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In St. Louis Levi and Elly Zendt meet English writer Oliver Seccombe (Timothy Dalton) and Army Captain Maxwell Mercy (Chad Everett). Seccombe is a romantic looking for adventure and writing a book trying to prove the theory that the Native American tribes descend from Welshmen.
Oliver Seccombe returns to the area as an agent of several wealthy British investors led by Earl Venneford of Wye who want to start a cattle ranch. By claiming watering holes under the Homestead Act and utilizing the open range, they can monopolize thousands of square miles with a very small investment. The ranch would eventually control nearly 6,000,000 acres (20,000 km2), an area nearly the size of Vermont. the new ranch, named Venneford, becomes one of the largest ranches in the west. Seccombe stays on to manage the ranch and with John Skimmerhorn as foreman and Jim Lloyd as a regular ranch hand.
A range war develops between the cattle ranchers led by Seccombe, farmers led by Hans Brumbaugh, and sheep herders led by new settler Messmore Garrett (Clint Ritchie). New town sheriff Axel Dumire (Brian Keith) tries to settle the conflict peacefully but it soon escalates into violence. Oliver Seccombe, angered by threats to his interests, engages the services of a gang of outlaws to kill Brumbaugh, Garrett and other leaders of the farmers and shepherds. Jim Lloyd and John Skimmerhorn find themselves caught between sides in the war. They are cowboys but are also sympathetic to the plight of the farmers and shepherds and refuse to believe that Seccombe is behind the cold blooded killings.
Seccombe proves to be a poor businessman with questionable morals and the finances of the ranch are eventually called into question by the Venneford's British investors. They dispatch Finlay Perkin (Clive Revill), a dour Scottish accountant, to audit Venneford's books. Seccombe has been secretly selling off ranch cattle to fund his activities. Perkin soon realizes that Seccombe is skimming money after seeing the combination of thousands of missing cattle and Seccombe's palatial new ranch house, evidence of his profligate spending. Seccombe's crimes are covered over however when a terrible blizzard hits the region, killing many of the ranch's cattle and thereby hiding the losses incurred by Seccombe's embezzlement.
The blizzard saves him from formal legal charges; however he is still compelled to resign in disgrace and turn over ranch operations to John Skimmerhorn. The fraud accusations and the large loss of cattle combine to take a toll on Seccombe's health and he commits suicide leaving Charlotte a widow.