Jesse Morgan grew up on the lower east side of New York City. He and his mother had struggled to live since his father died in a fire. For years now she has been sewing piece work in her home and Jesse works at a glass factory which employs many children. When not at work he is aggravated by bullies on the streets. It was during an altercation with those bullies that Jesse met Emily Barnes. When she gave several blasts on her whistle they thought the police had arrived to grab them.
Emily has wanted to become a reporter. Her job using a typewriter and her unofficial research into unlawful practices by local companies were good experience for this. So when Jesse met her again on a steamboat she was interviewing the captain for an exciting newspaper article about him.
Actually, Jesse left N.Y. on the run from the police. So began his journey west. Whatever jobs were available, he did. He travelled by foot, raft, steamboat, covered wagon, horse and railroad. A hero of dime novels was his "guide" when he met with a challenge or decision to make. What would Truly Noble do? Jesse's aunt was the author of these stories which he had been reading and enjoying when not working or running from neighborhood thugs.
Jesse's reason for leaving home was his secret. Emily's secret was her identity. Because of her parentage, she and Jesse found themselves running from a kidnapper. The secret of all this, ironically, involved a Utopian community. These many secrets finally must come to light as Jesse grows along with the country.