Amelia Anton's young pupil dies on a German immigrant ship bound for Texas in 1845. After the death of the child's mother, Amelia's employer abandons her. She quickly accepts the marriage proposal of the much-respected shipboard physician, Joseph Stein, only to discover that he is not the husband she expected. The Steins work with the German immigrants stranded during the Mexican-American war, awaiting further immigration inland. This story of heartache, betrayal, and business success of Amelia and Dr. Stein is woven into the struggle of teh Germans who choose to remain on that barren shell beach and create the burgeoning seaport of Indianola.