, outside upper right leg, gunshot wound (Shotgun, Overland Stage, 1873): Shot during attempted hold-up.
  • Shade has a few other faint scars from various injuries received over the years as well as some from close calls from being on the wrong end of a gun, including a long crease in the hairline of his left temple.

Traits & Characteristics

morgan34.jpgCharacter Traits

  • Quick tempered (-)
  • Fiercely independent (+/-)
  • Proud (+/-)
  • Loyal (+/-)
  • Protective (+)
  • Brave (+/-)
  • Roguishly charming (+)

General Personality

Shade has a reputation for being hot-headed and quick-tempered although not irrational. The perception of injustice is guaranteed to arouse his ire, often causing him to step into situations without thinking it through. Shade is quick to leap to the defense of others, particularly those in less fortunate circumstances or that seem unable to defend themselves. He has been guilty of drawing his gun in anger when younger although he always managed to stop himself from killing. His temper and a tendency to settle disputes with his fists or his gun have enhanced the legend or perception of him as a gunfighter.

There is an aura of danger about Shade, yet his presence often instills confidence and a feeling of being protected and safe. He is courageous to a fault, another aspect of his nature that is often seen as impetuous as he will take on odds that would intimidate many other men. Shade has a strong protective streak also. More than once, he has delivered a beating to men who abused their wives and children. Once his friendship and trust are given, Shade is loyal to a fault. Once his trust is betrayed, he is an implacable enemy.

Shade is fiercely independent and proud, refusing to accept handouts or anything he views as charity. He will not take anything he has not earned. He views his accomplishments with pride but is not vain about them. 

Shade has a deep, gravelly voice, with a decided cowboy drawl. Despite the slight raspiness of his voice and a tendency to speak in a low tone, his speech is clear, distinct and easily understood. Shade is not prone to shouting or raising his voice in anger although he will speak forcefully and even in a commanding tone of voice if the situation calls for it.

His usual demeanor is somewhat gruff and reticent which covers the fact that he is actually quite tender-hearted and compassionate. Shade is quick to laugh, joke and tease with those close to him. He takes teasing in stride, actually enjoying companionable ribbing from friends. His humor often has a sharp edge to it.


June 1875 to Present 

  • Employer Name: Lost Lake Ranch (LLR)
  • Position: Owner / Foreman
  • Details: Shade is half-owner of Lost Lake Ranch. He is currently working as its foreman while he learns the business end of managing the spread. Ezra Hale and his wife, Kathryn, are continuing in the role of ranch managers. Shade is also the trustee and administrator for the ranch as a whole which includes the half that is jointly owned by his niece and nephew.

1870 to 1875

  • Sherman Ranch and Relay Station
  • Position: Co-Manager, Ranch Hand
  • Shade started out working as a ranch hand and assisting with the relay station chores when he was not actively engaged riding the stagecoach as a guard. By 1873, John Sherman had made him a co-manager of both the ranch and relay station.

1870 to 1875

  • Grand Central Stagecoach Company
  • Position: Guard, Security Supervisor
  • Although an actual title did not come with the job, Shade was promoted to overseeing the guards working in the southeastern Wyoming region. He still worked riding shotgun on high priority runs.

Professional Skills

  • Rancher
  • Security, Stage Guard
  • Scout
  • Relay Station Mgr.
  • Gunfighter
  • Horse Wrangler


harper-bio2.jpgSELF DEFENSE


Shade has no formal training in hand-to-hand combat, but he has garnered lots of experience. He has developed a hard hitting style that engages his entire body when he swings allowing him to put power and momentum behind each blow. He often uses both hands.

Shade was born with above average hand-eye coordination. This ability allowed him to become extremely fast and accurate with guns. His natural skill with firearms has been honed by training and, unfortunately, experience. Although he has garnered a reputation as a gunslinger, Shade has never been paid as a gunfighter, nor would he knowingly accept employment in such a capacity.

Colt Peacemaker (daily use)
Caliber: 44-40
Customizations: Barrel cut back to the ejector, Gutta-Percha grips.

Colt Peacemaker (gunfighter)
Caliber: .45 Long Colt
Customizations: Front sight filed down, ivory grips, inside reworked to make it fast shooting.
Note: In 1870, after settling down in Laramie with the Shermans, Shade put away this gun. To him, it was very symbolic of leaving his former life behind.

1873 Winchester
Caliber: 44-40 Win
Barrel Length: 24"
Overall Length: 43"
Length of Pull: 13"
Stock Material: Black Walnut
Magazine Type: Full-Length Tube


Horses are not just part of Shade's livelihood. He is an expert horseman with a natural skill. He loves everything about horses, their nature, how they move, relating to them, even the cowboy's dependence on his horse is important to Shade.


Shade is a self-taught amateur geologist. He developed an interest in this science after learning that his grandfather, Ishmael, was a geologist. He also enjoys caving for the same reason.

Shade learned how to swim a little from his Blackfeet cousins. Regina Cantrell taught him a little bit more, but it is not something he is comfortable with. He can keep his head above water, but would likely have difficulty in bad weather or really rough water.

All of the Thorntons are taught the basics of music while in school. Shade can play the piano reasonably well and is learning the guitar. He does not sing except in church and Christmas carols in season.

Aliases / Nicknames

Shade: Middle name and nickname. After leaving Montana, he dropped his first name entirely. Shade Thornton became known as the fast gun / gunfighter.

Other Aliases: Jesse Shade, Jesse Thornton, Shade, Johnny Shade, Johnny Thorne

Eyes Like Sky (Blackfeet name): This name was given to him by one of the elders of his grandmother's clan-family.


Current Residence

  • Blackbird Lodge
  • Lost Lake Ranch (aka LLR, Double L)
  • Kalispell, Territory of Montana

Shade was born at the family home on their ranch in Montana where he lived until he was sixteen years old. At the age of sixteen, he moved out of the house and into the bunkhouse with the other ranch hands.

In 1875, Shade inherited Blackbird Lodge and half the ranch after the death of his older brother Chance, his sister-in-law, Regina, and their two older children. Shade returned to live at the ranch and look after his his niece and nephew, Cody and Antoinette (Nettie).

1870 to 1875
Sherman Ranch and Relay Station
Laramie, Wyoming

Between 1860 and 1870


Kith & Kin



Shade does not have any children of his own. He shares guardianship of his orphaned niece and nephew with their maternal uncle, Quentin Cantrell.

William Cody Thornton: Nephew, Ward

  • Birth Parents: Chance and Regina Thornton
  • DOB: February 11, 1870 (a. 5)

Regina Antoinette Thornton: Niece, Ward

  • Birth Parents: Chance and Regina Thornton
  • DOB: February 11, 1870 (a. 5)

John Caleb Thornton (father, deceased)

  • DOD: 03/02/1868 (a. 62)
  • Wife: Isadora Kiara de Monserrat y Calderón
  • Parents: Ishmael and Kimi Thornton

Isadora Thornton (mother, deceased)

  • DOD: 06/02/1868 (a. 60)
  • Husband: John Caleb Thornton
  • Maiden Name: Isadora Kiara de Monserrat y Calderón

William Chance Thornton (older brother, deceased)

  • Nickname: Chance
  • DOB: 01/05/1837; DOD: 06/02/1875 (a. 38)
  • Wife: Regina Beth Thornton (m. 06/05/1862)

Regina Beth Thornton (sister-in-law, deceased)

  • Nickname: Reggie
  • Husband: William Chance Thornton (m. 06/05/1862)
  • DOB: 04/05/1845; DOD: 06/02/1875 (a. 30)
  • Maiden Name: Cantrell

Lilah Beth Thornton (niece, deceased)

  • DOB: 03/01/1867; DOD: 06/02/1875 (a. 😎

Josiah Grant Thornton (nephew, deceased)

  • DOB: 05/02/1865; DOD: 06/02/1875 (a. 10)

There are numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins on both sides of the Thornton family, including members of the Piegan Blackfeet Nation. Because both Josiah and Caleb Thornton adhered to strict inheritance guidelines, the majority of these relatives are scattered all over the Americas, and there is little to no contact.

Quentin Cantrell (July 1875 - Present)
Quentin is Shade's late sister-in-law's older brother. While he knew that his late sister-in-law had a brother named Quentin, they did not meet until he brought the news of her and Shade's brother's death to Laramie. The two men were not instant best friends, but a genuine liking and respect grew over time. Although only related through the marriage of Chance and Regina, Shade has come to regard the older man as a brother.



John and Marianne Sherman (1870 - Present)
Shade met John and Marianne Sherman when he was employed by the Grand Central Stagecoach Company as a guard and scout. He and John immediately hit it off and became fast friends. In fact, Shade is closer to John than he was to his brother, Chance. Although Shade has returned to Montana due to family obligations, he and the Shermans are still close, exchanging letters and visiting as time allows.

Hannah Cory (1853 - Present)

Hannah and Shade were childhood friends and teenage sweethearts. They began dating at the age of sixteen and and planned to be married in the spring of their seventeenth year. While on a shopping trip a few days prior to the planned elopement date, Shade was embroiled in a gunfight and killed a man. He lit out from Montana, leaving Hannah standing at the altar. Over the years, his alleged exploits have continued to taint how she views him.


Steelgraves: The Steelgrave family have long been enemies of the Thorntons. Please see The Steelgrave Wiki Page for details.
Shade has made many enemies over the years. Some will eventually show up in Kalispell either looking for him or as accidental encounters. They will be added to this list as needed during game play.

Life Events

| March 13, 1845 |

Jesse Shade Thornton was born to Caleb and Isadora Thornton of Lost Lake Ranch, Kalispell, Territory of Montana. The baby was named for Jesse, a figure described in the Bible as the father of David who became the King of the Israelites. His middle name, Shade, was chosen because he was as dark as his older brother was fair. Their mother often referred to them as Sunlight and Shadow.

| 1845 to 1860 (a. 0-15) |

Shade's early years were spent playing and learning about life on a working ranch and following his older brother, Chance, around. His strong-willed mother was a major influence during his childhood. Like his older brother, Chance, he grew up fluent in English, Spanish, and the Blackfoot tongue. He also inherited his mother's hot Latin temper although he did not resort to Spanish to make his anger known. Caleb also saw much of himself in his younger son's quick-temper and tendencies to impetuous action. Shade often wound up on the wrong end of his father's hand, belt, or missing supper due to being sent to his room.

Due to its distance from town, Lost Lake Ranch had a small informal school held in a cabin near the main house. Isadora Thornton, Kate Hale, and the wives of the hands took turns at teaching. Shade enjoyed school and was a fast learner. Unfortunately, his temper and his issues with discipline made him a difficult student. Despite this, his grades remained high, and he was often tackling subjects that were challenging for the older students, another thing that did not endear him to his peers. Another issue was keeping him in school. If the day was fair and he was bored he would escape during recess to go hiking or riding.

In 1859, at the age of 14, Shade was sent to the school run by the Catholic church in Fort Kalispell. The St. Francis School offered boarding facilities for children that lived too far away to make the trip to Fort Kalispell on a daily basis. Children whose families could not afford to board them were often taken in by families that lived within or near the fort. Naturally, issues often arose between the day students and the boarders.

Trouble started soon after Shade's arrival at the St. Francis School. Unlike Chance, who was held up as a sterling example of what a young man and student should be, Shade was the school's example of what one should not be. Whenever an opportunity presented itself, Shade escaped. Knowing that he'd get a good whipping if he headed home, he often headed for his grandmother's relatives with the Blackfoot tribe. Usually, older members of the tribe would drag him back to the ranch where he had to face the consequences of running away.

Despite being the school's troublemaker and often absent, Shade was an excellent student. He was highly intelligent and enjoyed reading, learned very fast, and usually completed lessons with easily. It took little to no effort for him to stay at the top of his class, even if Sister Mary John often said, rather disparagingly, that Shade was the most likely of her students to be in prison by the age of sixteen.

The bright spot in Shade's life during his years at school was meeting Hannah Cory, the daughter of Fort Kalispell's sheriff, Scott Cory. Hannah and Shade became friends when they both attempted to steal the same horse and escape the confines of the fort. Sheriff Cory found them and dragged them back to the school. He also sent a letter to Caleb Thornton regarding the incident which ensured that Shade wouldn't sit down for dinner for a day or two.

Fall 1860 (a. 15): Reputation with guns

One of the few things that put him on his father's good side, initially, was Shade's remarkable hand-eye coordination and stunning natural ability as a marksman. He also showed an affinity with horses. Even as a child, he could soothe some of the ranch's hardest to manage horses. Whenever Caleb took Shade and Chance hunting or sport-shooting, it was usually Shade that brought back the game or won the contests. Caleb's tendency to brag about Shade's prowess with guns would sow the first seeds of his reputation as a fast gun and gunslinger.

1861 (a. 16): Expelled from school 

By the time Shade was sixteen, Chance had completed his studies at Wesleyan College in Stockton, California and was home. For a while, the constant contention with his father was alleviated as Chance and Caleb clashed on how to manage the businesses and the business end of the ranch. Chance had gotten his degree in business and economics. Like many young college graduates, he felt he knew far more than his father.

After getting into a fight with another boy at school and beating him rather badly, both the school and Sheriff Scott Cory had had enough of Shade Thornton. He was expelled from St. Francis and sent home. Caleb was furious and fed up. He sent Shade to live in the bunkhouse, deciding that it was time to make him stand on his own two feet. Had Isadora not interfered, he'd have sent Shade away with his percentage of the Thornton Legacy Trust. Shade never revealed that the fight was because the other boy had tried to molest Hannah. He also persuaded Hannah to stay silent as well, convincing her that her reputation would be ruined if the incident became public.

Being ejected from the house and forced to live as one of the ranch's hands actually had a positive effect on Shade. He loved the work, and the foreman reported that he pulled his weight without shirking or complaining. Unfortunately, and partially in response to his father's tendency to brag about his skill, Shade often found himself being challenged to speed contests by the other hands. The speed duels were harmless, blank cartridges were used instead of live ammo. The only thing that kept Caleb from banning Shade from the ranch entirely was the fact that his son usually refused to shoot at anything other than cans or bottles. On several occasions, Caleb and Ezra heard Shade refuse a speed duel. He would tell the other person that he never drew a gun on a man unless he intended to shoot him. If the other men really wanted to test their speed against him, Shade would ask someone with a stopwatch to time them. He rarely lost.

Shortly after Shade became a ranch hand, he and Hannah Cory began dating. Their long-time friendship had gradually developed into deeper feelings for one another. With a steady job and income, Shade was able to consider taking the next step in his life, a home, and family. He figured that when he came of age, the stipend from the Legacy plus his savings would let him buy a small spread of his own. It would be a good start to the life he wanted to spend with Hannah.

By 1861, hostilities between the southern and northern states were increasing. Charles and Claire Cantrell sent their daughter, Regina, to live with the Thorntons. It was hoped that Regina and Chance would be a good match for one another. Not surprisingly, they did fall in love and made plans to marry the following year (1862).

| 1862 (a. 17) |

Shade continued studying on his own and with Hannah Cory who shared her notes, school books, and lessons with him. Just after the New Year, he sent a letter to the St. Francis School asking to be allowed to take the final exams for graduation in the spring. The school agreed, and Shade was allowed to take his exams. He graduated at the top of his class.

In the late spring of 1862, with Chance and Regina's wedding a couple of months away, Shade proposed to Hannah who happily accepted. Unfortunately, Hannah's father refused his permission, stating that if they felt the same way in a year or two, he would agree to it then. Hannah and Shade made plans to elope, agreeing to meet the night after Shade returned from escorting Regina on a shopping trip to Missoula.

[ Kills Calvin Steelgrave ]

Shade was elected to escort Regina Cantrell to Missoula so that she could finish shopping for the wedding. He was happy to make the journey with her because he planned on buying his and Hannah's rings while there.

After leaving a store, Regina was accosted by Calvin Steelgrave, one of Elias Steelgrave's sons. Shade happened by the alley that Steelgrave had dragged Regina into and heard the sound of a woman struggling with a man. Shade rushed in to render aid. He dragged Calvin off his future sister-in-law and beat him rather badly before taking him to the sheriff. After pressing charges and making their statements, Shade and Regina returned to the hotel.

The next day, already free on bail, Calvin attempted to shoot Regina as she and Shade left the hotel. Shade responded automatically and killed Calvin in the shootout. It was clearly a case of self-defense and of defending Regina. There were numerous witnesses, so no charges were brought against Shade. Still, the other Steelgrave brothers vowed to get Shade and anyone that got in their way. The Steelgraves and the Thorntons had long been at odds with one another. Believing that they posed a real threat to himself and his family, Shade chose not to return to the ranch. He made sure Regina had a safe escort home. He gave Regina a letter for his parents, but in his haste to get her on the stagecoach, he neglected to tell her about his planned elopement with Hannah, in essence, leaving her at the altar.

| 1862 to 1865 (a. 17-20): Civil War Years |

Shade had not planned on leaving Montana permanently. He only wanted to stay away long enough for the dust to settle. Figuring he could mend things with Hannah once he got home, he didn't risk sending a letter or telegram for fear their plans would be exposed. He had enough money to buy a good horse and get a room at a boarding house in Helena.

Instead of receiving a letter from his father telling him it was safe to come home, John Caleb arrived at the boarding house. His first action was to knock Shade to the floor. He then informed his son that he had been disowned and was no longer welcome at the ranch. Without giving Shade time to explain or give him a message for Hannah, Caleb walked out.

Shade regretted killing Calvin Steelgrave, and he was hurt and angry by his father's action. In spite of these things, he found that he liked being on his own. After buying the horse and paying for his board, he found himself in need of work. Due to his youth, a majority of the jobs he was offered was riding fence or wrangling strays for various ranches. Only a few places were willing to take a chance on him as a full hand. He loved being on the move and before long, the urge to travel the Big Open dominated his life.

In 1864, a man buying horses for the army saw Shade ride and was impressed with the boy's skill and self-confidence. He offered Shade a job on the spot riding dispatch and training as a scout. Shade accepted and a little while later reported to Fort Lincoln.

| May 12, 1865 - May 13, 1865 |
Shade was with the Union army for the Battle of Palmitto Ranch in Cameron County, Texas, the final action fought by Union and Confederate forces. Shade was wounded and captured along with one hundred Union soldiers. A few weeks later, he was released along with several other non-military men. While in the POW camp, Shade was befriended by a Confederate soldier that had been accused of desertion. The man's name was Randolph Cutler. He took Shade under his wing and saw that he was fed and taken care of during the few short weeks he was imprisoned.

| June to October 1865 |

After being released from the prison, Shade worked his way north, taking odd jobs with the few ranches that were still in operation. It was hard to make a living right after the war. Still, he really liked Texas and was not in a hurry to leave the state.

| 1865 to 1866 (a. 20-21): Cutler's Raiders |
In November, Shade took a job riding for a big spread just outside a small town called Paradise which was about thirty miles from San Antonio. Soon after settling in Paradise, Shade sent a letter to his parents and one to Chance. He really wanted to settle things with his family even if he wasn't ready to go back to Montana yet. He received a terse note from his father stating that John Caleb wanted nothing to do with having an outlaw in the family.

While in the town's cantina, he ran back into Randolph Cutler. After sharing a meal and talking for awhile, Cutler offered Shade a job with his outfit, promising that he would make considerably more money than he would working as a wrangler. Since he still felt that he owed Randolph Cutler for his life, Shade accepted the job offer. He soon realized he had made a huge mistake, but a combination of contrariness and loyalty to Cutler kept him working with the gang. If his father was going to brand him an outlaw, he might as well earn the title.

By 1866, Shade had had enough of the outlaw life. He'd spent most of the year at odds with other members of the gang, often interfering with their more violent activities or refusing to take part even when it meant giving up his share of the take.  Escaping the outlaw band proved far harder than joining it. The decision was eventually taken out of his hands. After visiting a cantina in San Antonio and posting some letters home, Shade was spotted riding out of town at a brisk gallop. Within a few hours, he had two Texas Rangers on his trail.

Shade probably could have ended his tenure with Cutler's Raiders by leading the two men to the gang's hideout near Paradise and then slipping away during the ensuing melee. A streak of pure cussedness kept him from doing that, and he finally found himself cornered in a narrow arroyo some forty miles from San Antonio. A brief gun battle left one of the men wounded, but also left Shade trapped in the defile with no escape. Although both men repeatedly identified themselves as Texas Rangers, Shade had learned the hard way that the post-war Rangers were not to be trusted. After three days, with water running low, Shade finally surrendered. During the long ride back to San Antonio, Shade was treated well by Hunter and Travis Morgan. Giving in to the inevitable, Shade answered their questions as thoroughly as possible. By the time they reached the town, there was a growing rapport between the two Texas Rangers and the young Montanan.

After being locked up, Shade was left to his own devices except when someone delivered his meals. On the fourth day, an older man identified as Captain Jase Morgan of the San Antonio Texas Rangers' Division entered the cell and sat down for a long talk. After the interrogation, Captain Morgan left. Two days later he returned with the two men that had captured Shade, now identified as his nephews. Morgan and his nephews had arranged a deal with the local judge and constabulary. If Shade went to work for them to infiltrate and bring down gangs such as Cutler's Raiders, he would be given a complete pardon and a clean slate. The first job would be Cutler and his band of bloodthirsty men. Feeling that any debt owed to Randolph Cutler had been paid in full, Shade accepted the deal. The gang was brutal and dangerous, they needed to be stopped. Shade accepted the deal. A few days later while being transferred to a different division, Shade escaped.

The operation was successful. Almost all of the gang were arrested and brought in for trial, although Cutlers two brothers managed to escape. Shade did not attend the trials and definitely did not attend the hangings.

| 1866 to 1869 (a. 21-24) |

  • Undercover work for Texas Rangers.
  • March 2, 1868: Caleb Thornton dies of natural causes (a. 62)
  • June 2, 1868: Isadora Thornton dies of natural causes (a. 60)
  • 1869: Word goes out that the Texas Rangers are being replaced by the State Police.

For the next three years, Shade worked for the Texas Rangers in their San Antonio Division although not as an actual Ranger. He was good at infiltrating outlaw gangs and thrived on the danger. He'd made his reputation with Cutler's Raiders and was generally known as a quick-tempered hot-head with a really fast gun hand. Although he wrote to his mother and Chance, he never again tried to contact his father.

In late March, Shade received a telegram from his brother, Chance, informing him of their father's death. He made the decision to not return to Montana, one that he would regret for the rest of his life.

When word came down that the Texas Rangers were being dissolved and would be replaced by a Union run state police, Shade was released from his commitment to them. He gathered his belongings and headed out.

He spent the next several months on the drift and working various jobs: wrangler, ranch hand, guard and scout. He also worked several range wars although he refused to lead attacks and ambushes and would only fight in self-defense and defense of his employer. He tried to learn and evaluate all the issues involved in these actions before hiring on and refused jobs that called for being paid a bounty for killing the opposition. Killing for hire was a line that Shade never crossed, not counting his occasional work for law enforcement and the military.

His quick temper, and sense of justice and fair play continued to get him into trouble although it also garnered him respect and a few good friends. Shade did not seek out gunfights, but would not back down or run from them either. With no shortage of men wanting to make their own mark by beating the best, Shade's reputation and his legend grew to the point that he often did not recognize himself in the stories. On the reverse of the coin, it also meant that his reputation as a gunfighter helped him avoid fights since many men backed down after hearing his name.

| 1870 to 1875 (a. 25-30) |

  • 1870 (a. 25): Hired by Grand Central Stagecoach Company.
  • 1871 (a. 26): Charged with murder in Willow, Colorado.
  • 06/02/1875: Chance, Regina, Beth and Grant Thornton are murdered.
  • Late June 1875: Meets Quentin Cantrell, Regina Thornton's brother; returns to Montana.

Shade was offered a job with the Grand Central Stagecoach Company as a guard and scout. He would be stationed out of Laramie in the territory of Wyoming. On his way to report for his new job, Shade was ambushed by a couple of bounty hunters and shot. His horse made its way to the Sherman Ranch and Relay Station, the last stop on the stagecoach's line before town. John Sherman and his wife, the owners, took him in, defended him when the bounty hunters showed up and nursed him back to health. After learning that they were hunting him for personal reasons, not legal ones, John offered him work on their ranch and a place to live.

Shade accepted and moved into the bunkhouse. When not actively engaged riding shotgun for the stage and express coaches, Shade pitched in and worked the ranch. John's two sons, Andy and Mike, were soon calling him Uncle Shade. For the first time in years, Shade felt at home and began losing the urge to go on the drift again. He loved the Shermans and felt at home in Wyoming.

In the early fall of 1870, a few months after settling at the Sherman Ranch, Shade was bringing in strays from the high country. During the ride down, he spotted a small band of wild horses and was taken by a striking grullo colored yearling colt. When he asked Sherm about the horse, Shade was told that the yearling's dam was a Colonial Quarter Horse that John bought after the war. He'd planned on using the mare as one of the foundations of his bloodstock herd. The colt's sire was an outlaw, a feral Quarter Horse that had gotten loose from another ranch and periodically raided for mares. John also told Shade that if he could bring in the colt, he could have him, especially if he managed to capture the black mare too. Since his bay, Brimstone, was getting on in years, Shade decided to make a try for the big smoky dun colt.

Shade named the colt Lakota after the Lakota Sioux who had taken him in and nursed him back to health after a rattlesnake bite. He eventually managed to capture the spirited yearling and bring him and his dam to the ranch. Lakota proved a challenge to gentle and train. In time, however, he became the best horse that Shade had ever trained, even surpassing his beloved gelding, Brimstone.

In 1871, while delivering stock to a rancher just outside Willow, Colorado, Shade was framed for murder by an old friend who was having an affair with the man's wife. Shade was finally able to clear himself, but it resulted in more handbills being circulated and not recalled.

In a stunning twist of fate, Shade's brother, sister-in-law, and their two oldest children are killed seven years to the day after their mother's passing.
In late June, a stranger arrives at the Sherman ranch on the morning stage. Hard on his heels are several gunmen. After a pitched gun battle, Shade learns that the stranger is Quentin Cantrell, the brother of his sister-in-law. Quentin sadly informs Shade of the deaths of Chance, Regina, and their two oldest children, Beth and Grant. He also tells Shade that he was named in the will as the guardian of the two remaining children. He's needed at home.

Three days later, Shade and Quentin set off for Montana. They are ambushed near the border of Idaho and Quentin is wounded in the arm. Shade patches Quentin up as best as he can, but infection sets in. Hoping to find a good doctor, he makes arrangements for train passage to Sacramento. While Quentin rests, Shade learns that there is now a small private railroad line that runs to Missoula Mills in Montana. He spends a bit extra to book the train's private car.

Character Notes

Languages Spoken

  • English (Native)
  • Spanish (Fluent, learned from mother)
  • Native American sign language, smattering of languages

Shade completed his junior year of high school before being expelled. He can read, write, and do basic math. Shade is well-read although he never returned to school.

For details regarding the Thornton's wills, see The Thornton Family Wiki Page.


  • Name: Lakota
  • Gender: Stallion
  • Age: 6 years
  • Hands: Not quite 17 hands.
  • Breed: Quarter Horse

Color: Grullo (Smoky Black). Lakota is a black grullo (p. grew-yoh), his body color is a lighter shade than his mane and tail. He has the distinctive black dorsal stripe common to all duns. His mane and tail are a darker black and he has four black stockings.

Disposition: Lakota is quite spirited, but well mannered and very well trained. Although there is no such thing as a one-person horse, Lakota shows a marked preference for Shade and is quite hard to manage for others. Like any horse, he has become accustomed to being handled and ridden in a certain way.

Shade has not had Lakota gelded as he intends to make him a foundation sire of his own bloodstock line someday.

  • Name: Spirit
  • Previous Owner: Chance Thornton
  • Gender: Gelding
  • Age: 8 years
  • Hands: 16.1 hands
  • Breed: Quarter Horse / Spanish Mustang

Color: Medicine Hat paint. Spirit is a black and white pinto (aka paint). His base coat is white with black patterns. His mane, tail, and legs are black. Spirit's face is mostly white with. His crown and ears are black giving him the appearance of wearing a hat, hence how this color pattern received its name of medicine hat. Spirit's left eye has a narrow, light blue ring around the iris. A blue eye on a horse is uncommon, but not detrimental or more prone to equine eye diseases than normal brown irises. His right eye is a normal dark brown.

Disposition: Spirit is a strongly spirited mount, but mostly well-mannered. He is a top stock and saddle horse. His Quarter Horse blood gives him speed and agility while the Mustang blood gives him endurance. Spirit was bred and trained on the ranch.

Player Notes

Character Concept

Sagas' Shade Thornton is based on the character of Jess Harper from the classic television western series, Laramie. I have also incorporated aspects of the character Cooper Smith from Wagon Train, also portrayed by Robert Fuller. An original background has been created for the RPG character.

Shade is designed to be the classic western leading man and hero with a troubled past, and something of a Knight Errant often coming to the aid of those he considers down and out or as the underdog in various situations.

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Recent Posts

  1. Shade Thornton
    "You're not holding us up, Sarah," Shade replied as he poured a shot of whiskey and handed it to him. He nodded toward the sherry decanter, "Sarah, would you like a small glass of sherry before we head out?"
    Harriet took a sip of her sherry and smiled, "Heavenly," she said on a breathless sigh. "Lovely gown, Sarah, and you're looking quite handsome yourself, Quentin. Perhaps we will outshine everyone at the dance." Her twilight gray eyes sparkled as she spoke.
    @JulieS  @Longshot 
  2. Shade Thornton
    Mature Content: No
    With: Various Lost Lake Ranch household characters.
    Location: Blackbird Lodge (main house)
    When: April 22, 1875
    Time of Day: Early afternoon


    Blackbird Lodge, the main house on Lost Lake Ranch, seemed to have a light and jovial air about it. Today was the annual spring dance in town, and most of the adults were getting ready for it. Sage and Mary Miller, the night foreman and the home's cook and head housekeeper, were staying overnight to watch after the children. This had the six-year-old twins excited since Sage and Mary's children would be sleeping over as well. 

    Shade Thornton stood at the sideboard that served as a liquor cabinet in the great room. He had just poured himself a very small shot of Scotch. He gently moved the glass in a circular motion and watched the dark amber liquid swirl around. He was looking forward to the dance and getting off the ranch. The family had booked several rooms at the Belle-St. Regis so they would not have to make the harrowing trip back to Lost Lake in the dark. Shade was also looking forward to seeing his sweetheart, Katherine Bowen. He had made time to go into town as often as the winter weather allowed, but it never seemed often enough or for long enough. With the advent of spring, that should change...hopefully.

    And it was the remote location of the ranch and the life it imposed on the people that lived there that made Shade hesitate where Kate was concerned. Was it fair to ask her to make such a radical change to her life? She was a teacher and really loved her work. True, there were children at the ranch that needed teaching too. There were Cody and Nettie, his niece and nephew, and some of the hands with families who lived in housing on the ranch. He shook his head and took a swallow of the Scotch, enjoying the rich, peaty taste of the aged liquor.
    Just then, a rustling sound on the main stairway made him look over and up...
    ~ to be continued in the next post .... ~
  3. Shade Thornton
    Shade tried hard to remember how he and Chance could have made much of an impression on Sarah when her family had visited. He had been no more than twelve or thirteen at the time, and Chance would have been five years older than that and preparing for college. Perhaps it had been a combination of things. The grandeur of the ranch as well as meeting her two older cousins. It was hard to say. Shade seemed to recall a skinny little girl following him and Chance around as they did their chores. He had made time to take her riding, much more than that was a blur. Shade felt bad about that.

    "Look, Sarah, I don't mind tellin' you what I know, which isn't much," Shade finally answered. "You need to know that it's not very pleasant. How much do you really want to know?"
    "I suppose as much as you can or want to tell me.  Anything that would help ease the mind of my father.  I know that he and Chance had built up some sort of friendship even though they hadn't seen each in other in years.  Father liked keeping in touch with the family here even though he has never had the chance to come back."
    Sarah smiled reassuringly, "And in a way I would like to pay my respects as well."
    "Well, we were told that Chance and Regina along with their two oldest children and one of the twins were ambushed by a rogue band of Indians on their way back from Missoula in June. Everyone except Cody, the youngest, was killed and their bodies burned beyond recognition along with their wagon," Shade schooled his voice to sound neutral and as matter-of-fact as possible given the subject matter. "Cody was later found by a passing stage and brought back to Kalispell. The remains were recovered by the Marshal's office, cremated, and the ashes interred at the family mausoleum on the ranch."
    "To be honest, Sarah, there's some question about who actually killed them. However, taking care of the twins and their inheritance has overshadowed any investigation into the matter." Shade blew out a sharp breath and leaned back in his seat, dark blue eyes shadowed.
  4. Shade Thornton
    Shade took the offered hand and gave it a brief, warm squeeze while he regarded the woman facing him. She was tall and very pretty with dark hair, dark eyes and engaging features. "Sarah, it has been awhile," he agreed, offering a brief lopsided smile. "Would you like to go somewhere for coffee? Sit here in the lobby and talk?" He did not say it aloud, but Shade wanted to find out why she had shown up in Kalispell out of the blue like this. Coming so soon after their legal troubles over custody of the twins, he could not help but be suspicious.
  5. Shade Thornton
    Shade walked out of the White Rose Inn and Cafe, pausing on the sidewalk for a moment. He had ridden in early after receiving a short missive informing him of his cousin's presence at the Belle-St. Regis. He honestly did not remember her too clearly, but he was concerned that she had shown up so soon after Chance's death. There had never been much in the way of contact between the various members of the Thornton family that he could recall. Of course, Shade had been gone for many years. Things could have changed during that time. He just hoped that Sarah Thornton-Carlton did not plan on trying to make trouble regarding his niece and nephew's inheritance.

    While those thoughts meandered through his head, Shade continued walking along the boardwalk in the direction of Kalispell's hotel. It made a grand statement, but surprisingly, it was also doing very well. Shade guessed that even the frontier needed a touch of class and elegance from time to time.

    After stepping through the doors of the Belle, Shade wondered if he looked as out of place as he felt. He removed his hat and brushed a hand through his dark hair as he walked to the front desk to ask for his cousin. He offered a smile for the man behind the desk, "I received a message that Mrs. Sarah Thornton-Carlton was a guest here. Can you get word to her that her cousin, Shade, is here to see her?"
  6. Shade Thornton
    Shade also looked up and in the direction of the doorway. His sigh was audible, "They live here. You might as well meet the rest of the household," he said before raising his voice slightly and calling out, "Office! Working."
    Rapid footsteps could be heard crossing the entryway and heading toward the office as Harriet made her way to it. Since the door was already open, some of the drama was dissipated and the woman simply appeared in the doorway. She was dusty and her normally neatly coifed hair hung in ripples down her back. All-in-all, Harriet Mercer looked completely disheveled. Shade managed not to smile, instinctively knowing that might result in pain.
    "Harriet," Shade said mildly, "I assume Quentin is with you?" He glanced past her, noting an equally dusty and weary looking Cantrell. "Glad you both made it home in one piece. Harriet Mercer, Quentin Cantrell, I'd like for you to meet our new day foreman, Mike Wentworth."
    Mike stood up. It was something he always did in the presence of a lady.  He looked over to Harriet and smiled, "Ma'am."
    Quentin stepped into the office to stand beside Harriet, He nodded and shook hands with Wentworth. "A pleasure..." He said as he nodded his head toward Shade. "...I am glad we have someone to help take care of this place."
    Mark nodded, "I don't know about that, I'm still on trial.  If Shade is happy to keep me on by the end of it, I'll do my best."
    "Mr. Wentworth," Harriet said, immediately remembering her manners. She would have to deal with Shade later, "Are you related to Mr. Matt Wentworth, owner of the Belle-St. Regis?" She divested herself of her riding gloves but did not offer her hand, "I am far too grubby to shake hands."
    "I wouldn't expect you to ma'am.  Back where I came from ladies usually don't shake hands but for you will I make an exception," Mark smiled.
    "As for the answer to your question, yes Matt is my older brother."
    "Hmmmm," Harriet responded although her tone, to Shade's ears, was far more affable than normal, "quite the charmer also, I see." She turned toward Shade, "Do not think this gets you out of trouble, Shade Thornton. Right now, though, I need to clean up and say hello to the twins. Please excuse me." Harriet turned and left the room.
    Shade looked at Mike and then at Quentin, "What just happened? What did you do to her on the trail? I was expecting the usual Dragon Lady."
    Quentin's eyes widened. "What? I didn't do anything? What makes you think that? Don't be silly!..." He stopped answering and swallowed, then looked back at Mike. "Ignore him."
    Mike got the impression, that Quentin was trying to hide something.  Since he didn't know the man he couldn't say what it was but it had to be interesting judging by the way he was acting.  He decided to play into what was happening, "I can't really ignore Shade, after all he is my boss and I'm still on trial. But then again, if I remember rightly you have a say in running this ranch as well. So, I think I'm probably better off staying out of this."
    "Smart man," Shade said to Mike and then pointed a pencil in Quentin's direction, "I will find out what's going on with you two," he warned lightly. "Of course, if the end result is that Harriet's mood remains improved, I am for it...whatever it is. I take it you got the cattle delivered to Fort Poison without incident?"
  7. Shade Thornton
    Shade took a deep breath and reached for Kate's hand. He raised it to his lips and lightly kissed the palm. Hopefully, the action would not get him slapped.

    "I know we have only met twice and known one another for a few short hours," Shade told her. "I am not taking our exchange here for a done deal. We have plenty of time to get to know one another. I'll come to town as often as I can and, with proper chaperones, of course, maybe you can spend occasional weekends here."
    The tingling sensation she felt when Shade kissed her hand made her feel warm all over.  As she listened to him, she could understand what he was trying to say.  How many times had seen and heard about the first blush of romance fading away to reveal a darker reality.  However, now was not such a time for thoughts like those.  She would enjoy the journey no matter where it would take her.
    "Yes, I would like to see you when I can and I will take you up on your offer to spend more weekends here."  She smiled, "Although, I'm not sure about the chaperones.  We seemed to be doing fine without one now."
    Shade grinned at her, a mischievous light appearing in his dark blue eyes, "I'd rather not always count on me being able to remain a gentleman in your presence, Kate. Fortunately, except for a couple of nights a week, Harriet Mercer is in residence. Mary is also usually here, not to mention Cody and Nettie." He pulled her arm through his for the walk back to the house. It got dark earlier now and he did not want them stumbling about or being out if more storms came in. As if to punctuate his thoughts, a rumble of thunder sounded in the distance. "We should go back now."
    Kate was feeling a bit disappointed that their walk would be over soon.  Back inside, Shade would have to go back to being the host and not the relaxed man he had been out here.  The thunder didn't help matters.  She sighed, "Maybe, the next time we come here we won't have to go back in so soon."
    "I will make sure of that," Shade said softly.
  8. Shade Thornton
    Shade felt an odd tingling in his cheek after Kate gave him the quick, light kiss. It was a good feeling, and he would have liked to hold on to it. Her embarrassed apology made him smile.

    "I don't consider you forward at all," Shade replied. "Although we have a lot to learn about one another, in some ways, I feel I've known you forever. Not sure that makes sense. Maybe it's feelings versus facts."

    "Thing is, Kate, I love this place, this land, even the lodge. At the same time, I am glad the house goes to the twins when they are old enough to take the reins. I want to build my own place, make my own mark on the ranch. My brother set his will and the property legacy, so that will be possible someday."

    Shade stopped talking suddenly, afraid that he had said too much. He was assuming quite a bit, considering they barely knew one another.  In fact, once Katherine Bowen learned about his past, there was a good chance she would prefer no more contact. Immediately, his heart dropped at that thought. Nevertheless, he would someday have to tell her everything. Keeping such secrets was no way to treat someone you cared deeply for. 
  9. Shade Thornton
    Having Kate that close to him was a heady sensation. He inhaled her subtle fragrance, wondering how she managed to smell as clean as the recent rainfall. Without hesitation, Shade reached for her hand, astounded at how small it was. Who said that spring was for romance had never gone for a walk after an autumn thunderstorm with Katherine Bowen!

    As they walked toward the waterfall, Shade would point out items of interest. Trees that were native only to Montana, the tracks of animals coming out after the storm to forage, and where the lodge's mountain home dropped away to the vast crater lake below. Speaking about these things brought home the love he felt for this land, and it showed as he played tour guide for the lovely Kate.

    Finally, the cobblestone path ended in a natural grotto of stone. A small circular area had been cleared, and the natural rocks polished to make a level surface. Two stone and log benches were set to either side of the outdoor courtyard. Before them lay a large, quiet pool surrounded by a towering cliff of rough granite. On the far side of the pool, a sparkling waterfall dropped from the cliff above. Just past the 'courtyard", the pool narrowed into a wide creek that plummeted in a series of cascades to the lake far below.

    Shade smiled, "It's probably still too wet for us to sit on the benches. The creek that makes this waterfall forms several more going back into the mountains as far as you can travel. In fact, I was at one of the other falls with the twins and Miss Redmond when we ran across that killer Grizzly the first time."

  10. Shade Thornton
    Shade glanced over at Katherine as they walked along the cobbled walkway. For a moment, he was mesmerized by her loveliness and felt tongue-tied. He gave himself a mental shake. It wasn't like he had not met beautiful women before, even romanced some of them, broken their hearts and had his broken in turn. However, this was different...very different. Shade felt his emotions far more engaged than he would have expected for such a short acquaintance. Katherine's allure was not in just her looks. He felt an odd connection to her, like someone was weaving a fine strand of silk between them.
    "We do have a lot to learn about one another," Shade said in response to her statement. "I don't know where this will wind up, I only know that, if you are willing, I want to see where it goes." Shade offered her a gentle smile that lit the depths of his eyes. "In fact, I am hoping that after Saturday's dance, you will be amenable to me calling on you when I can come to town?" 

About Sagas

Sagas of the WIld West is a roleplaying game set in a fictionalized version of the town of Kalispell in Montana territory. Our stories begin in 1875 and are set against the backdrop of actual historical events.Sagas was inspired by the classic television and movie westerns. Our focus is on writing, storytelling and character development.

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Founders: Stormwolfe & Longshot

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