|image = File:Tvsinopse632.jpg
|full name = Joseph Joe Cartwright
|gender = Male
|race = Creole
|hair color = Brown
|eye color = Green
|born = 1842
|family = Ben Cartwright (father)
Marie Cartwright † (mother)
Adam Cartwright (brother)
Hoss Cartwright (brother)
Clay Stafford (brother)
|first episode = A Rose for Lotta (Bonanza) |last episode = The Hunter (Bonanza) |actor = Michael Landon|
- Joseph Francis Cartwright was named after Ben Cartwright's father. He has little memory of his beloved mother, Marie Cartwright, and was under five when she died in a horsing accident, one he would mirror years later when his horse Cochise falls at the ranch.
- Little Joe received his nickname because compared to his brother, Hoss, he was little in comparison. Joe likes playing checkers and poker, he also likes making bets that end up with hilarious results.
- His brother Adam believes Joe to be lazy since he was supposed to bring a herd of cattle from the north end but is no where to be seen. When we are first introduced to Joe, he is practicing fencing with an epee; a New Orleans monkey pick as Adam calls, it in the front room. A fight ensues when they both insult each others roots, Hoss breaks up the fight and Joe tells Adam that he rounded the herd of cattle in the early morning and didn't lose a single head.
- Alphias Troy needs timber Ben Cartwright has on his land, but Ben refuses to sell any timber so he uses
- Lotta Crabtree to lure one of the Cartwright's; who happens to be Joe, to Virginia City so he can trade son for timber. This angers Ben when he finds out Joe has gone alone to Virginia City with Lotta. He rides out with Adam and Hoss in pursuit of Joe. Troy's attempts to apprehend Joe seem fruitless as Joe is slippery than an eel manages to evade capture twice. At then end with an exasperated Ben Cartwright unable to locate his son finally finds Joe enjoying himself at the saloon with Lotta. As Joe is ordered to leave the saloon by Ben, he slaps Joe on his rear.
- Mark Burdette kills and sells Paiute antelope at a hiked up price to hungry miners, he meets and befriends Joe at his butcher shop. Ben tells a miner that he can buy beef from his ranch for a cheaper price, taking away the money from Burdette. Burdettes thugs dress up as Paiutes and attacks Ben's ranch hands and the miner who bought the cows from Ben without his knowledge. Adam believes Burdette is behind the attacks, but Joe doesn't believe it, so he rides into Virginia City alone to find out for himself. Burdette uses his thug Thorne to attack Joe for siding with the Indians, he is almost hung until Burdette supposedly rescues him. Burdette tells Joe that the Paiutes are to blame for the attacks and blames an Indian called Tukwa who was killed, this angers Joe since he knew Tukwa and refuses to believe Tukwa had anything to do with the killings. Joe finds out that Glory; a saloon girl, has been taken and everything about Burdette is true and apologizes to Adam.
- Joe meets and falls in love with Julia Bulette, a very much mature woman. Ben doesn't agree with the liason since she's a woman of experience and Joe is just a young man. He vies for her attention along with a man called John Millain. With growing pressure from others Julia breaks off her relationship with Joe but Joe remains faithful to Julia and even nominates her for the first honorary member of Virginia City's fire company number two for her efforts with a fever epidemic amongst other things. He also asks her for her hand in marriage but she runs off upset. Early in the morning Joe finds out that Julia was robbed and knifed by a tall dark man, who Joe confirms to be John Millain. Joe is told that Julia wants to see Ben and him, to which Julia tells Ben she'll give him back his son and she tells Joe that she only went out with him for a laugh. Before Joe leaves he tells Julia he'll be back, but when he goes outside to get on his horse the lights in her room go out.
- Joe courts danger by bringing a bolt of silk to a Paiute tribe Chief for his daughter Princess Saratucci to make a dress. Joe intends to take her to the dance and tells her where to meet him, at first the townfolk aren't happy that he's brought the daughter of a Indian Chief to a dance but soon forget once the music starts. Unfortunately the merriment is cut short when Chief Winnemucca arrives at the dance and spots Joe kissing Saratucci. Ben arrives before things get out of hand and tells the Chief that the responsibility of punishment is his and his alone, the Chief agrees and leaves with his daughter.
- Durwood Watkyns accidentally trespasses on Ponderosa land, he's tacking up posters for Adah Isaac Menken's Menkin's Mazeppa play. He is caught by the three brothers and Durwood offers free vip tickets to the theatre to see but he's scared off by Hoss as he measures his head for a noose and prepares to hang him and drops everything he was carrying. Joe jumps off his horse and grabs the tickets and Adam asks him what he's doing, Joe pretends to pick up the noose rope as it's good quality rope. Later on that night Joe sneaks out of the house with Hoss to take advantage of the free tickets he picked up. When they arrive they bump into Adam who has been waiting for them as he knew they would be coming to the show. After the show the boys end up at the saloon, Durwood enters with a chance to win Adah's garter after which Adah follows in with Ben. Hoss spots Ben and warns his brothers who attempt to downplay their presence in the bar, Ben leaves the saloon with Adah after she's shaken when the person who catches her garter is an old lover. Next day Joe tells his brothers that Ben never came home and he stayed in a hotel drinking champagne with Adah. Ben invites Adah to the Ponderosa for dinner the boys are apprehensive towards Adah, they are worried that she's not good enough for him because she's an actress. Later on that night after Adah's performance, Joe visits Adah dressed up with champagne and flowers to woo's Adah. Outside Adah's past lover Regan sees Joe closing the blinds to her room, she starts to seduce Joe which freaks him out and leans in to kiss him, but at the last minute she throws him to the ground. Joe tells Adah he wanted to show his father what kind of woman she is, but she tells him that Ben was there to protect her from someone from her past. Joe apologizes but is interrupted by a knock at the door Joe worried it's his father leaves via the window, instead it's Regan her old lover looking for Joe. Joe finds Hoss in the saloon and punches him in the face and tells him not to speak about Adah again, Joe leaves Hoss to nurse his chin and finish off his beer. Outside Joe begins to adjust the straps on Cochise when he is spotted by Regan who has come out of the hotel, he approaches Joe and asks him if he's a Cartwright, Joe confirms he is.Regan tells Joe his name and tells Joe to tell Ben when he asks, with that Joe confirms he will and turns his back on Regan. Regan thumps Joe on the neck and he falls to the ground, Regan picks him up only to punch him again. Joe rolls into an alley and Regan continues his attack Joe. Ben leaves Adah's room to check out of the hotel, as he does Hoss runs in carrying Joe in his arms, Joe is unresponsive. Ben tells Adam that Joe might be blinded from the attack, when Joe regains consciousness Ben reassures Joe and tells him not to speak, he asks Joe to blink twice if he can see him. Joe blinks twice through pained tears.
- The Cartwright's chase off some men cutting down timber on their land on purpose, Joe chases one of the men but loses him by the creek. He hears a noise behind some bushes and tells who ever is behind it to come out or he'll shoot. A young partly dressed woman comes out and Joe tells her she's trespassing on their land, she tells him he must be a Cartwright which he acknowledges and then chides him for being one of the almighty Cartwright's and that the land they're on is her fathers, Joe deduces that the young woman is Amy Bishop. Amy tells Joe to leave so she can put her dress on, when she does so a frog jumps out near her feet and she screams, Joe runs over to her and holds her with instant attraction. He helps her zip up her dress, and he apologizes for scaring her. They both part ways but before they leave Joe asks her if she comes to the creek often and at the same time, she confirms she does and then asks if he's Little Joe. Ben figures out that the Bishops were the ones responsible for the trees and decides to post his hands around the land to stop them. Joe argues that they only cut down one tree, but Ben counters by telling Joe that if you let them take one they'll then take more and more until there's nothing left. Joe returns to the creek pretending to look for a bull calf and meets Amy there who is dipping her toes, she asks him to stay. She tells Joe that her father wouldn't approve of their relationship, Joe tells Amy that he questioned his father the other night due to the fact that he met her she tells him the same thing. Later that evening Hoss visits Joe in his room, he's worried that Joe keeps skipping supper, and tells him that somethings wrong with him and Ben is worried too. Hoss tells Joe not to bottle things up and Joe reassures Hoss that everything will be alright. The next day the Bishop's set up camp and start cutting down trees on Ponderosa land, Ben wonders where Joe is and Adam tells Ben he's rounding up strays, he's actually at the creek with Amy again. Amy is reading Shakespere to Joe but Joe is busy staring at Amy to notice, he tells Amy that if either of their fathers disagree to their relationship then they'll both run away and get married and kiss. Unfortunately for Joe he's spotted by Pete Jessup one of the Bishops men. When Ben arrives at the camp his ranch hand Trump kills the camp cook and Ben dismisses him, Trump attacks Ben and Hoss intervenes. Joe witnesses the fight and arrives once Hoss has taken care of Trump, Joe tells Ben that he thought there weren't going to be any more killings and shouts at him. Ben asks Joe what's wrong with him and Joe tells him that he wouldn't understand, he tells Ben that he's going to take the cook back to his father who is at the Bishop ranch. Ben forbids him to, and Joe draws a gun on Ben. All Ben want's to know is why, and Joe tells him that killing rubs off on all of them and puts his gun away. Joe tells Ben he can't tell him what's the matter and tells Joe to do whatever it is he wants to do. Joe approaches the Bishop ranch and Jessup sees Joe coming towards them and opens fire hitting the dirt in front of Cochise, Amy's father Luthur Bishop comes out and asks him what happened. Joe apologizes for the cook and tells him Trump killed him. Luther tells Joe he has a score to settle with Ben since one of his men was shot in cold blood, Joe tells Luther it wasn't anyone from the Ponderosa and if it was his father fault he would own up to it not hide it. Jessup tells Joe next time he won't miss Joe tells him he can try now. Jessup tells Joe that his brother was killed by Ponderosa men, Joe counters saying his death was a fair fight. Jessup tells Joe not to see Amy anymore or he'll kill him in front of her, he goes for his gun but Joe is faster, Amy runs out calling Joe. Luther tells Jessup to get back to work, then tells Amy to get back in the house and tells he should kill him but since he bought the cook back he'll let him go and tells him never to come back and trespass on their land. Joe returns home with a relieved Ben waiting for him, Joe tells Ben it's harder to speak to him when he's not a kid anymore. Joe asks him if the land means so much to him and Ben agrees but counters that it's not his whole life. He asks Joe what he couldn't tell him before, Joe tells Ben about the time he went to the creek to look for Bishops men and tells him that he met Amy Bishop there and he loves her. Ben understands now the reason for his behavior and Joe tells him that he intends to marry her. Ben tells Joe to he would never hold his land above his sons and he'd rather destroy the Ponderosa, Joe wishes Luther Bishop thought the same way. The next morning Ben and the boys head over to a camp where Luther is, and Ben tells Luther that he wasn't responsible for the deaths of Bishops men and that the horses he saw were ones stolen from him, as they talk Jessup sneaks out of camp. Luther tells Ben he's not happy with Joe and Amy because Amy is young and Ben tells Luther to let her make up her own mind, Luther agrees because he believes that Amy doesn't want to leave him and tells Joe to go get her at the house. Jessup arrives at the Bishop ranch and tells Amy that the war between the Cartwrights are heating up and will end up in bloodshed. He tells Amy that he's been waiting for Amy to grow up and makes his advances towards her, Amy scratches him and runs to the barn, Jessup catches up to her and she screams. Joe arriving at the ranch hears Amy screaming and finds Jessup abusing her. A fight ensues and Jessup uses anything to try and beat Joe from throwing chains to poles, stools, forks and finally he throws a pitchfork at Joe but he ducks in time. Jessup falls on Joes gun he took off before the fight and starts shooting at Joe. Joe hides behind a stall and picks up a pole, when Jessups hand is seen coming over the stall Joe jumps up and stabs Jessup in the chest killing him. Joe looks over at Amy who has a pitchfork in her side, he runs over to her and pulls it out. After the Doctor has seen her, he tells Joe she wants to see him. The Doctor has told Amy she's going to be ok, and Joe tells her they'll be happy together by the creek as she speaks about building a house but stops in mid-sentence, Joe starts to cry. He leaves the room and tells everyone outside that she told him it could never be, a Cartwright and a Bishop.
- Joe is in town with his family buying supplies. Hoss asks Joe for some money for sweets, as they leave the shop Ben orders Joe to get his hair cut since it's been three months since the last one. Adam stays as well and as they start walking a buckboard arrives in town with Flint Johnson in the back whom Adam knows. His wife was murdered and three men were seen leaving her cabin and they want to send a posse out to catch them, Adam and Joe agree to go along. Paiute Scroggs is hired to track the killers. Joe doesn't like the way the posse talk, since they don't want to bring the men to justice they just want to hang the men responsible. In the morning Adam and Joe speak to Jeb, the Sheriff with them to take back control of the posse since Johnson and Scroggs are stirring up a lynch mob. Johnson tells Adam if he doesn't like the way the posse is run to leave, Joe tells him that they're going to make sure the posse stays lawful. Joe is woken up in the night due to Billy Johnson sobbing at the death of his mother, Billy doesn't like that Joe and his brother are against them. Joe wakes up Adam and asks him where it will all lead, if the men are caught and they do decide to lynch them what will happen. Adam tells him that they would fight them, Joe questions this as they've been friend with the Johnsons for years. Adam asks Joe how he knows the three men are guilty of the murder just because they left the cabin doesn't prove they killed her. Joe intimates that if they are guilty though, to which Adam counters that no one knows anything for sure and tells Joe to go back to sleep. The posse splits up and the Johnson's find one of the men who wants to turn himself in, Flint kills the man regardless. Adam and Joe dig a hole to give the man a decent burial, Johnson doesn't want them to. Adam tells Flint that he and Joe are leaving the posse and finish burying the man. Adam notices that the man's canteen was just about empty and asks Joe where the nearest watering hole, he tells him that apart from the one they left Purnell Springs is the next closest but the trail is more trecherous. Adam tells Joe that they have to try and attempt the trail, after a while they take a break and drink from their canteens, however Joe looks at Cochise and using his hat pours his water into it so Cochise can have some. Adam and Joe manage to catch up to the last two men at Purnell Springs, and after a gun fight they gain the upper hand when one of them is shot and drops his gun. One of the men thirsty for water goes out to drink from the spring but is shot by Flint, he demands Adam turn over the last man but Adam tells Flint that he'd kill any man who does. Joe tends to the last mans wound and he laughs at Adam, Adam asks what's so funny. The man tells Adam that the two men they killed were innocent and the one that is guilty is alive and that Adam and Joe are the ones that are going to keep him alive. He laughs at Adam and Adam tells him that they'll hang him legally and throws him down. At this point the posse is losing ground, one man leaves telling Flint that they won't fight friends. The killer tells Adam and Joe that he won't hang as there are no witnesses. Joe asks Adam if it's true he'd walk free, Adam tells him it's up to the jury. Joe tells Adam that he's guilty and they know he's guilty and wants to hand him over to the posse because it would be easier. Adam tells Joe they can't do that and Joe agrees and tells Adam that "...a man can wish can't he." Flint tells Adam that he wants to legally take the killer back to town, but Adam is reluctant and tells Flint that he killed two innocent men and will have to face a hearing. When he exits Scoggs hits Adam over the head and the posse storm the cabin, Joe attempts to stop them entering but is punch in the face for his troubles. Just as they are about to hang the killer Joe fires his gun and tells the posse that the first man to put his weight on the rope dies. The killer runs back to the cabin just as Adam regains conciousness. Adam notices that the posse has yet again fallen apart this time with Sheriff Jeb, Scroggs and Billy also leaving, he tells his father that he's tired of killing. Adam tells Joe to get the horses since the posse is now just three men. Adam asks Flint where his son is, Flint tells Adam that their friendship is broken and walks off. Adam and Joe take the killer back to town without any further issue.
It’s winter and Joe and Hoss are out on the range looking for a ram, they stop at camp and Joe takes a drink from his canteen when he spots the ram high on a mountain. He takes aim with his shotgun but as he takes his aim Hoss is trying to take his boot off and when he does he falls into Joe and Joe fires his gun and misses. Angry he attacks Hoss, and Hoss laughs at him because the rams been tracking them not the other way round, they both laugh it off. During the night an Indian sneaks into their camp and attempts to steal their supplies, Joe wakes up and wrestles with them. As the Indian rolls with Joe the supplies fall into the fire. Hoss wakes up and then bullets start firing off from the fire Joe and Hoss dive for cover, but the Indian lies motionless on the ground where Joe left them. Joe checks on the Indian and it turns out it’s an indian woman from the Shoshone tribe, Hoss checks on her and tells him that she’s going to have a baby. Joe checks to see if her tribe is nearby but doesn’t see anything, Hoss wonders why she’s on her own and thinks she’s lost. But Joe tells him that he doesn’t believe it as she was taking a certain route and surmises that she was on her way to Virginia City. When she wakes up, Joe and Hoss introduce themselves to her and ask her questions but she’s non-responsive Joe believes she doesn’t want to talk. Joe goes looking for food and spots the ram again on the mountain ridge, he aims his gun and thinks back to when Hoss told him not to waste bullets since they lost their spare ammo when the bullets fell in the fire, just as he’s about to fire Hoss tells him off and tells him to come back to camp. When they return Hoss has built a bivouac for the Indian and she’s resting under it. Joe is at the lake and a flock of ducks land in it, Joe starving wants to take a shot at killing one, Hoss arrives and tells Joe there’s more than one way to catch a duck and using a log with leaves then enter the water and slowly creep up on the ducks and manage to get two for dinner. Hoss tells Joe they should make some rabbit traps and the next day they’ve caught some. Joe makes a bow and arrow in his boredom and as Hoss is making something he fires an arrow at Hoss which causes Hoss to panic that Indians are attacking. Joe laughs and Hoss is mad at Joe for firing an arrow at him, they then notice the Indian woman is laughing too but then she crumples over in pain, she’s in labor. Joe waits by the fire when he hears the baby crying and runs over with a pan of hot water, Hoss exits the bivouac with the baby and hands him over to Joe to look after. Joe tells Hoss that there’s something wrong with the baby, the child has blue eyes making the father a white man. Hoss tells Joe they have to leave camp, a blizzard is on the way and they need to move before it reaches them, as they move Joe thinks they’re being watched he tells Hoss he wants to look around and leaves. Joe returns and still believes there’s someone out there even though he found nothing when he looked around. When Hoss wakes up there’s a medicine bag stuck to a tree with a knife, Joe confirms it wasn’t him and the Indian woman is missing Hoss believes she ran away. Joe and Hoss chase off the Shoshone tribe from the woman by firing their rifles, this alerts Ben and Adam that have been looking for them since they’re a week late from returning home. During the night the Indian woman dies and the father of the child comes to the Ponderosa to claim his child. Joe and the rest of the family attend her funeral as well as the father of the child, Jason Kyle. Ben hands the child over to Jason and he leaves with the Shoshone tribe.
Joe heads to California with Hoss to buy a seed bull from Don Xavier Losaro, Ben withdraws $15,000 for the boys to take with them. On the way to California an attempt is made to steal the money but they manage to dispatch both of them and continue on in the morning. Joe introduces himself to Don Xavier and then introduces Hoss, confused by his name Joe just tells him to call him El Caballo much to the annoyance of Hoss. Don Xavier introduces Joe and Hoss to Eduardo, his future son in law who will marry Cayetena his daughter, but she now has other plans now that she’s set her eyes on Joe. The bull goes missing and Don Xavier believes a boy took him and they go looking for him. The search party split up but not before Cayetena mentions a shack where he may have gone to, Joe and Cayetena end up alone at the shack and makes advances towards him backing Joe into the shack wall. She more or less insults his integrity and makes him kiss her. With Joe, Hoss and Cayetena missing Don Xavier and Eduardo head to the shack she mentioned, Joe hears the horses coming and escapes out the window, before he leaves Cayetena tells Joe she’s been compromised. Elsewhere Hoss has found the bull and had to wrestle a bear to keep the boy and bull safe. The next morning the boys are ready to leave but not before being blackmailed into buying a $500 wagon to transport the bull in luxury. The boy travels with them to keep the bull happy, and during the night they camp and it turns out his parents have been following close behind. Since his mother can cook Hoss more than welcomes them rather than have Joe’s rabbit stew. It turns out later that Cayetena has smuggled herself in the wagon with the boys help and she intends to marry Joe. Don Xavier and Eduardo arrive in camp looking for Cayetena, Joe tells them he didn’t know she was there. Eduardo challenges Joe to a duel, luckily for Joe, Eduardo picks rapiers as the weapon of choice. Joe gains the upper hand and wins, he tells Cayetena that it’s Eduardo that loves her not him and if he wants to marry someone he’d be the one to ask first. Cayetena slaps Joe and tells him he almost killed the man she loves and slaps him again she tells Eduardo she was only testing his love for her. Later Joe is worried that the boy and the bull have been missing since he took the bull to the creek and goes looking for him. A short while later he runs back into camp and tells everyone that there are moccasins tracks and the Indians have him and the bull. When Joe finds the boy and bull it appears the boy has proven his worth by offering his life for the bull and becomes blood brothers with the Chief. Finally Joe, Hoss and the boy arrive at the Ponderosa. Ben questions them about the wagon, then the boys family arrive and Ben is even more confused but welcomes them. Adam doesn’t believe there was no trouble getting the bull back home, so Joe tells him what happened on their trip, Ben looking at ‘Big Red’ then says ‘That’s certainly a lot of bull.' Adam agrees.
North and South play out when Fredrick Kyle arrives into Virginia City, he books a room at the local hotel and starts asking questions about the Cartwright family. The hotelier tells him that Adam and Little Joe are in town picking up supplies. Kyle takes a special interest in Joe and asks about him, the hotelier tells him he’s inside the bar. Joe is playing poker and is losing; Kyle walks in and notices there’s a man behind Joe giving cues to his partner. Kyle tells him to give Joe his money back but Joe tells him he can fight his own battles. A fight starts between Kyle and the poker player and even with only one good arm he manages to subdue him. Joe takes his money back but Kyle tells him not to take all of it as he has to learn a lesson and pay for it. Joe introduces himself to Kyle and wants to repay him, Kyle tells him he’s not had a decent meal since leaving Kansas City. Joe invites Kyle to the Ponderosa and Ben thanks him for what he did for Joe. Kyle is interested in purchasing gold and silver and wants to speak to the people who control it, Joe volunteers to take Kyle to them since he knows them. Hoss doesn’t understand how people from the same country ended up divided, Joe mentions that Adam is from the North and he is from the South. Hoss is somewhere in between since he was born on the prairie. That evening Joe is with Kyle at the bar and Kyle is attempting to make a contract with one of the miners, but he refuses to do business with Kyle. Joe questions Kyle regarding politics as his motive to buy all the gold and silver but he changes the subject and tells Joe he knew his mother and gives him a portrait of her. A lady friend of Kyle’s is killed in a supposed stagecoach accident, Kyle is still evasive about who she is, Adam keeps asking him questions he’s getting no answers to. Joe doesn’t like Adam’s line of questioning and Ben stops the argument between the pair before it escalates. At the scene of the accident the Sheriff wants to know how Kyle knows who is guilty for the accident, at which point Joe and Hoss appear with some evidence to prove it was who Kyle says. Adam demands to know how Kyle knew who did it but Joe says it doesn’t make a difference as long as they’ve got the men who did it. Adam disagrees asking Kyle if they were acting on his orders or just murder. Adam asks him if it was the woman he wanted to kill or the man riding with her (Mr Hennessey who was going to Washington to report about Kyle’s activities on funding the Civil War in the south). Joe doesn’t like Adam riding Kyle and Adam pushes Joe away, resulting in Joe returning a punch to Adam’s face, Ben breaks up the fight and is disappointed that his son’s are fighting. Joe returns home later that night but he doesn’t stay, he’s taken a few things and gone back to the city. Adam believes that if he leaves home Joe will come back, he also believes that Joe needs his Pa more than he does and leaves. Ben interrupts a meeting that Joe is attending with Kyle, he wants to speak to him alone but let’s Joe stay. Ben again brings up the subject of the woman who died in the stagecoach, he guesses that the woman was his wife. Kyle raises a candlestick to Ben and Joe takes a step forwards but Kyle puts the candlestick down and confirms she was indeed his wife. He confirms his cause and Joe feels like an idiot and apologizes to Ben. The next day Joe finds Adam and they have a chat, Adam tells Joe they should both go home much to the relief of Ben and Hoss.
Joe and Hoss are mistaken for the notorious Slade brothers as they bear a striking resemblance to them, they arrive in town and naturally the townsfolk are a little uneasy. They go to the saloon and there’s an uneasy feeling in there, since everyone is watching them and the bartender is nervous. They head to the hotel and no one is there, Hoss tells Joe to just sign the book and get a room with a lock. Lorna Doone and her group of women meet with Joe and Hoss before they come out of the hotel and beseech them not to kill their men folk as there aren’t enough men to go around as it is. When they leave the hotel they get shot at and run into the saloon, Hoss waves a white flag but it just gets shot to pieces much to the annoyance of Joe as it was his neck cloth. At gunpoint the town folk ask them who they are but they don’t believe them when they tell them their real names and that they’re there to buy cattle since they’re so far away from Nevada. They’re just about to get lynched when the Sheriff arrives and tells them he’s not sure they have the Slade brothers since they’ve never seen them before and before they hang them he wants to be sure, they end up in jail until someone can confirm their identity. Later that evening Joe and Hoss are talking in jail when a rock is thrown into their cell from the outside, Joe reads the message attached to it and it’s from Black Alonso the Red Handed Avenger (McFadden) who’s going to rescue them. Lorna Doone arrives at the jail to give Hoss and Joe a tribute, after a while with Joe suffering from the long tribute and the smothering of the ladies group she finally finishes. While the young ladies argue over Joe the wall to their cell is pulled down from the outside and Joe and Hoss escape. Joe and Hoss tell McFadden that they’re not the Slade brothers resulting in their imprisonment in his house. Joe and Hoss find out that the Slade brothers were hired to kill Anse Hadfield over a feud, they attempt to escape but Hoss makes too much noise when they leave and are soon recaptured again. McFadden wants Joe and Hoss to fulfill their obligation to kill Anse and if they don’t they’ll hang. Hoss tells McFadden to go to town and ask Twirly Boggs to confirm they’re not the Slade brothers as he knew them. When McFadden finds Twirly Boggs at the saloon he confirms that they are the Slade brothers so McFadden tells them to do their job. Joe asks the Sheriff what started the feud and the Sheriff tells him it was over a hog. The Sheriff believes Joe and Hoss aren’t the Slade brothers and doesn’t trust a single word Twirly Boggs says so he tells Joe and Hoss that their guns and horses can be picked up so they can leave. Hoss doesn’t want to leave and asks the Sheriff if there’s anything they can do, to which the Sheriff tells them that Lorna Doone is the key “You get the women on your side and the battle is won.” Just as the Hadfield’s and the McFadden’s start firing, Lorna Doone arrives with her group of ladies. Each woman tells off their man resulting in the end of the fight as they’d rather not incur the wrath of their wives/girlfriends and go home. McFadden and Hadfield buy a drink together and end the feud. The Sheriff tells them to leave as people still think they’re the Slade brothers. Hadfield is not happy that McFadden hired killers to end the feud so both decide to kill the Slade brothers who are the root of their problems. Joe and Hoss meet the Slade brothers on their way to the town they just left and after a while they hear a hail of gunfire.
Joe is cleaning his rifle outside the Ponderosa with Hoss, Hop Sing arrives back but he seems in distress, Joe goes over to him and helps him off his horse while Hoss shouts for Ben and Adam. They help him sit by a bench but when they ask what happened, Hop Sing refuses to talk about it and that it’s Chinese business. Joe asks why anyone would want to do a thing like this and Ben responds it’s because Hop Sing is Chinese. Joe is confused but he’s not happy Hop Sing was beaten up. They all head into Virginia City where they’ve been invited to Jimmy Chang’s 18th birthday party. Jimmy is late for his birthday party and Joe is worried as he’s an hour late, but Jimmy runs into the house out of breath and dirty. Jimmy tells everyone that Sally Ridley is dead and her father killed her by accident but he’s being blamed. Men demand Jimmy to be handed over to them but Hoss and Joe won’t let them take him. Jimmy goes to the Sheriff’s office with Hoss and Joe because he’s innocent until proven guilty. The Sheriff has no choice but to arrest Jimmy to keep him safe from the growing tensions arising. The Cartwright’s attend the inquest and things aren’t looking good for Jimmy. The inquest deems Jimmy must stand trial of Sally Ridley mainly because her father testifies Jimmy killed her. Joe is at the Sheriff’s office playing checkers with Hoss and wins. Joe wonders what’s going to happen at a meeting being held, but Ben’s not sure but he thinks they might try and lynch Jimmy. Joe refuses to leave and tells the Sheriff he has to throw him out, so the Sheriff makes it legal and swears them all in as deputies. The lynch mob appears outside the Sheriff’s office and Sally’s father JR Ridley attempts to stop everyone and wants to tell the truth of what happened; he is shot for his troubles. Sally’s sister Amanda tells everyone the truth, Joe releases Jimmy from his cell.
Charles LeDuque comes to Virginia City to cause trouble for Ben Cartwright he bumps into Joe at the Territorial Enterprise because Ben is running for the position of Governor. He more or less threatens Ben in front of Joe, for his troubles he is punched by LaDuque’s right hand man, Cole. Joe heads over to the hotel to find Cole, but he’s not there and LaDuque invites Joe into his room. They talk and Joe wants to know why he’s here in town, LaDuque tells Joe he wants Ben to stay out of politics and introduces himself as an Inspector of the New Orleans Police Department. Laduque tells Joe he’s after Ben for the charge of murder, Joe doesn’t believe him and leaves. Ben returns to the Ponderosa with Adam after attending a party where he was the guest of honour, Joe is subdued from their return and Ben notices. Joe tells Ben what happened in town and Ben seems to know Charles, Ben leaves for Virginia City immediately. Ben withdraws from the Governor campaign. He tells Joe about his mother and the circles she had and Simon LaRoche was blackmailing his mother to keep him quiet. Joe wants to know that the secret is but Ben tells Joe it doesn’t matter since he loved her and when he found out about the blackmailing he went to LaRoche and they argued and LaRoche pulls a knife on Ben so Ben kills him in self defence. Ben never stood trial because he didn’t want the secret coming out and left New Orleans. Upset, Joe tells everyone he just wants to go out and wants to be alone. That night he visits his mother’s grave and then rides out into Virginia City to find LaDuque. He forces his way into LaDuque’s room to talk but is interrupted by Cole who starts fighting with Joe, pulls out his gun but Joe is faster and kills Cole. Joe kills him in self defense but LaDuque tells him it’s not how he saw it. LaDuque tells Joe he can finally reveal the secret in court, so Joe runs away. Laduque quickly holsters Cole’s gun and accuses Joe of killing Cole in cold blood. The Sheriff comes to the Ponderosa to arrest Joe but he’s not there, Ben tells the Sheriff that he’ll bring Joe to him. Ben finds Joe at his mother’s grave, Joe tells him that he’s going away but Ben won’t let him and asks him what happened. Because he ran away it makes Joe look guilty of the murder, but Joe doesn’t have a choice since LaDuque was the only witness. Joe wants to run away to protect his mothers integrity and doesn’t want to stand trial to let the dirty secret out, Ben asks Joe to come home and not to make the same mistakes as he did. In the morning Joe arrives in town with his family and heads to the Sheriff’s office, he’s arrested and placed in a jail. Later LaDuque heads to the jail and Joe wants to know why, Ben tells him he’s coming to tell the truth if Ben returns to New Orleans with him. Ben tells the Sheriff not to release Joe until he’s left.
Joe and Adam are rounding up strays when Adam tells Joe to take what they have back to the ranch. When Joe returns home he finds Hoss building a house of cards, while Hoss carefully stacks the final tiers Joe shouts at the cards and they fall down. Hoss chases Joe around the house and luckily for him Ben comes home and Joe hides behind him. Joe uses Ben as a shield to stop Hoss from getting at him but when he offers Ben a seat in his office he’s penned in and can’t escape. Ben asks about Adam and Joe tells him he’s going to come. Hoss grabs him and gives him the odd bear hug when he says the wrong thing. A group of Cavalrymen arrive at the ranch and Captain James Bolton is looking for some deserters that were moving in the direction of the Ponderosa. Joe tells him that he didn’t spot anything when he was out. Adam returns to the ranch dazed and with a head wound, he tells everyone when he and Joe split up he was jumped. Since Joe knows where they were before Adam was jumped he takes Ben and the soldiers to the spot where they were last at. Joe attempts to track the deserters but can’t find anything so they look further on. Joe finds some tracks and whistles for Ben, he tells him that the tracks are fresh and they follow them. One of the men hiding in a cave attacks one of the soldiers and attempts to run, Ben stops him. Without provocation Captain Bolton slaps the deserter because he’s not giving the answers he wants. Joe and Ben look at each other in surprise, when the Captain is about to punch the deserter Ben grabs his arm. When the prisoner is told he is going to the hot box he struggles and attempts to shot, he tells Ben he was attempting to escape. Joe goes with Ben and Hoss over to Nedder’s place, Hoss visited her earlier and she was standoffish so they go to investigate. Arriving at her place it seems deserted so Joe and Hoss take a look round the back while Ben goes to the stables. Joe and Hoss haven’t found anything and head to the stable since their Pa hasn’t come back from there. Joe guards the stable door while Ben rides off to convince the Colonel back at the fort that the deserters want to give themselves up rather than turn them over to Bolton. Joe tells Nedder she can’t judge a whole army by one man, but Sutton tells Joe he’s the one that they have to go back to him and he’ll kill them. Sutton tells Joe that they can turn their backs while they make an escape but Joe tells him to save his breath. Sutton asks Nedder for her help but she tells she can’t, he deduces that there’s something going on between Nedder and Tyler so Tyler punches Sutton. During the fight Hoss grabs Tyler and Joe grabs Sutton to split them up but in doing so Sutton steals Joe’s gun in the scuffle and threatens him to Hoss. He attempts to steal Cochise but is stopped just as the soldiers arrive at the ranch, Sutton attempting to run is shot in the back. Joe leaves the barn with Hoss and remind Bolton that Tyler doesn’t have a gun. When Tyler comes out of the barn to give himself up, Bolton accuses him of carrying a gun and is about to shot him when Ben bumps him, Sutton who is not yet dead manages to dispense the same justice before he dies and shoots Bolton in the back killing him.
Joseph Francis Cartwright "Little Joe" was the only Cartwright born on the Ponderosa, unlike his other family members. He was the third biological son of Ben Cartwright.
Joe is shown as sneaky, smart, and cute. He often pulls Hoss into his schemes. Joe is widely known as a ladies man, although many of his romances never work out. Joe enjoys reading detective novels and loves to laugh, which is contagious to anyone near him. His trademark horse, Cochise, often fondly called Cooch, is a black and white pinto. Joe is very fond of his horse. Joe is not known to back away from a fight or a challenge and his hot temper sometimes takes over from good sense. However he seems able to recover from any beating or bullet wound with nary a scratch.