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In 1865, Parson Josiah Doziah Gray arrives in the small Southern town of Walsburg and begins preaching to the townspeople. The town has become so dangerous over the years that Josiah gives his first sermon at the local saloon while holding the patrons at gun point. Josiah leads the effort to build the town's first church, and soon falls in love with and marries Harriet, the church organist. Josiah also befriends Uncle Famous Prill, a black man with whom he often goes fishing. Famous owns mica-rich property, which the nefarious general store owner Lon Backett is trying to wrest from him. Time passes, and the Grays adopt John Kenyon, Josiah's nephew, who has been orphaned. Nearly a decade after his arrival in Walsburg, Josiah learns that Daniel Kalbert Harris, Jr., a recent medical school graduate and the son of one of Josiah's friends, is planning to leave Walsburg because the townspeople are hesitant to accept a young doctor with modern schooling as their physician. The doctor rejects Josiah's piety, and while looking for work outside the town, falls in love with Faith Radmore Samuels, a Walsburg schoolteacher. Daniel tries to persuade Faith to move away with him, but just as they are about to leave, an epidemic of typhoid breaks out and John falls ill. Daniel stays to care for the ill, but he soon comes to suspect that Josiah is unwittingly spreading the disease at his sermons. Hoping to prevent further infections, Josiah consents to the doctor's suggestion that he go into a self-imposed quarantine. When Faith contracts typhoid and is given a poor prognosis by Daniel, Josiah stuns the doctor and others by saving her life through prayer. Humbled by the experience, Daniel apologizes to Josiah for not believing in the healing power of prayer, and the two make amends. Later, Daniel again demonstrates the power of divine guidance when, through prayer, he single-handedly disperses an angry mob seeking to take away Famous' land.