The Old Settler is the story of two middle-aged sisters, Elizabeth and Quilly, who share an apartment in Harlem in 1943. The sisters quarrel amiably, but they share a wounded history that becomes revealed as the tale unfolds. An earnest but unworldly young man named Husband travels up from the South to board with the sisters while he searches for his beloved Lou Bessie, who left their small town a few years back to find a new life. Husband would like to bring Lou Bessie back home, but she's enamored with the excitement of the city, and her plans are more complicated. In time, Elizabeth and Husband begin a courtship that may or may not overcome their considerable age difference, while Quilly reacts disapprovingly.