Orphaned at the age of four, Adam Miller comes to live with his aunt and uncle in the wilderness of Ohio. As farmers, they raise him as their son. In 1838 at the age of seventeen, he is excited about the new canal system being dug. It is finished from Cincinnati to Piqua. His dissatisfaction with the small amount of monies received for their excess farm products sets him out into a new way of life. With the self-assuredness of a nearly-grown man he volunteers himself and his two friends to travel to Piqua where farmers are receiving more favorable prices. It is seventeen miles from his home, but he'd like to see the canal. While on this trip Adam meets Mr. Charles who is also excited about the canal and impressed by Adam. He encourages him to learn about the canal business. As Adam does, he grows into manhood experiencing difficult situations that call for quick thinking and sheer courage. He meets the love of his life, all in the atmosphere of the continued digging of the canal as it opens the wilderness from the Ohio River up to Lake Erie.