Colonel Jim Brewton
Colonel Jim Brewton, a pioneer rancher. He stages a bitter but losing fight against the encroachment of homesteaders who come west to fence and farm the free range. A proud man, the colonel claims his range as his empire, and he has only contempt for the “nesters” who would destroy it with wheat crops. He marries a vivacious young woman from St. Louis who brightens his home and his life for a time. After bearing three children, one not his, she tires of her rough, monotonous existence on the ranch and deserts her husband for a period of fifteen years. Although aware that one of her children is not his, the colonel rears the boy as his own and buries him as a full-fledged member of the family.
Hal Brewton, the colonel’s nephew, who deplores the inevitable changes he sees taking place all around him. He detests the homesteaders who spoil the range, and he resents Lutie’s “Eastern ways,” which mean new furniture, flowers growing in the yard, and frequent guests and visitors. Returning home from medical school to establish his practice, he finds that the sea of grass of his youth is gone forever.
Lutie Cameron, a charming young woman who comes to Salt Fork from St. Louis to marry Colonel Brewton. She soon turns the ranch house into a center for gay parties and distinguished guests, and for a while she seems to adjust satisfactorily to her new way of life. She bears three children, one by her favorite dancing partner, a young lawyer named Brice Chamberlain. Eventually tiring of the harsh ranch life, she leaves the colonel, expecting Brice to go away with her. Nothing is heard from her for fifteen years. One day, she unexpectedly returns, without explanations, and the colonel takes her back as though she had never been away. Meanwhile, he has reared her illegitimate son and with the force of his personality has kept local gossip to a minimum.
Brice Chamberlain, who as a young lawyer takes the homesteaders’ side in a trial. Although he loses the trial, he continues to fight the free-range policy of Colonel Brewton and eventually sees the “nesters” win out. He becomes Lutie’s lover and fathers a son by her. Being a cowardly man, he lacks the courage to leave town with her as planned when the colonel appears at the station wearing a gun.
Brock Brewton, Lutie’s son by Brice Chamberlain. Real-izing as a youth that he is illegitimate, he grows up bitter and resentful; to avenge himself, he turns to drinking, gambling, cheating at cards, and, eventually, outlawry. When he is trapped by a posse and shot, the colonel defiantly claims the body as that of his own son and buries it on the Brewton ranch.
Sarah Beth Brewton
Sarah Beth Brewton, the children of Lutie and the colonel.