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Sagas of the Wild West
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Details, Truth and Balderdash

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Mature Content: Probably Not

With: Phinnias G. NcVay
Location: Post Office, Newspaper Office.
When: Month September 1875
Time of Day: Morning




Picking up his mail, Phin shuffled through the half dozen envelops to see which garnered the top spot for his attention when he reached the shop. One jumped out immediately, Allen Texas, the Brazos News. Good old Gregory Lauton, 3rd Virginia Cavalry and through the end of the war with Forrest's Cavalry Corps.


The next was from Mallory Duncan at the Omaha World Herald. Old friends from one realm and another. He seriously had doubts that the World Herald would have any information that he was seeking, but then, in the newspaper business one never knew. So he quickened his step, excited to see if there could be any information that he was seeking.


Phinias McVay had always been a careful and cautious man, that is until he served under Nathan Bedford Forrest. That had been a life changing experience for a lad from Albany Georgia. He came out of his reserved shell with the same fury as a mounted charge! Now, Phin was after information concerning several members of the community, but not local information, that was easy enough to get. He wanted what was held behind that curtain known as the past.



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Once in the confines of the Union's office he plopped the mail on his desk and  went to the stove for a cup of coffee. There were people that he wanted to know more about without the typical nosing about. Names he had heard, people he had seen, not many, mere a few that struck a cord with him.


Barnabas Pike was certainly one of them. Who was he? Where was he from? Then there was the so called geologist now wearing the Marshal's badge. Similar questions for and about him. Two of those he wanted to research bore the same last name, Steelgrave, Elias and Case although he realized there were others in the family he'd like to look into.


Kalispel seemed to be a nice, quiet town, which automatically drew his interest to some of it's citizenry. For the most part he saw the town as law abiding, God fearing folks like so many other towns on the frontier, even though that was slowly disappearing. He paused with that thought, a wave of sorrow at the prospect.


He opened the first envelope...



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“My Dear Phinn,
How we miss you around here, and how good it is to hear from you. I have some information that you requested on one Elias Steelgrave. He is noted for supplying the South with British made Enfield rifles through Southern ports until the Union blockades prevented English ships from docking.
Interestingly he attempted an overland route to continue the supplying of weapons, however he quickly found that the Indians were raiding his wagon trains and the losses were considerable. Even using ports in Texas and Mexico and then pushing east became to perilous an endeavor, so he abandoned the cause and turned instead to organizing a network of purveyors, known as Comancheros in Texas, and by other names in the plains territories who dealt with the various tribes.
These purveyors dealt in all manner of goods to trade, which also included whiskey, guns, powder and shot. There are warrants from that period for his arrest on those charges related to not only supplying the south but the red man as well.
If I get more I will contact you at this address. Good health to you.


Phinn sat back laying the letter on his desk, the man had been, and likely still was ruthless. Other information, which had been surprisingly easy to come by, placed Steelgrave in the territory in 1860. That area was now called Missoula, prior to the establishment of the Territory of Montana in 1864, seven different territories of the western United States governed the area that was to become Montana. It is rumored that Elias Steelgrave was heavily involved in this effort, but was opposed to statehood.


Phinn smiled, no sense in having Federal law to interrupt one’s power plays. He would file this away for now.




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Phinn moved to the stove and poured himself a cup of coffee. It was black as printers ink, just the way he liked it. Cup in hand, he glanced out at the street seeing nothing in particular, just the steady flow of traffic in the street and on the boardwalks. He liked it in Kalispel, big enough to be busy, small enough to be comfortable.


He ambled back to his desk and dropped into his swivel chair that protested loudly as he turned in it to face the desk-top. He fanned out the rest of the mail, the one from Gregory in Texas, another from the War Department in Washington which he had not actually expected so soon, that one could not wait another second as he tore it open;


Mister McVay,
In response to your request for information regarding Captain Henry S. Guyer, 13th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry, D Company. He was mustered out June 6, 1865, Washington DC. Honorably discharged. His complete war record is unavailable at this time.
Purvis Flannery

“Typical!” Phinn said out loud. But really, what was there to learn that was more important than how the man was mustered out, and it was honorable. ‘Perhaps,’ he thought, ‘I can get his record at some point and use it for an article.’ but then wasn’t that the point of all his requests, for articles.


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  • 2 weeks later...

He sipped the black liquid and set the cup aside as he picked up the letter from Texas and tore it open and extracted the folded sheet of paper inside. Unfolding the sheet to it’s full size he recognized the hand writing immediately, a reminder of times past.


Dear friend it was good to hear from you and of course the information you asked for is readily available as I am sure there is good reason.

Your subject, one Barnabas Pike is well known in these parts as a former Ranger Minuteman and as a Ranger. His record is below, but what I have uncovered about Mister Pike is not well known, dare I say almost unknown except by a few. As you will read later on, he was an exemplary Ranger, both with the 8th Texas Cavalry, and in his civilian capacity after the war.

His history has him in In Virginia City, Nevada during the boom there. He is well to do with a one third share in a mining interest there. Also not widely known is that he was a deputy there and had a serious romance, only to be foiled by pneumonia.

Of interest is his questioning of a shooting in which one Case Steelgrave was involved. That request, which is new, was telegraphed to Ranger headquarters. It would seem this Case Steelgrave is in your neck of the woods.


The letter went on with some Military information and excerpts of his Ranger history. Phinn set the letter aside as it’s meaning sank in. Was Pike here after Steelgrave? Was it simply a matter accident both were in this part of Montana?


He sipped the coffee again, looking out the window at the street.



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Phinn enjoyed his moments of sitting looking out on the main thoroughfare of Kalispell, watching the comings an goings, wondering what was really going on in the lives of the people he saw passing by. That was the newsman in him, knowing at any moment there could be a story.


He sighed and stared out of his chair to set type for the next edition when he saw a lady pass by, but not just any lady, Leah Steelgrave. Oh he'd heard the rumors about her, the suspicions and the quires, and what he considered the outright slander. He was not a man however that would be blinded by beauty, far from it. He could decipher the truth from the false, and the probable from the improbable. She was guilty of enough of what was said of her, and innocent of much of the maligning often heard about town. But for sure, she was beautiful and poised.


He set his cup aside and went to don his coat and hat. She was a story on foot. Maybe only about fashion or some such nonsense, but anything he might be fortunate enough to glean from her, if she would consider talking to him at all. Out the door he went and watched her move along the boardwalk to the small cafe, which seemed odd, what with the Belle Saint Regis having a fine restaurant more in keeping with her position.


He was quick to note the two men across the street shadowing her, perhaps riders from the Evergreen Ranch acting as body guards. Looking back quickly Miss Steelgrave had entered the establishment, and when checking the two men had taken up positions to watch. He picked up his pace.



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