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In Mesa Town, unscrupulous millionaire rancher Simon Miller's manager, Brody, and his henchmen, Ray Barton, Bill, Dorsey and Chuck Balew, kill young Tim Lucas when he discovers them mining for gold on the Lucas ranch. Johnny Mack Brown, a special agent from the Department of the Interior who has come to announce the government's decision to open up the local land to homesteaders, finds Tim's body and brings it into town. Meanwhile, Miller's live-in help, married couple Panhandle and Nora Jones, secretly read a letter from Terry, the grandson Miller has never met, whom they have invited to the ranch in the hopes that the young man will warm his once-kind grandfather's frozen heart. Terry's letter announces that he is coming from Kansas with a wagon train of homesteaders. In town, Johnny tacks up a notice about the Homesteader Act and how it will affect local ranchers, and when Dorsey, one of the many ranchers who hates farmers, tries to tear it down, Johnny beats him in a fistfight. Later, Brody and his men show Miller the gold they found and discuss how the Homesteader Act will foil their plans to file a claim on all the land in the area and gather the rest of the gold. When Panhandle, their partner, realizes their dirty scheme, he berates them and quits. Miller, who supposedly hates violence, nonetheless allows his men to "discourage" the oncoming wagon train. Just then, Johnny arrives at Miller's, and though the outlaws elude him by slipping out the back door, he is able to steal a piece of the gold lying on the table before Miller throws him out. Outside the ranch house, Johnny notices two of Miller's men tailing him as he searches for the gold mine, and cleverly throws them off his trail. Soon after locating the mine, Johnny meets Panhandle, who is now breaking wild horses to prepare them for the homesteaders, and they strike up a friendship. Meanwhile, at the wagon train, Barton and Bill pose as government men and attempt to discourage the farmers by sabotaging their horses and telling the families that Mesa Town is much farther away than it really is. As the homesteaders grow more panicked, Terry decides to leave his bride, Jennifer Dalton, and ride into town alone to retrieve new horses. Barton offers to ride along with Terry, as Bill secretly hurries back to tip off Brody. Back in town, Nora tells Panhandle, who informs Johnny, about the outlaws' plan, and that Terry is in danger. Johnny insists that Panhandle take the horses to the relay post, and that Nora tell Miller about Terry as well as Brody's history as a killer and his plan to kill his grandson. Though Miller acts upset, he does nothing. Later, Johnny is too late to stop Barton from shooting the young man, but he rescues Terry's runaway wagon and brings his body back to the homesteaders. As Johnny arrives at their camp, Barton and Bill flee, but Johnny chases them and ropes Barton, who confesses the whole plan. Johnny then rushes to the relay post and rescues Panhandle from Brody and his men by holding them up, but when Bill ambushes Johnny from behind, a fistfight breaks out. Johnny and Panhandle manage to subdue the gang and hand them over to the sheriff. The next day, Johnny prepares to leave town, as a contrite Miller signs over his southern range, and all its gold, to the homesteaders and Jennifer announces she is pregnant with his great-grandchild.