Arvella Whipple, a recently widowed mother of three, travels with her three children from New England to California during the Gold Rush of 1850 to start a new life in the burgeoning frontier town of Lucky Diggins. Arvella's spirited 13-year-old daughter, California, does not share her mother's dream, however, and, ignoring Arvella's pleas to appreciate the opportunities before her, sees Lucky Diggins only as an uncivilized town populated by men hoping to strike it rich digging for gold. California rebels and changes her name to a more sensible Lucy. This triggers a change in Lucy's attitude, as she discovers more about her home and those who inhabit it. When the harsh realities of the frontier test Arvella's resilience, and take their toll on everyone who lives there, Lucy is transformed from a child into a young woman, while Arvella is given another chance at happiness.