The year was 1801, the place was Tennessee, and it was a rough and cruel time. There was a state statute which formalized the punishment for a horse thief. They eclared a holiday and watched the sheriff lash the back of the pilloried suspect to bloody pulp and then cut off his cars. Jonathan Cannon, an idealistic young school teacher, leaves Virginia, seeking a place ""Where new ideas of liberty and justice will take root"". He believes there should be schools for everybody. He also believes that Indians were human beings and to be treated with dignity. Jonathan runs into a heap of trouble in Tennessee over and above his notions. He gets mixed up with a woman and her child who are left over from a family of murdering religious maniacs, who chop off the head of a sinner, nail it to the saddle of a horse and drive it into the settlement-as a warning- while blaming it on the Indians. Somehow Jonathan survives many physical and mental tortures after losing his woman in childbirth in the forest, escapes a hanging, and is about to re-open his school. His story is well written and is persuasive in its recreation of these times, but the brutality of man to man does not make it easy to read or accept.