The Sign of the Beaver tells the story of a 12-year-old boy, Matt, and his father, who, as early settlers, together build a wooden cabin in Maine in 1769. However, Matt's father must head back to Quincy, Massachusetts, to get Matt's mother, sister, and newborn sibling who were all left behind so Matt and his father could build shelter for them. Matt's father promises to return in seven weeks and Matt is left alone with his father's old watch (a family heirloom) and a hunting rifle to guard the family's newly-built homestead and field crops. Unfortunately, Matt finds himself enduring many hardships for which he is unprepared. His hunting rifle is stolen by a stranger named Ben, his crop is picked over by the wildlife, and his food supplies are pillaged by a hungry bear.