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When Katherine Grant leaves her fiancé, Joe Wilson, in Chicago for a better paying job out West, their sadness is softened by the fact that the extra money will enable them to marry sooner. After a year, Joe and his brothers, Charlie and Tom, have opened a gas station and he writes to her that they can now marry. As Joe drives to meet her, he is stopped near the town of Strand by deputy sheriff "Bugs" Meyers, and arrested for kidnapping a local child, based on circumstantial evidence. Because he does not want to implicate Katherine, he doesn't call her, thinking that levelheaded Sheriff Hummel's investigation will soon clear him. Town gossips soon learn about Joe, however, and, inflamed by ne'er-do-well Kirby Dawson, they storm the jail. The sheriff tries to fight them off, but the national guard troops which he requested never come. When Katherine learns that Joe is being held, she goes to Strand, but arrives just as the mob has set fire to the jail, and faints after seeing Joe in the flames. Soon after, the real kidnappers are arrested and the nation is shocked by the lynching. The despondent Charlie and Tom are then visited by Joe who is still alive, having escaped from the fire. He is a changed man, though, and wants revenge. In hiding, he arranges for the brothers to convince district attorney Adams to try those responsible for murder. Newsreel film clearly identifies the members of the mob, and most are convicted, based on that evidence and Katherine's testimony. As the verdicts are read, however, Joe appears in court, convinced by Katherine, who had discovered that he was alive and helped him to realize that revenge was making him no better than the mob. He tells the judge that his beliefs in his country and the goodness of man have been shattered, but embraces Katherine after saying that perhaps after he pays for what he has done, they can start over.