In 1865, former Confederate soldier Cullen Bohannon (Anson Mount) journeys to the Union Pacific Railroad's westward construction of the First Transcontinental Railroad, seeking both work and vengeance on the Union soldiers who killed his wife and son. Cullen gets hired by the railroad and supervises an all-black "cut crew", including Elam (Common), whose job is to prepare the terrain for track laying. Through conversation with the railroad foreman, Daniel Johnson (Ted Levine), Cullen learns more about his wife's death, but tragedy strikes before Johnson reveals her killer's name. Thomas "Doc" Durant (Colm Meaney) begins his "mad, noble quest" to expand his Union Pacific westward, in order to complete the transcontinental railroad. Lily Bell (Dominique McElligott) accompanies her ailing husband, Robert (Robert Moloney), as he surveys the landscape for the Union Pacific; when Robert is killed by the Cheyenne natives, Lily must cope with being a widow on foreign soil. Reverend Nathaniel Cole (Tom Noonan) baptizes Joseph Black Moon (Eddie Spears), a Cheyenne, then takes him under his tutelage in the church. Season one ends with Bohannon killing a man he believes was responsible for the rape and murder of his wife, only to discover that man was not there at the time.