In 1798, Callie Trent travels with her parents in a wagon train to the frontier of Tennessee. Before they reach the settlement where they will live, her father tells her he has arranged a marriage with her and Jacob McGinnis, a man she has never met.
Callie objects to the marriage, but when she meets Jacob, he is not that bad.but she has come to the mountains to teach the children in the settlement, not to get married. Before they reach the settlement, they are attacked by three of the meanest men from the ridge, three Melungeons.
Callie learns about the Melungeons and becomes interested in their history. No one knows when they came to the ridge. They are strange in physical appearance and in their ways. There is much prejudice against them. She befriends one family and teaches them to read and write.
Jacob falls in love with Callie and wants to marry her, but she does not encourage him. She wants to teach school before she marries, but the three Melungeon men have other plans for her.