The novel concerns the efforts of a poor rural Tennessee family to grow affluent by selling the 75,000 acres (300 km2) of unimproved land acquired by their patriarch, Silas “Si” Hawkins, in a timely manner. After several adventures in Tennessee, the family fails to sell the land and Si Hawkins dies. The rest of the Hawkins story line focuses on their beautiful adopted daughter, Laura. In the early 1870s, she travels to Washington, D.C. to become a lobbyist. With a Senator's help, she enters Society and attempts to persuade Congressmen to require the federal government to purchase the land.