Enamored by the western frontier, British immigrant Cashup Davis, his wife Mary Ann, and nine children became one of the first white families to settle on the Palouse's spectacular rolling hills in eastern Washington Territory. Living at first in a simple sod house, they turn their bunchgrass acreage into a farm, befriend Native Americans during a war ignited by the U.S. government's treaty violations, and eventually open an immensely popular and prosperous stagecoach stop. But Cashup has another dream: he is resolutely determined to build a grand luxury hotel on one of the region's highest points, the summit of Steptoe Butte. People tell him it is a ridiculous idea, but Cashup never listens to the doubters. He's brash, confident, and ever so charming.
The story is told through the eyes of his great-grandson, Gordon Davis, who views Cashup as the "secret mentor" he never met. As Gordon has achieved success in his life and turned to philanthropy, he has sought to better understand his own good fortune by delving into his great-grandfather's astonishing past. Cashup's life prompts questions that are still relevant today: What is real success? Does it blind people to other joys in life? How should people balance risk and reward?
Cashup's hotel opened on July 4, 1888, and he became one of Washington's first national celebrities. But no one--especially Gordon--expected what happened next.