The western drama
BONANZA/NBC/1959-73 starred Lorne Greene as Ben
Cartwright, the widowed patriarch and owner of
the Ponderosa, the richest, largest spread this
side of the Rockies.
Ponderosa, a 1000 square mile timberland
ranch, was located in the Comstock Lode country
between Virginia City and Carson City on the
north and the shores of Lake Tahoe on the south.
Ben (who rode a horse named Buck) ran the Ponderosa with help of
his loyal Asian cook, Hop Sing (Victor Sen
Yung) and his three
grown sons (each born of different mothers).
Ben's sons included:
- Pernell Roberts as Adam Cartwright, the
Dan Blocker as Eric "Hoss" Cartwright, the
- Michael Landon as Joseph "Little
Joe" Cartwright, the youngest
Adam Cartwright, the university educated son, was the poet of the family. He
enjoyed reading literature and sampling the finer things in life. But, Adam was
also an accomplished horsemen and could hold his own in a gun fight. He rode a horse named Beauty (and Sport).
Adam, considered the most serious of the sons, was
the only one to leave the Ponderosa. Like his father, who had been a ship's first mate in his younger days, Adam set to sea as a sailor. From time to time,
he sent letters home to keep his family up-to-date about his travels abroad.
Adam never returned home.
Adam's mother was Elizabeth Stoddard (Geraldine Brooks), the daughter of ship's Captain with whom
Ben worked as a first mate. Elizabeth died from complications from giving
birth to Adam. Consequently, his father Ben, decided to leave New England and his
job at a chandler store (goods or equipment dealer) and travel west to California. But they settled in St.
Joseph, Missouri where Ben fell in love with his second wife.
Hoss Cartwright is the easy-going middle son. He
is a big man with equally big appetite. He was always at odds with Hop Sing, the ranch cook
and often chased away while attempting to raid
the kitchen for something to eat. Hoss always heeded Hop Sing's warnings,
he didn't want to get on the bad side of the man that provided such wonderful meals.
Hoss rode a horse named Chub (and Ginger and Piute).
One of the funniest things to happen to Hoss was the time he thought he saw
leprechauns in the woods near the Ponderosa. When he reported the tale of little
green men to his family, they burst out laughing.
The little green men turned out
to be a band of dwarf circus performers who were trying to retrieve a box of gold that
contained their life's savings which Hoss found in the woods.
Initially, the discovery of that cache of gold coins caused an influx of frantic
fortune hunters who trespassed on the Ponderosa with shovels in hand with the
hope of finding their own pot of gold.
Hoss' mother was a Swedish girl named Inger
Borgstrom (Inga Swenson) whom Ben had fallen in love with while he lived in St.
Joseph, Missouri. She was killed during an Indian attack while traveling to
California with Ben and Adam.
Before she died, Inger gave birth to Hoss (whom
she called Eric). Eric used his middle name Hoss, which is a Swedish mountain
term for a big, friendly man. After Inger died, Ben gave up his dream of
traveling to California and settled in Virginia City, Nevada where he
established his Ponderosa empire in the wilderness on the outskirts of
Joseph "Little Joe" Cartwright was the youngest son. He was the lover boy of the
bunch, always courting the prettiest girl in the area. Joe was also the most
emotional, as well, often losing his temper at the drop of a hat, and usually
when it involved a woman.
Mischievous at heart, Joe was always thinking up schemes to make a fast buck. He
often recruited his gullible brother, Hoss (who should know better - per Ben) to
help with his endeavors which usually had unforeseen consequences. Joe rode a
pinto hose named Cochise (and Paint).
Joe's mother was a Marie De Marne (Felica Fatt), a French woman whom Ben
Cartwright met during a trip to New Orleans. She was the widow of ranch hand who
had saved Ben's life. Ben traveled to Louisiana to fulfill the man's last
request. Romance ensues and Marie returns to Virginian City as Ben's wife. She
gives birth to Little Joe but then tragically falls from her horse and dies.
Map of the Ponderosa ranch
Other persons of note in the lives of the Cartwrights included:
Ray Teal as Sheriff Roy Coffee, the law in
- David Canary as "Candy" Canaday, the ranch
- Guy Madison as Will Cartwright, a Ben's
handsome nephew. who visited the Ponderosa for
a short time.
- Bruce Yarnell as Muley Jones, Ben's cousin
- Lou Frizzel as Dusty Rhoades, Ben's
- Mitch Vogel as
Jamie Hunter-Cartwright, a red-haired teenager
whom Ben adopted as a son. Dusty had taken
charge of Jamie after his rainmaker dad died.
- Tim Matheson as Griff King, Candy's friend
and ex-convict who took a job at the
Listen to Theme
Theme Song Lyrics
(Lyrics never used
on the show)
We got a right to pick a little fight - Bonanza!
If anyone fights anyone of us he’s gotta fight
We’re not a one to saddle up and run: Bonanza!
Anyone of us who starts a little fuss knows he
can count on me.
One for four. Four for one: This we guarantee.
We got a right to pick a little fight: Bonanza!
If anyone fights anyone of us he’s gotta fight
TRIVIA NOTE: The Ponderosa
was featured in the NBC TV-Movie remakes Bonanza: The Return (1993); and
Bonanza: Under Attack (1995) and the short-lived prequel series PONDEROSA/PAX/2001-2002.
The series theme song was composed by Ray Evans & Jay Livingston.
There was also a TV movie pilot entitled Bonanza: The Next Generation
that aired on March 16, 1988. It chronicled Aaron Cartwright (John Ireland),
the new head of the Ponderosa after his brother, Ben died. The new folks on
the ranch included:
- Barbara Anderson as Annabelle Cartwright, Little Joe's wife
(Joe died while serving with Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders)
Michael Landon, Jr. as Benji Cartwright,
Little Joe's son.
Brian A, Smith as Josh Cartwright, the illegitimate son of the
late Hoss Cartwright.
Obituaries: Lorne Greene - 09/11/1987; Michael
Landon - 07/01/1991; Dan Blocker - 05/13/1972; Victor
Sen Yung - 11/09/1980;
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