In 1687, Katherine Tyler, the main character, leaves the home of her late grandfather in Barbados and sails in a brigantine to Connecticut. She is coming to live with her aunt’s family, none of whom she has ever met. They are unaware of her coming. On the ship, she meets Nathaniel Eaton, the first mate and son of the captain. She also meets John Holbrook who is coming to study in Connecticut and the Cruff family. Young Prudence Cruff drops her doll in the water and Kit impulsively dives in after it. This unnerves the ship’s passengers. Goodwife Cruff says that Kit must be a witch because she did not sink in the water.
Upon landing, Kit informs the captain that her relatives do not know she is coming. This provokes the captain who needs to have extra help to haul her seven trunks and find her aunt’s home. Not only that, Kit is disappointed with the dreary town.
Dressed in her lavish clothing, Kit plods down the dirt road in hopes of finding Aunt Rachel’s house. Though surprised and shocked, her aunt gives her a warm welcome. Her uncle was not so welcoming, especially when her sees her seven trunks of clothing. It was then he learns that Kit was not just there for a visit but rather to live. She tells the family that when grandfather died, she learned that he had many debts. The plantation and slaves had to be sold to pay everyone. That’s why she has no place else to go. The only thing her uncle, Matthew Wood, wants to know is if her grandfather was a royalist, loyal to the King of England.
Kit soon learns that her clothing and possessions do not fit into a Puritan Connecticut lifestyle. The cousins, Judith (longing for the finer life) and Mercy (humble, kind and crippled) have some fun trying on Kit’s dresses. When father catches them, they get a good scolding and return to the chores. Kit begins to learn how to process wool. She finds that the chores never end and she is not very good at any of them. She hears her cousin, Judith complaining about her.
On the Sabbath day it is necessary for Kit to wear one of her fancy dresses because it was all she had. It is a rigid and tedious service. Afterwards, several folks remind her that she should be grateful for her uncle’s charity because he took in “this orphan from Barbados".
Reverend-Doctor Bulkeley and John Holbrook come for dinner. The family works hard prior to the visit so they can impress them. Tension mounts as the men discuss the politics of the day. Matthew Wood (Kit’s uncle) is loyal to free government of the new land and the Reverend is a King’s loyalist. After the guests leave, Kit finds out that a man from the church service, William Ashby, wants to call on her. Judith, who had set her sights on William, decides to switch her plan and pursue John Holbrook.
When William calls on Kit, their conversation is awkward. Then, when they join the family, William has a lively political discussion with Kit’s uncle. Kit happily thinks she will not see William again but the cousins explain that he’ll be back every Saturday evening. William, from a wealthy family, has begun to build his house and has chosen Kit to be his bride.
Kit and Judith have a job to weed the onion field. On the way there, Kit asks about a lone shack by Blackbird Pond. She learns that Hannah Tupper lives there with her cats. People think Hannah is a witch. Back at home, Kit learns that she has been asked to teach the town’s young children during the summer with her cousin Mercy.