powered by AFI
During the California gold rush, a wagon train guided by ex-Army lieutenant Jonathan Trumbo, a deserter, stops in a small town, where Lily Bishop, a woman traveling alone, is thrown out of the saloon and accused of cheating at poker. Lil asks to join the wagon train, but because Trumbo refuses to take her, kindly old farmer Michael Fabian invites her to ride with him. Throughout the journey, Trumbo is unkind to Lil and she is snubbed by the women. When Lil beats Trumbo at poker one night, he accuses her of cheating. Later he kisses her, but she swears revenge. When news arrives that gold has been found in California, the pioneers abandon their goods and hurry West, and Lil leaves with a rough man named Booth Pennock, determined to make her own fortune. Trumbo tries to apologize to Lil, but Pennock whips him as they ride out. Fabian nurses Trumbo's shoulder and drives him West. Some time later they arrive in Pharaoh City, run by ex-slave trader Pharaoh Coffin, who is determined to make California an independent nation state so that he can rule. In the Golden Lily Saloon, owned by Lil, a farmer named Whitey tells Trumbo that Coffin has been forcing the farmers off their land by charging exorbitant prices for water and protection. Lil rescues Trumbo from a brawl with Pike, Coffin's henchman, but when Trumbo awakens, Lil warns him never to set foot in her saloon again. Later, Trumbo wins Lil's saloon at poker. After he resists Coffin's orders to join his gang, Trumbo is beaten and put on a horse, and following his rescue by two Mexicans, he vows revenge. Meanwhile, Lil moves into Coffin's hacienda. Hoping to convince the state's politicians to resist statehood, Coffin hosts a fiesta, while secretly planning an armed seizure of government property. When Trumbo warns an army captain about the seizure, he is reminded that, as a deserter, he could be court-martialed if Coffin proves to be innocent. Trumbo is given ninety days to find a spokesman for California statehood to appear at the Monterey Convention, where he will be elected as the state's advocate, and the issue of statehood will be decided. Trumbo picks Fabian, and he is elected spokesman. Although Lil warns Fabian that he will be killed if he contravenes Coffin, he gives a speech indicting Coffin for trying to make California an "independent empire." One of Coffin's men tries to shoot Fabian, but a loyal farmer takes the bullet. After Trumbo shoots the assailant, Coffin's supporters abandon him, and Lil sees his treachery for the first time. The next morning, at his hacienda, Coffin asks a padre to marry him and Lil, but she has fled to warn Fabian. She is too late, however, as Fabian is killed in his vineyard by Coffin's gang before Trumbo and his posse arrive. At the hacienda, Trumbo finds Coffin hallucinating that the slaves on his ship have freed themselves and are about to kill him. Lil shoots Coffin and saves Trumbo. Later, they visit Fabian's grave, where Trumbo tells Lil that he will return to the army, and she promises she will wait for him.