A small village of a few hundred inhabitants on the Missouri River, Florence grows to become a bustling frontier town of four thousand in just a few weeks as the Saints converge to prepare for the wagon trip across the plains. Among the first to arrive, William and his family are at the center of the planning and preparations required for the trip. The author describes in interesting detail how the Church organized and dispatched both independent and Church-sponsored wagon trains westward.
William and his family are assigned to the last Church-sponsored train to depart Florence. Using his great-great-grandfather's and other contemporary journals, the author accurately dramatizes the arduous journey. The reader will gain an unusual appreciation of the rigors of covered-wagon travel. Toward the end of the journey, William experiences an illness that causes him and his family to fall out of the wagon train. As he recovers and the family continues the journey, they are set upon by a renegade band led by Dick Weldon, with tragic consequences. Laura is kidnapped and carried away.
Porter Rockwell is summoned by Brigham Young and assigned the task of tracking down Laura's kidnapers. Using documented events from Rockwell's life, the author describes his painstaking search for the girl along the Overland Stage road through western Utah Territory, and the showdown when he finally catches up to Laura and her captors. Although Weldon's gang escapes, Rockwell frees Laura and captures Weldon's wounded son, Adam, a mixed-blood Cherokee Indian. He returns Laura to her family in Grantsville, the town west of Salt Lake City where William and his family are living, and deposits Adam in jail. Drawing on historical accounts of the early settlement, the author describes Grantsville as it was at the time, a fascinating account of life in a typical early pioneer settlement in Utah Territory.
Escaping justice, Weldon and the remnants of his gang are again pursued by Rockwell. The chase extends westward to the Sierra Nevada mountains of Nevada and California, locations well familiar to Rockwell. With assistance from the sheriff of Placerville and a Chickasaw Indian befriended by Rockwell, Rockwell captures Weldon. However, Weldon escapes and returns to Utah, intent on revenge. The exciting and suspenseful conclusion is based on a documented, real-life showdown that occurred in Grantsville during the period.