A family in Missouri waits for their son to come back from the Confederate army, but a stranger arrives to work and falls in love with the sister.
Lissy Ann MacBean (Janet Leigh) hears news of her brother and tells her father Gill MacBean (Thomas Mitchell) and mother Sairy MacBean (Selena Royle), but they are disappointed to learn he is not back. Another barn has been burned, and Gill goes to a meeting called by shopkeeper Cal Baggett (Guy Kibbee). John Dessark (Charles Dingle) and his son Badge (Jim Davis) note that all the burns burned belong to those favoring the South. The MacBean barn is burning, and blue neighbors help them put it out without any thanks from Gill.
That evening Henry Carson (Van Johnson) comes by playing a mouth organ and offers to work. Gill wants to see the color of his pants, but Sairy invites him for supper. Henry entertains them with songs and is invited to stay the night in the loft with young Andrew MacBean (Dean Stockwell). The next day he is handy at chores. He cuts wood and helps rebuild the barn. He and the MacBeans harvest their hay before the rain starts. Henry and Lissy like each other and walk in the rain. She shows him the neighboring farm that has been abandoned, and they discuss the future.
Henry suggests that Baggett host a play party so that people from both sides will start working to help each other. Baggett's wife Emily (Elisabeth Risdon) fears trouble, and so does Gill; but Henry goads Gill into going to show that he is not afraid. Sairy gets the dancing going by asking Dan Yeary (Russell Simpson) from the other side. Henry sings and then dances with Lissy. The gray group complains when Henry sings a northern song. Baggett suggests they vote, and it comes out even. Henry breaks the tie by saying he was in the Union army. Gill warns Henry not to come on his property anymore.
Henry is a schoolteacher and works on building the schoolhouse. Andrew arrives a week early to learn, and Henry walks home with him. Sairy tell Lissy that if she leaves with Henry, she can't come back. Henry and Lissy walk to the neighboring farm. Early in the morning Gill tracks them there with his dog. Men on horses with black hoods arrive and shoot at Henry. He uses Gill's rifle to shoot all but one of them and chases Badge on foot. They fight, and Henry wins.
Henry goes back to the MacBeans and tells them how he met Ben MacBean (Marshall Thompson) while both were going to war. They talk, and Henry says that Ben was the best soldier in his regiment. Henry says he promised Ben he would go help with the work after the war if Ben was killed. Gill tells Henry that he and Lissy can use his team of horses.
This romantic drama explores the difficult healing process
after the bitter Civil War that divided border communities. Greedy
men were trying to use old hatred for their own profit. Love and
cooperation are the antidotes to strife and violence.