powered by AFI
After the territory of Kansas is admitted into the Union, a corrupt businessman from Abilene named Morgan King vies for control of the new state. He is opposed by Stephen Kimball, who organizes a citizen's committee to bring down the despotic King. In Abilene, meanwhile, cowpoke Tex Rawlings rides into town on the trail of the man who stole his horse. When the town sheriff is killed while trying to defuse a gunfight provoked by King's thugs, Judge Lynch appoints Tex sheriff and authorizes him to arrest the horse thief. Kimball, meanwhile, decides to hire Wild Bill Hickok to accumulate evidence proving King's lawless activities. Kimball writes a letter authorizing Bill as a special agent of the state government and directs him to contact blacksmith Cannonball Taylor in Abilene. After Bill rides into town, Tex arrests the man who stole his horse. When Carney and Reynolds, two of King's henchmen and a compatriot of the horse thief, aim their guns at Tex's back, Bill prevents them from killing him. Soon after, King tries to install Reynolds as the new sheriff, but Tex refuses to relinquish his badge. At the town stables, Bill entrusts Kimball's letter to Cannonball. Just then, Carney and Reynolds burst in, and when Reynolds tries to snatch the letter, Cannonball tosses it into the fire. Later, Thomas Samuels, a disgruntled bank depositor, is shot in the bank, and Bill warns Tex that King was responsible for the murder, but Tex refuses to believe him. Suspecting that Samuels' murder is connected to discrepencies in the bank's ledger, Bill decides to investigate. That night, Bill and Cannonball sneak into the bank and after examining the bank's books, discover that Samuels' account is listed as closed. Certain that King is embezzling the bank deposits, Bill instructs Cannonball to spread the word that the bank is unable to pay its depositors, thus starting a run on the bank. When the angry depositors storm the bank, Tex locks bank teller Jeff Carruthers in a cell to protect him from the mob. Upon discovering that Cannonball spread the news of the bank's collapse, Tex realizes that Bill is behind the rumors and arrests him, locking him in the cell adjacent to Carruthers. When an unseen assailant sticks a gun through the bars of the jailhouse window and kills Carruthers, Bill grabs the weapon from the assassin's hand. Finding Bill with the gun in his hand, Tex arrests him for murder. Desperate to exonerate Bill, Cannonball tells Judge Lynch about the incinerated letter, but when Kimball dies of a heart attack, Bill's future looks bleak. Cannonball slips Bill the key to his cell, thus allowing him to escape, and soon after, Cannonball discovers that he only burned the envelope, and the letter is safe in the pocket of his pants. After Cannonball and the judge show the letter to Tex, Tex rides after Bill and the two join forces to defeat King. In a blazing gunfight, Bill shoots King, thus inaugurating an era of peace in Abilene. Their mission accomplished, Bill and Tex ride to the next town to establish law and order.