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Just after the Civil War, convicted bank robbers the Younger Brothers, Cole, Jim and Bob, arrive in the Minnesota town of Cedar Creek to fulfill the terms of their parole. If they do not get into trouble during this period, they can obtain pardons for their crimes and return to farming in Missouri. Already in town are Mary Hathaway, Jim's girl, the youngest brother Johnny and detective Ryckman, who has come to persecute the brothers to avenge the loss of his job with the Pinkerton agency, which he blames on them. Ryckman's wife Belle, tired of his obsession, returns to St. Paul. Denied access to the town by angry townspeople who have been stirred up by Ryckman, the Youngers camp in the nearby woods. There, Kate Shepherd, the leader of an outlaw gang, invites them to join her, but they are determined to go straight. That night, Jim sneaks into town to see Mary, and is followed by Cole and Bob. Johnny goes off on his own to the saloon, and there, Ryckman goads him into a fight and he kills a man in self-defense. Despite pressure from Ryckman, Sheriff Knudson refuses to be rushed into assuming that the Youngers are guilty. Learning what happened, the Youngers leave Johnny behind and ride to the state line to face the posse waiting there. They convince Knudson that they had nothing to do with the killing and everyone turns back toward town. Kate, however, sends one of her men to wait for Johnny to cross the state line bridge and bring him to her. Ryckman then gives Mary a message for Jim stating that Johnny has joined Kate. When Cole investigates, Kate captures him as well. Kate plans to use Cole and Johnny as the fall guys for a robbery that she has organized. Jim and Bob go after their brothers, and are directed to the town of River Rock by a message that Ryckman writes in the dust in Kate's house. In River Rock, Jim and Bob abscond with some guns, but leave behind money to pay for them. Kate then gives Cole an unloaded gun and orders him to go along with the robbery. From their hiding place, Jim and Bob are puzzled when they see Cole wearing a gun, but follow the group. At the bank, the Youngers do their best to stop the robbery, which claims Kate's life, and later take the money from the bandits and return it to the bank. On the way back to Cedar Creek, the brothers encounter a posse formed by Ryckman. The Youngers evade the posse, but Cole is wounded in the process. Cole tells no one of his injury, and the brothers hurry to their parole hearing in St. Paul. The pardon is granted despite protests from Ryckman, but he is still determined to punish the brothers. Along with some other men, he surrounds their campsite, intending to hang them. Johnny, however, forces him to halt the hanging. The brothers then return to Missouri as free men.