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In the late 1800s, Broken Lance, Kansas, is put on the map by the advent of the Kansas-Pacific railroad. When the James gang terrorizes the town, sharpshooter John Bonniwell, a Civil War veteran and gold miner en route to Oregon, kills three out of the four members, and saves the bank from being robbed. John's gunshot wounds land him in the hospital, but bank president Steve Barat, who controls the town, pays the hospital bills and nominates John to be the new marshal. John realizes that this means that he will be working for Steve's interests, but decides to stay on as marshal after he meets beautiful Eleanor Sager, the proprietor of the town's hotel. The next day, Steve's honest but shiftless brother Jeff shows John around Broken Lance, and they inadvertently encounter trouble when Texas rancher Tom Waggoner tries to herd his cattle across Steve's land without paying the exorbitant passage fee. Tom, a long-time friend of John, disapproves of Steve's robber baron tactics, but accepts John's advice to camp overnight while John discusses the matter with Steve. Steve stands by his right to charge a toll, but when Tom's herd stampedes uncontrollably across Steve's property, John refuses to arrest him. When the Hatton gang comes into town, John confronts them for murdering his brother. After a brawl erupts, John arrests the Hattons, but the next morning, he learns that Steve has released the gang on bail and that they have murdered Tom. John's vocal opposition to Steve earns the banker's enmity, and Steve now hopes to discredit John. When Jeff asks Steve for a loan, Steve convinces him to rob the bank and keep the proceeds. After Jeff gets the money, he goes to Eleanor's hotel, but John follows him there and confronts him. Seeing that Jeff is pointing a hidden gun at John, Eleanor provides Jeff, who has been courting her, with an alibi so that John will leave. Jeff is disappointed, however, when Eleanor later professes her love for John, and out of sincere love for Eleanor, he turns the money over to John, thereby foiling his brother's plan. When Steve sends the Hatton gang to kill John while he is out riding with Eleanor, Jeff warns them in time and uses himself as a decoy for the gang. Jeff and Eleanor's hotel caretaker, Bones, are then abducted by the gang, while John returns to town and finds that Steve is using a legal technicality to seize property from ranchers. John turns the tables and arrests Steve on the basis of a telegram from New York authorities, which states that Steve was indicted in New York for grand larceny but fled before his arrest. The Hatton gang plans to overtake the town and follows Jeff's advice to take the short route over Steve's toll bridge. Jeff then sends Bones, who has escaped from the gang, to run to town and warn John to dynamite the bridge. John and a posse set up the dynamite, and when they fail to scare the Hattons with a gunfight, they discharge the explosive, killing Jeff as well as many gang members. A posse led by John then intercepts the rest of the gang, and after a fierce battle, the townspeople reclaim Broken Lance from the outlaws. Once again, John must recuperate from his gunshot wounds in the hospital, and when he hears a band playing music outside, Eleanor explains that they are celebrating her engagement to him.