Bible-toting barge captain Hersholt maintains his hold over daughter O'Neill by not teaching her to read. When she makes the acquaintance of tugboat worker, McGregor, she is taught the things her father tried to keep from her. Hersholt, of course, goes into a rage, beating his daughter
and nearly killing McGregor. Hersholt has a change of heart, however, when McGregor's tugboat rescues Hersholt's barge which is helplessly adrift. The romance comes to an obligatory end with O'Neill and McGregor marrying and having a child.