An episodic chronicle of John Bonwell's life in the new west from the early 19th century through the Civil War. Traveling from Virginia, he locates his uncle in Kentucky, discovers his heritage there and establishes a home for Rebekah; the murder of his uncle follows closely on his wedding and John is pursued by the truth of that crime. His ventures and plantation expand successfully until the accident which takes his wife and children from him and then, embittered and grim, he opens a tavern in Ohio. There he fights the abolitionists but unites with them when cholera strikes, gets into the Mexican War, and on his return blackmailed into aiding slaves through the underground so that when civil war strikes, he is for the Union rather than the rebels. And a last gesture discloses the truth of the old murder. Frontier life and times in unpretentious portrayal -- more masculine than feminine in appeal.