‘Bonanza’: How Many Times Was Ben Cartwright Married?

by Joe Rutland

“Bonanza” fans know that Ben Cartwright would be the father to his sons during the show’s 14-season run. How many times was he married?

Cartwright, played famously by Lorne Greene, actually was married three times. This is according to the Bonanza Fandom website.

First, he was married to Elizabeth Stoddard, mother of Adam, played by Pernell Roberts. She reportedly dies, though, hours after giving birth. Second, Ben marries Swedish native Inger [no maiden last name given]. They have a son named Eric, but you know him better as “Hoss,” played by Dan Blocker. She dies while trying to defend a Native American group and gets shot by an arrow. Third, the “Bonanza” patriarch marries Marie [no maiden name], who happens to be from New Orleans, and they have his third son Joseph. Obviously, “Bonanza” viewers know him as “Little Joe,” played by Michael Landon.

There you go, “Bonanza” fans. Old Ben was married three times according to the show’s historical background. But you never saw Cartwright with a wife on the popular NBC western. His focus remained on raising his three sons and taking care of the Ponderosa.

‘Bonanza’ Would Become Second-Longest-Running TV Western In History

What a show. The NBC western would become the second-longest-running show of its genre in TV history.

Lasting 14 seasons on “The Peacock Network,” “Bonanza” would finish up No. 2 as far as long-running TV westerns are concerned. So, what’s No. 1 on the TV charts? CBS’s smash-hit “Gunsmoke,” which lasted 20 seasons with James Arness keeping Dodge City safe as Marshal Matt Dillon.

Let’s talk a little bit, though, about Greene. Here was a man who made a name for himself in his native homeland of Canada. Greene would have a powerful voice over the Canadian radio airwaves during World War II. But he eventually found himself in New York City, looking for work in the entertainment world.

His journey to Gotham City, though, would lead Greene to “Go West, Young Man” literally as he headed to Los Angeles. It was there that “Bonanza” creator-producer David Dotort found Greene, offered him a part on the TV show, and the rest is history. The show’s popularity was quite solid until the 1972 death of Blocker, a fan favorite, after gall-bladder surgery. “Bonanza” would suffer a quick decline in its ratings, leading to its cancellation in January 1973.

Greene would also go on and make an impression as Commander Adama on “Battlestar Galactica,” which is still remembered to this day. Obviously, “Bonanza” remains his No. 1 accomplishment in the world of acting. Greene died on Sept. 11, 1987, at 72 years old from pneumonia.

Still, TV western fans can’t ever get enough of watching Ben Cartwright keep the Ponderosa safe and secure with his sons. Greene’s stamp on TV will remain firmly entrenched forever.