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Jess Harper

Name Jess Harper

Position Rancher

Second Position Primary Character


General Information

Aliases Jesse Wade Harper: Birth name.

Jess: Nickname and the name he used after leaving Montana.

Former Aliases Used: Jesse Wade, Jess Wade, Johnny Wade, Jesse Hart, Johnny Hart.

Jess often used aliases made up of his first and middle name in order to avoid the baggage that came with the Harper name, especially as he gained notoriety as a gunfighter. For a brief period of time, he used his father's first name (John) and his middle name (Wade). He also felt that not using the name Harper meant he was earning his own way and not trading on the powerful family name.

Eyes Like Sky (Blackfeet name): This name was given to him by one of the elders of his grandmother's clan-family.
Gender Male
Birthdate March 13, 1845
Age 30
Marital Status Single
Residence Blackbird Lodge
Double L Ranch (Lost Lake Ranch)
Kalispell, Territory of Montana

Jess 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, Jess 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. Jess 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

Physical Appearance

Height 5' 11"
Build Medium
Hair Color Black

Jess'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.
Eye Color Blue

Jess's eyes are deepset and a dark shade of cobalt blue. His eyelashes are black, long and thick. His eyebrows are black, naturally well-shaped, and tilt upward slighly on the inside.

Profession

Employment - June 1875 to Present -

Double L Ranch
Position: Owner, Trustee

- 1870 to 1875 -
Sherman Ranch and Relay Station
Position: Co-Manager, Ranch Hand

Jess 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, Jess 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

Skills

Self Defense - Hand-to-Hand -
Jess has had 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.

- Weapons -
Jess was born with natural 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, Jess has never been paid as a gunfighter, nor would he knowingly accept employment in such a capacity.

- Handguns -

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, Jess put away this gun. To him, it was very symbolic of leaving his former life behind.

- Rifle: 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
Hobbies & Interests - Reading -
Jess developed a love for reading while in school. While he enjoys the odd pulp fiction novel, he prefers books on history and science.

- Horses -
It seems only natural that Jess would have a strong interest in horses. He is a natural horseman, enjoys riding and training them.

- Swimming -
Jess learned to swim for pleasure while in boarding school and it is his preferred form of exercise.

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

Personality & Traits

Character Traits - Quick tempered
- Fiercely independent
- Proud
- Loyal
- Intelligent
- Tender-hearted
- Protective
- Brave
- Often impetuous
- Roguishly charming
General Personality Despite a quick temper and being something of a hot-head, Jess is basically a good man. As he's gotten older, he understands that a great deal of the trouble he's gotten into, particularly the gunfights, could have easily been avoided had he exercised a bit more control over his temper. His temper still gets him into trouble, but not as much and not as badly as in his youth. There is an aura of danger about Jess, yet his presence often instills confidence and a feeling of being protected and safe.

Jess is almost always polite to those deserving it, especially those he respects as figures of authority and older persons. He has a tendency to be flirtatious with ladies of all ages who usually appreciate his roguish charm. Jess is almost always a gentleman when dealing with women although he views committing to one woman and marriage in much the same light as he does rabid dogs. His desire to avoid matrimony, to date, borders on being phobic.

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

Jess 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. Jess 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. Jess 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.

Jess is highly intelligent and, over the years, he's also become quite life-smart, able to quickly judge a person or a horse with a great deal of accuracy. He prefers to downplay his education and intelligence, often using slang, colloquialisms, and less than perfect grammar to mask it.

Loyalty is very important to Jess. To friends and loved ones, he is fiercely loyal, sometimes past the point where should be. He goes the extra mile to be a good friend where it is deserved and takes having his faith and trust broken very hard.

Family

Children William Cody Harper (Nephew, Ward)
Nickname: Cody
DOB: February 11, 1870 (a. 5)
Parents: Chance and Regina Harper

Regina Antoinette Harper (Niece, Ward)
Nickname: Nettie
DOB: February 11, 1870 (a. 5)
Parents: Chance and Regina Harper

The twins, Cody and Nettie, are the youngest of Chance and Regina's children. Nettie was not with the family on the trip to Missoula. She was kept home due to illness. For some reason, Cody was left alive.

Jess Harper, Chance's younger brother, was designated as the children's guardian and trustee of their estate should anything happen to Chance and Regina. The Judge, knowing of Jess's dicey past, decided to designate Quentin as the children's co-guardian and co-trustee.
Father John Caleb Harper
DOD: 03/02/1868 (a. 62)
Wife: Isadora Kiara de Monserrat y Calderón
Parents: Ishmael and Kimi Harper
Mother Isadora Harper
DOD: 06/02/1868 (a. 60)
Husband: John Caleb Harper
Maiden Name: Isadora Kiara de Monserrat y Calderón
Brother(s) William Chance Harper
Nickname: Chance
DOB: 01/05/1837; DOD: 06/02/1875 (a. 38)
Wife: Regina Beth Harper (m. 06/05/1862)
Sister(s) Regina Beth Harper (Sister-in-Law)
Nickname: Reggie
Husband: William Chance Harper (m. 06/05/1862)
DOB: 04/05/1845; DOD: 06/02/1875 (a. 30)
Maiden Name: Cantrell
Other Family Isadora Beth Harper (Niece)
Relationship: Niece
DOB: 03/01/1867; DOD: 06/02/1875 (a. 8)

Josiah Grant Harper (Nephew)
DOB: 05/02/1865; DOD: 06/02/1875 (a. 10)

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

Friends & Foes

Friends - John Sherman -
-- Relationship: Close friend
-- How Long: 1870 to Present

Jess 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, Jess is closer to John than he was to his brother, Chance. Although Jess has returned to Montana due to family obligations, he and the Shermans are still close, exchanging letters and visiting as time allows.

- Quentin Cantrell -
-- Relationship: Close friend
-- How Long: 1875 to Present

Jess knew that his late sister-in-law had a brother named Quentin, but did not meet him until he brought the news of her and Jess's brother's death to Laramie. The two men were not instant best friends, but a genuine liking and respect grew over time.

- Hannah Cory -
-- Relationship: Ex-fiancé
-- How Long: 1858 to Present

Jess met Hannah when she was hired by Coldwater Creek Ranch to ride fence. The two had a fiery friendship and an even more heated romance. Just prior to the their wedding (1862), Jess killed his first man in a gunfight and fled Coldwater Junction, leaving Hannah standing at the alter. Their road back to friendship will be quite rocky.
Foes Steelgraves: The Steelgrave family have long been enemies of the Harpers. Please see The Steelgrave Wiki Page for details.

Personal History

Personal History - Prior to 1845 -
-- See The Harper Family for details on the family's history.

- March 13, 1845 -
Jesse Wade Harper was born to Caleb and Isadora Harper of Lost Lake Ranch, Kalispell, Territory of Montana.

- 1845 to 1860 (a. 0-15) -
-- Fall 1853 (a. 8): Starts St. Francis School in Fort Kalispell.

Jess's early years were spent playing and learning about life on a working ranch, which he loved. His strong-willed mother was a major influence during his childhood. Like his brother, Chance, he grew up fluent in both English and Spanish. He also inherited her 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. Jess often wound up on the wrong end of his father's hand, belt, or missing supper due to being sent to his room.

The only school in the region was run by a small group of Jesuits. It was located just north of Fort Kalispell. In 1845, it became the St. Francis School, part of the St. Francis Catholic Church, and was relocated within the confines of the Fort Kalispell settlement. As a devout Catholic, Isadora insisted that both Chance and Jess be educated at the school and that they attend mass. Due to the distance to the fort, children from the outlying ranches boarded at the school during the week, returning home on the weekends. Before starting his formal education, Jess had been taught to read, write, and do basic sums by his mother and the ranch foreman's wife, Kate Hale. Trouble started soon after Jess'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, Jess was the school's example of what one should not be. Whenever an opportunity presented itself, Jess escaped. His wandering spirit often found him roaming in Blackfeet territory and being dragged back to the ranch by members of his grandmother's family.

Despite his tendency to go AWOL, the fighting, and being an all-around pain in the school's assets, Jess was highly intelligent. He 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 Jess was the most likely of her students to be in prison by the age of sixteen.

The bright spot in Jess's life during his years at school was meeting the daughter of Scott Cory. Hannah and Jess became friends when they both attempted to steal the same horse and escape the confines of the fort at age nine. Sheriff Cory, who would later become the town marshal when the fort was converted to military use and the town was established, found them and dragged them back to the school. He also sent a letter to Caleb Harper regarding the incident which ensured that Jess wouldn't sit down for dinner for a day or two.

One of the few things that put him on his father's good side, initially, was Jess'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 his sons hunting or sport-shooting, it was usually Jess that brought back the game or won the contests. Caleb's tendency to brag about Jess's prowess with guns would sow the first seeds of his reputation as a fast gun and gunslinger.

- 1861 (a. 16) -
-- 1861 (a. 16): Jess is expelled from school.
-- 1861 (a. 16): Regina Cantrell sent to live with the Harpers.

By the time Jess was sixteen, Chance had completed his studies at Wesleyan College in Stockton, California and was home. For awhile, 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.

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 Jess Harper. He was expelled from St. Francis and sent home. Caleb was furious and fed up. He sent Jess 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 Jess away with his percentage of the Harper Legacy Trust.

Being ejected from the house and forced to live as one of the ranch's hands actually had a positive effect on Jess. He loved the work, and the foreman reported that he pulled his share without shirking or complaint. Unfortunately, and partially in response to his father's tendency to brag about his skill, Jess often found himself being challenged to speed contests by the other hands. Most of them did not like that a boy his age was considered better with guns than any of them. The speed duels were harmless, blank cartridges were used instead of live ammo. The only thing that kept Caleb from banning Jess from the ranch entirely was the fact that his son often directed the speed duels to shooting at cans or bottles instead of at one another. Still, the duels happened often enough that Jess honed his ability and style.

Shortly after Jess 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, Jess 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 ranch of his own. It would be a good start for the life he wanted to spend with Hannah.

In the same year, Regina Cantrell, the daughter of very old and dear friends, was sent to live with the Harpers. The Cantrells were worried about the coming troubles and maybe war. Montana seemed like a safe place to send their daughter. She and Jess's older brother, Chance, quickly fell in love and arranged to be married the following year. The wedding was planned for June of 1862.

- 1862 (a. 17) -
-- 1862: Proposed to Hannah Cory.
-- 1862: Jess leaves Montana, deserting Hannah who was waiting to elope.

In the late spring of 1862, with Chance and Regina's wedding a couple of months away, Jess 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 Jess began making plans to elope. They planned to sneak away when Jess returned from escorting Regina on a shopping trip to Missoula and agreed to meet the night after Jess was scheduled to return.

After leaving a store, Regina was accosted by Calvin Steelgrave, one of Elijah Steelgrave's sons. Jess happened by the alley that Steelgrave had dragged Regina into and heard the sound of a woman struggling with a man. Jess 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, Jess and Regina returned to the hotel.

The next day, already free on bail, Calvin attempted to shoot Regina and Jess as they left the hotel. Jess 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 Jess. Still, the other Steelgrave brothers vowed to get Jess and anyone that got in their way.

Knowing what would happen once his father was told of the incident and believing the Steelgraves a real threat to him and his family, Jess decided not to return to the ranch. He made sure Regina had a safe escort home. As expected, Caleb was furious with his son. Despite objections from Isadora, Chance, and Regina, he disowns Jess.

- 1862 to 1865 (a. 17-20) -
-- May 12, 1865 - May 13, 1865: Battle of Palmitto Ranch, Texas

Although Jess regretted killing Calvin Steelgrave and the hurt and humiliation he was sure Hannah felt when he didn't show up for their elopement, he liked being on his own. He had a little money and was able to get a good horse which left him low on cash and needing work. With the Civil War in full swing, Jess's first impulse was to head to the nearest fort and enlist in the Union army. Careful self-examination during the journey changed his mind. If he resented his father's disciplinary measures and had hated the structure forced on him at school, there was no way he would make it in the army.

Jess worked his way down to Texas. Due to his youth, a majority of the jobs 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 Jess ride and was impressed with the boy's self-confidence. He offered Jess a job on the spot riding dispatch and training as a scout. Jess accepted and a little while later reported to Fort Lincoln.

In 1865, Jess was with the Union army for the Battle of Palmitto Ranch in Cameron County, Texas, the final action fought by Union and Confederate soldiers. Jess was wounded and captured along with one hundred Union soldiers. A few weeks later, Jess was released along with several other non-military men. Shortly after his release, he was approached by Randolph Cutler and offered a job. Cutler's stated line of work was providing hands for various ranches in the area, making it easy for them to find top workers as needed. He also provided men for riding posses and as deputies. Not having to actively look for work suited Jess at the time and he signed on with Cutler. What he did not know was that Cutler had another enterprise. He ran a group of disenfranchised men that worked as rustlers, raiders, robbers, and extortionists. He used the legitimate operation to determine the best targets and find out when and where to strike. By the time Jess realized what Cutler was doing, the damage was done, and he was wanted for riding with Cutler's Raiders.

- 1866 to 1869 (a. 21-24) -
-- March 2, 1868: Caleb Harper dies of natural causes (a. 62).
-- June 2, 1868: Isadora Harper dies of natural causes (a. 60).
-- 1869: Turns himself in to clear his name of the charge of being one of Cutler's Raiders.

After splitting with the Cutler Raiders, Jess drifted and worked 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 Jess 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. Jess 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, Jess'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.

While working on a ranch in Colorado, Jess got word that his father had passed away. He had re-established contact with Chance and his mother through letters, but the ones he sent his father came back to him unopened. Despite that, he decided to head for Montana and pay his respects. By the time he arrived, he had learned his mother had also passed away. Jess made it in time for her funeral but watched from a distance. He left without making contact with the family. Jess did not want to be a source of trouble for Chance who would have enough on his hands now that he was the owner of the ranch and Harper family business interests.

In 1869, at age 24, Jess decided he wanted to clear his name regarding his association with Cutler's Raiders. Jess returned to Brownsville, Texas. He turned himself in after hiring a good lawyer. Thanks to numerous witnesses and a skillful defense, Jess was subsequently cleared of all charges. With his acquittal papers in hand, Jess headed back out.

- 1870 to 1875 (a. 25-30) -
-- 1870: Grand Central Stagecoach Company: Guard, Scout, Driver
-- Fall 1870: Spots Lakota for the first time
-- 1871: Charged with murder in Willow, Colorado.

In 1870, Jess took 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, Jess 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 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.

Jess accepted and moved into the bunkhouse. When not actively engaged riding shotgun for the stage and express coaches, Jess pitched in and worked the ranch. John's two sons, Andy and Mike, were soon calling him Uncle Jess. For the first time in years, Jess 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, Jess 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, Jess 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 Jess 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, Jess decided to make a try for the big smoky dun colt.

Jess 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 Jess had ever trained, even surpassing his beloved gelding, Brimstone.

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

- 1875 (a. 30) -
-- 06/02/1875: Chance, Regina, Beth and Grant Harper are murdered.
-- 06/02/1875: Cody and Nettie Harper (a. 5) are orphaned.

In a stunning quirk of fate, Jess's brother, sister-in-law, and their two oldest children are killed seven years to the day after their mother's passing. This begins Jess's next journey. . .

Character Notes

General Notes - Languages Spoken -
-- English (Native)
-- Spanish (Fluent, learned from mother)
-- Native American sign language, smattering of languages

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

- 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.

Jess 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.

- For details regarding the Harpers' wills, see The Harper Family Wiki.
Animals & Pets - Horses -
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 Jess and is quite hard to manage for others. Like any horse, he has become accustomed to being handled and ridden in a certain way.

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

Name: Brimstone
Gender: Gelding
Age: 13 years
Hands: 16 hands
Breed: Quarter Horse
Color: Blood Bay

Brimstone is a horse Jess got while working in Texas. The horse is a big blood bay Quarter Horse with black points. Jess gave him to the Shermans as a mount for one of their sons when he moved back to Montana.
Character Concept As the name suggests, Sagas' Jess Harper 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.

Jess 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.
Avatar Robert Fuller (circa early 1960s).