Sayward Wheeler, a typical, stout-hearted, firm, and sensible pioneer woman. She is the unquestioned ruler of her large family. She worries most about her youngest child, Chancey, and tries her best to strengthen him in every way she can. When the family moves into a large house in the town, she manages to keep up with her children socially, but she keeps her common touch and is most comfortable among homey things. She plants some trees around the house and becomes attached to them during her lonely old age. In her will, she stipulates that the trees must not be cut down.
Portius Wheeler, Sayward’s husband, who hopes for a county judgeship but does not get it because he is an agnostic. He is shrewd in money matters and allows no one to get the better of him in a business deal. He is a popular lawyer and a financial success; he makes his family the richest in town.
Chancey Wheeler, Sayward’s youngest child. As a boy, he is very delicate and frail and lives in a dream world of his own making. He leaves home and becomes a newspaperman.
Resolve Wheeler, Sayward’s eldest child, who studies law with his father, marries a sensible woman, and becomes governor of the state.
Guerdon Wheeler, one of Sayward’s children, who marries a woman of easy virtue and then runs away after killing her lover. His daughter, Guerda, becomes Sayward’s favorite.
Huldah Wheeler, Sayward’s daughter, who runs away stark naked to a man’s house; she claims that gypsies took her clothes. Sayward goes after her and brings her back.
Dezia Wheeler, and
Mercy Wheeler, Sayward and Portius’ other children.
Jake Tench, a steamboat operator.
Mrs. Jake Tench
Mrs. Jake Tench, a former schoolmistress who has had a child by Portius.
Rosa Tench, Portius’ child by Mrs. Tench. She commits suicide.