The show started off as a 1970 TV movie called "The Young Country" and it premiered on ABC on January 5, 1971.
On December 31, 1971, Pete Duel died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound at the age of 31. After learning about his death, executive producer Jo Swerling Jr. wanted to cancel the show, but ABC refused, threatening to sue if the show wasn't delivered on schedule.
Production for the series continued soon after Duel's death which caused some heavy criticism in the press and his role was taken over by Roger Davis. The show continued for 17 more episodes, but it never regained its popularity after Duel's death and on January 13, 1973, it was cancelled after 3 seasons and 50 episodes.