Deadlands: Riders on the Storm
George Howard Keeler
Geraldine Keeler's Great Uncle and Benefactor
|Deftness —||Cognition 4d6|
|Nimbleness —||Knowledge 4d12|
|Strength —||Mien 3d8|
|Quickness —||Smarts 4d12|
|Vigor —||Spirit 4d8|
|Academia: Literature 1d12|
|Area Knowledge: Lincoln County 2d12|
|Language: Latin 2d12|
|Medicine: General 4d12|
|Medicine: Surgery 3d12|
|Science: Engineering 4d12|
|Science: Chemistry 5d12|
|Trade: Druggist 3d12|
Hindrances & Edges
|Loco 1||Arcane Background (Mad Scientist) 3|
|Big Britches 3||Dinero 3|
|Curious 3||Mechanically Inclined 1|
|Terror: 5-11, depending on appearance & demeanor|
Shootin’ Irons & Such
Ghostly Form: George is intangible and able to pass through corporeal objects at will.
Immunity: Wind or Physical Damage. However, Hexes, enchanted (or consecrated) weapons can hurt him. Silver weapons will do 1/2 damage. George never takes Wind loss.
Physical Touch: George must make an Onerous (7) Spirit roll to interact with the physical world. This includes making a fightin’ roll. When he does physical damage, it is based on the power of his Spirit, not his physical Strength.
Chill Touch: George can “touch” corporeal beings and inflict Wind damage by chilling them. A successful fightin’: brawlin’ attack does 2d6 Wind to the target. If the victim is reduced to 0 Wind in this manner, he passes out for 1d6 minutes as well as suffering the usual effects of having no Wind.
George Howard Keeler (October 17, 1798 – January 21, 1874) was a brilliant, but eccentric scientist who had settled in Paiute Springs, Nevada. He liked the relative quiet of the community and grew to the love the people there—though what they thought of him, he couldn’t say.
George was born in Baltimore, Maryland to Howard Arthur Alsop Keeler and Victoria Elizabeth Tremaine Keeler. He had a younger brother, Gerald Jamison Keeler, and an older sister, Verity Elizabeth Keeler (later Thomason). His father was a shipping magnate and a Methodist deacon and both of his parents were avid Abolitionists.
The Keelers lived a fairly comfortable life. Their father was wealthy and they never wanted for anything. Then came the War of 1812. The Battle of Baltimore came in September 1814 and with it came the bombardment of Fort McHenry by the British Navy. While it inspired an immortal song (“The Star-Spangled Banner”), it also resulted in the destruction of a hundred merchant ships—many of which were owned or maintained by Howard Keeler.
Howard Keeler eventually recovered from the setback of the war, but he never forgave the army for the wanton destruction of the battle. He became a devoted Pacifist for the rest of his life.
Young George was a playful child, always getting into things, trying to figure them out and how they worked. He had an exuberant and confident personality—always confident that he was on the right track. His mind was constantly stimulated—the sciences were a natural fit for him.
In 1816, at the age of 18, he left home after his tutelage to attend University at The President and Fellows of Yale College, in New Haven. He intended to study medicine at the relatively recently opened medical school there (1810).
On campus, George was a friendly, excessively kind young man, but shy. He mostly kept to himself, choosing not participate in many of the social activities on campus, but concentrating on his studies. It was not that he was entirely serious—he had a wicked sense of humor if you got to know him. But he just tended to prefer his own company.
While at Yale, he also found that he had a love of literature that he never really expected to cultivate. Especially the Latin classics—the Aeneid, Marcus Aurelius, etc.
He finished the undergraduate program in 1819 and began his graduate studies in earnest. He was only called back home once when his sister, Verity, was married to tobacco plantation owner and local socialite Horace Barron Thomason. George was unhappy about the marriage—as were his parents. Horace was a slave owner, though he saw it as an “economic issue” not a “moral issue.” Verity seemed to be happy, however, so George just grinned and bared it.
Gerald, meanwhile, had joined the U. S. Military Academy at West Point and was continuing his studies there. He had written back to his family that he had, indeed, found his calling. Howard Keeler, an avowed Pacifist, was not pleased, but wished his youngest child well.
Though Yale did not offer formal programs in those disciplines, George began cultivating a love of chemistry and engineering. Individual student groups began forming, performing experiments, recording and discussing the results. George overcame his natural shyness and joined several of these groups. He found that his passion for these subjects surpassed even that that he had for medicine. Nevertheless, he graduated Yale with his credentials as a General Practitioner in 1821 at the age of 23. He continued his studies as a surgeon and gained those credentials in 1823.
Despite the fact that Dr. Keeler was now licensed to practice, he found that he had no urge to hang a shingle. What he wanted to do was pursue his studies in chemistry and engineering. He started taking apprenticeships with engineers around the East, learning everything he could. He did the same with professional chemists, taking on professional apprenticeships and absorbing as much practical knowledge as he could.
George’s “waste” of his medical degree became a sticking point between he and his family. They never had a “blow out” about the issue, but it did become a wedge between the previous cordial relations between he and his parents. Still, George felt the need to pursue his passion.
Meanwhile, Gerald had met and married Harriet Elizabeth Van Morrison, a New York socialite with whom he had fallen in love. He had now graduated West Point and was a Major in the Army and stationed at Fort McHenry, much to his parent’s delight. He could now visit home often.
Verity, now usually referred to as “Poor Verity,” was in dire straits. Horace was a boor and it was suspected that, when in his spirits, Horace raised a hand to the poor girl. Their daughter, Constance Jeanette, was generally safe from his temper. But Verity said nothing, did nothing, pretended everything was alright. It was all suspicion without any verification—all hearsay. Who could act on it? Gerald was itching for a fight, but his father begged him to leave it be for now. And George barely had a clue any of this was going on—he was so focused on his scientific endeavors.
In 1825, Gerald and Harriet had their first child, Arthur Morrison Keeler.
In 1830, Gerald and Harriet had their second child, Jamie Victoria Keeler. it was also the year that Gerald confronted Horace about “Poor Verity.” The two men had a fabulous row at Thanksgiving dinner that ended with Gerald challenging the Southerner to a duel at midnight. Horace accepted.
George acted as Gerald’s second. Horace found a man at the local gentleman’s club, a J. T.Ballinger, to act as his second. The four men met at an abandoned feed lot near a livery stable on the west end of the city. Pistols were chosen and the two men counted off 20 paces. They turned and fired—Gerald took a ball in right shoulder. Horace took one in the middle of his forehead.
George acted quickly and was able to save Gerald’s arm. There was nothing to be done about Horace. As far as Gerald was concerned, it was good riddance to bad rubbish. Ballinger just wanted his $20 as promised by Horace. Gerald paid the man and no one ever saw him again. The brothers left Horace in the field and returned home.
The constabulary eventually did question the Keelers about Horace—whose body was found in the field some two days later. It appeared to be a secret that could bond the family together—everyone agreed that no one had seen Horace since the row on Thanksgiving 1830. Nothing more ever came of it. And no one refers to Verity as “Poor Verity” any more.
In 1831, George finally returned to Baltimore and felt like he had completed his apprenticeships. He had put some money away and took up an apartment near the harbor and decided to start putting some of his new theories to work.
The going was slow. He didn’t have new patents, but he did manage to produce some scientific papers of note. He was building reputation. Unfortunately, that didn’t put food on the table. He decided he needed to hang a shingle, after all.
George stayed on in Baltimore, practicing medicine and pursuing scientific endeavors on the side. He mostly kept to himself, reading and experimenting, visiting his parents once per week, and attending his family’s Methodist church for propriety’s sake. He managed to establish a couple of patents and collect some royalties and his practice kept him eating, even thriving a bit. He started putting money away for a rainy day, saving up for supplies in case he got that “Eureka!” idea he would need capital for. He didn’t have a family to save for, only his experiments.
This was probably the quietest period of George’s life.
Meanwhile, his siblings were making families of their own and having their own family dramas. Constance, Verity’s daughter, married cattleman John Vance in 1837. Their son, Paul Robert, was born later that year.
In 1840, George’s father, Howard, died of a heart attack, while attending a abolitionist rally in Baltimore. His mother, Victoria, was devastated. Not wanting to live alone, the family sold off much of Howard’s assets and Victoria moved in with Gerald and Harriet and their two children.
This inheritance gave George a tidy, unexpected stake with which to invest in a future endeavor. He had been thinking of heading West and starting a new life out there. He was tired of Baltimore and wanted to see new sights and breathe new air. This might be his chance to do just that.
George closed his practice, sold most of his goods, and joined a wagon train heading West. He said goodbye to his family and promised to write. Nobody really understood what drove the middle-aged man to start over again, but they all wished the him well.
During his early years in the west, George stayed in various mining throughout modern, Colorado, Utah and Nevada. He worked as a doctor and as a druggist during this period. He still hadn’t found a place where he wanted to settle down and work. But he was enjoying the rough-and-tumble of his new life immensely. This certainly wasn’t the staid life he’d left behind in Baltimore.
During this period, George tried to keep in touch with the family , but it was often difficult. He stayed in mining camps, traveling wagon trains, and even once offered his services to a carnival train. He was happy to hear of the birth of his new great-niece, Geraldine, in 1855.
In 1857, George found himself in southern Utah territory (later Nevada). The mining camp at Paiute Springs, near the Spring Mountains was a small camp, and new. Some strips of silver had been found—not a bonanza, but enough to go around. The people were as exuberant as any other he’d found in the West—but, for a boomtown, Paiute Springs was surprisingly law-abiding. The town marshal, Obie Swain, had a relatively easy job it.
After wandering the West for over fifteen years, George had decided he finally had found a place he wanted to plant. He stake out a claim just outside the main part of the main part of town and filed the paperwork and paid the land office. He was now a land owner. He started making plans and would get help around the camp to build his house.
After the house was built, George hung his shingle once again and became the town’s first druggist and doctor. In his spare time, he worked on his experiments.
In 1864, Nevada was separated out from the contested Utah territory and made a state of the Union. This riled some of the citizens of the nascent town, who moved “down south.” George, raised in the bosom of Abolitionism, was fine with living in a Union state.
In 1867, George was saddened to hear about the untimely demise of his nephew, Arthur, and his wife, Lydia, in Chicago, of typhoid. Apparently their daughter, Geraldine, was still in boarding school. He was assured by his family that she was cared for, however.
In 1868, “Doc” Fabry moved into town and hung up his shingle on Main Street. Many people didn’t want to walk all the way out of town to see Doctor Keeler—who was a little distracted most of the time anyway. So George began to lose business. He took it in stride and took down his shingle later that year.
This year, ghost rock was discovered—not only by the world but in the Spring Mountains. It was literally the catalyst that George had been waiting for.
From late 1868 until his death in 1874, George filed 11 patents and published over 25 papers in various scientific journals. He practically sequestered himself in his house, pouring over plans and trying to find new and useful applications of this new element. He would come out and make outrageous claims of his new discoveries—-much to the consternation of the townsfolk. Most people took to calling him “Mad George,” and thought of him as the town eccentric—every town needed to have one. At least theirs was harmless enough.
George was liked by most of the townsfolk that he actually interacted with—the Marshal, “Doc” Fabry, David Allan. Others didn’t know how to take him and his outrageous claims. One day he came down in a smelly, rubber duster asking cowpokes to take shots at him. “It’s bulletproof! You’ll see!” he kept saying and beaming in that way of his. Soon he started offering $25. Nobody was crazy enough to take man up on his offer. He actually seemed disappointed.
One day, in 1874, George was working in his lab and something went sideways. Was it a simple accident? Was it sabotage? No one understands enough of George’s notes to know for sure. But George never recovered from his injuries and passed away quietly.
Soon after, his Last Will & Testament was read, naming Geraldine Marie Keeler of Chicago as his sole benefactor, and soon she was moving in.
Now—George has returned. Mostly. He finds he has a chance to give advice and influence his relative in ways he couldn’t while he was living. Perhaps there is a God? Or maybe, this is all just part of a grand experiment in which he is a catalyst?