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In 1870, Chicago railroad magnate Marko Poli is infuriated when his daughter Sandy secretly marries gambler John Devlin and tries to stop John when he comes to get Sandy, who has gone home to pack after the wedding. Sandy, who sold a painting from her father's collection for twenty thousand dollars, makes good her escape with her new husband, then debates their destination with him. John wants to go to California, but Sandy, knowing that her father's railroad is about to expand to the Dakota territory, wants to go to Fargo and buy land options to resell to Poli at a huge profit. Sandy's enthusiasm wins John over, and despite an encounter with some mugs ordered by Poli to stop the couple, they progress with their journey. During the fray John and Sandy meet Jim Bender, a Fargo saloon owner, who also knows about the railroad expansion and is trying to coerce the farmers into selling their land to him, and his henchman, Bigtree Collins. On the way to Fargo, the group stops in Fort Ambercrombie, where settler Anson Stowe bitterly complains about the rough treatment the farmers of Fargo have been receiving, presumably at the hands of Bender's thugs. While Bender takes an early boat to Fargo, John, Sandy, Stowe and Collins board a river boat run by the irascible Captain Bounce and his black servant, Nicodemus. On board the boat, Stowe is shot by an unseen assailant, and John is attacked by two men, Carp and Slagin, and robbed of Sandy's money. When they reach Fargo, John's suspicions that the robbers are Bender's men are confirmed, but Bender refuses to return the money unless the Devlins leave town immediately, for he wants no competition in his efforts to buy up the land rights. Sandy is accidentally shot by Bender as Collins engages John in a fistfight, and his wife's injury makes John even more determined to recover their money and defeat Bender. The next day, the farmers hold a meeting to discuss their need for money to help develop their crops. Collins, who is the president of the Wheat Growers Association, announces that he has borrowed the money from Bender. The farmers are unhappy to learn that as part of the deal, their land rights will be forfeited to Bender if anything happens to their crops, but Bender asserts that they have no reason to worry. As the farmers reluctantly sign the contracts, John escapes from Bender's henchmen, who are watching the hotel where Sandy is recuperating, and goes to the meeting. John convinces Bender that Poli will re-survey the land and move the railroad rather than pay for his new land contracts, and thereby convinces Bender to consign the contracts to him in exchange for the stolen twenty thousand dollars and another eighty thousand to be delivered in the future. Knowing that he must leave town to prevent Bender from burning the wheat crops and unfairly acquiring the farmers' land, John helps Sandy to pack and they attempt to sneak out to Bounce's river boat. While at the dock, however, Sandy runs into Wexton Geary, Poli's land buyer, and the angry Bender, realizing that John had tricked him, orders his men to retrieve the documents. In the ensuing altercation, innocent farmer Plummer and his wife Hilda are killed and the documents are retrieved by Slagin and Carp. Under John's direction, the farmers organize and rise up against the gang and engage in a fierce shooutout in the midst of wheat fields set ablaze by the gang. Believing that Bender is about to abscond with the money, Collins shoots and kills him, and then is bested by John in a fistfight. Later, with their money regained, John and Sandy are about to leave for California when the strong-willed Sandy reveals that she has purchased a new boat for Captain Bounce and wishes to remain in Fargo to help the farmers rebuild their lives.