An epic novel about a young Massachusetts man, Charles Morgan, who goes to sea, soon becoming involved with pirate captain Hipolite Bouchard. Morgan is captured by Spanish soldiers and is condemned to death but is rescued by a Padre from a nearby Mission. Morgan remains at the Mission, assisting the Padre there and at other Missions. He meets and marries the daughter of the Vice-Governor, becomes a ranch owner, raises a family and lives the rest of his life in California. During his lifetime he is witness to battles between the Spanish and the Native Americans, many of whom he befriends. As he ages, California first becomes an independant territory, then joins the Union as the 39th State. Many of the activities involving Morgan are taken from actual historical events. These avents are portrayed as they actually occured in California's development.