'Bonanza's Cartwright Family: Who Were The Men Of Ponderosa?

By | November 8, 2018

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Members of the cast of the TV western series 'Bonanza', circa 1965. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)

Bonanza ran from 1959 to 1974, and told stories of the Cartwright Family. The western drama was set on the Ponderosa Ranch, near Virginia City, Nevada, and tales of Ben (Lorne Greene) and his three sons -- Adam (Pernell Roberts), Hoss (Dan Blocker), and Little Joe (Michael Landon) -- entertained Americans for over a decade.

Over the years, each member of the Cartwright family has been gradually taken away from us, even though they leave us with memories that we can glean from long after they are gone.

Bonanza was a weekly television episode of a ranch owner and his three sons that entertained us with all their adventures they found themselves in. The ranch owner, Lorne Greene as Ben Cartwright, had three sons all by different mothers. Through flashbacks in specific episodes, we learn about them: the mother of Adam, the oldest, was of English ancestry; the mother of Hoss, was of Swedish ancestry; and the mother of the youngest, “Little” Joe, was of French Creole ancestry. They all lived on the Ponderosa, a 1,000 square mile ranch. Bonanza became a favorite in the 1960s and, in many of the episodes, would touch on social issues but was a mixture of love, laughter, conflict and tears.   

Dan Blocker As Eric 'Hoss' Cartwright

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Dan Blocker as “Hoss” Cartwright

Dan Blocker was actually born in Texas, which certainly made him a perfect fit for the Bonanza show. Before getting into acting, he was drafted into the Army during the Korean War, serving as an infantry sergeant and received a Purple Heart for wounds in combat. When he started on the show in 1959, he stayed in that role for 415 episodes until his death. He and his wife had four children with all of their names beginning with the letter D, two boys and two twin girls. Even though he was a “big” man, he was a very kind individual who believed in doing good to others. Sadly, he was the first one of the Cartwrights to die in 1972, at the very young age of 43, of a pulmonary embolism after having gallbladder surgery. The show only lasted one more season after his death.