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Bonanza episode
“The Hanging Posse”
Season 1, Episode 12
#12 in Series
Air date November 28, 1959
Production code
Guest starring:
Written by Carey Wilber
Directed by Christian Nyby
Episode Guide
Previous Episode:
The Truckee Strip
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External links
The Hanging Posse on IMDb


Little Joe and Adam join a posse bent on catching the murderers of Vannie Johnson. The longer they take to catch them, the more whipped into a lynching party they become, much to the liking of the grieving widower.


Three men, Blackie Marx, Kirk, and Sheister, ride up to a cabin. Blackie asks for supplies. The woman is hesitant, but says she'll get some. While Kirk and Schuster water the horses, Blackie enters the cabin, attacks and kills the woman. Schuster and Kirk had nothing to do with it, but don't want to be caught either, so they all run.

When Flint Johnson and his son, Billy, bring Mrs. Johnson's body to town, Flint says a prospector saw three men riding away. The sheriff's away and the deputy, Jeb Clanton, asks Adam and Little Joe to join them on the posse. They're reluctant, but Jeb begs and Adam agrees. "Paiute" Scroggs will be their tracker. Adam isn't convinced the three men killed Vannie, but goes along to make sure Flint doesn't do something illegal.

"Paiute" Scroggs tracks the men and realizes they're headed for dry country. He wants to stop at McSween's Tavern before continuing, to get supplies. Flint doesn't want to lose time, but Scroggs assures him that the men will tire and the posse will catch them. Flint asks Adam for his opinion. Adam says the posse will be hard enough to control and even worse if they get liquored up at the tavern. Flint decides to go to the tavern.

Most of the men are enjoying themselves at McSween's, but Billy doesn't like it and Adam and Joe don't even go in.

The next morning, Adam insists Jeb take control of the posse instead of letting Scroggs and Flint run it. Jeb isn't sure saying Scroggs has lots of experience with a posse. Adam says Scroggs has lots of experience with lynching parties. Jeb meekly shrugs. Joe says they're making sure the posse stays legal. Scroggs threatens Adam, but he and Joe are faster to draw their guns, so Scroggs backs down. Now it's clear there are two opposing sides on this posse.

The three men have reached the desert, but Kirk doesn't know why he's running, as he didn't do anything. Blackie and Schuster say the posse won't wait long enough to hear it, butt Kirk decides he's going back.

That night, as the posse makes camp, Scroggs tells the men that even if they catch the murderers, they might not hang. He's seen it happen before and sends a meaningful look over at Adam and Joe. He's working them up to a lynch mob. As everyone sleeps, Joe asks Adam what they'll do if the posse wants to hang the men. Adam says they'll fight them if they have to. Joe doesn't like the idea of fighting friends. Adam reminds him that they don't know the men are the ones who killed Mrs. Johnson.

The next day, the posse's lost the trail, so they split up. Flint and Billy see a man riding toward them. The man, Kirk, says he's giving himself up. Billy tells him to drop his gun. As Kirk reaches for his gun to do that, Flint shoots him dead. He tells Billy that he's claiming self-defense and Billy will have to back him.

As Adam and Joe bury Kirk, Flint is eager to keep going. Adam accuses him of killing Kirk intentionally. They separate from the posse. As the posse continues to track the remaining two men, Adam asks Joe if there's a short cut to the next watering spot. Joe says it's a rough ride, but there is. They take it.

Blackie and Schuster arrive at the watering hole, but as they near the water, a shot rings out. Adam and Joe beat them there. Blackie and Schuster hide in a cabin, but there's a small shoot out as Adam and Joe move in. Blackie is wounded. When Adam and Joe come into the cabin, Schuster claims he didn't want to shoot the woman and he begs to be allowed to go get a drink. Adam lets him, but as soon as Schuster kneels at the water, he's shot dead. The posse has arrived and Adam sees that it was Flint who did the shooting.

Flint demands the third man, but Adam says he's going to make sure Blackie lives to get a fair trial. The posse backs off and a few of the men quit. In the cabin, Blackie thinks it's funny that Kirk and Schuster are dead yet they didn't have anything to do with the killing. However, Adam's going to make sure Blackie stays alive even though he's the murderer. Blackie doesn't think he'll hang though because there were no witnesses. Joe's worried that Blackie might be right and it'd be easier to let the posse have him. Adam tells him that it wouldn't be right. Joe knows, but he doesn't have to like it.

Scroggs convinces the posse they can overtake the Cartwrights and hang Blackie like he deserves. Flint is all for it and calls to Adam claiming he'll let Adam keep the prisoner, but wants to shake on it. When Adam goes out to shake his hand, Scroggs knocks Adam out. The posse rushes in, hits Joe, and takes Blackie out to hang. Blackie pleads for his life. Just as they're about to hang him, Joe fires a shot and warns them that he'll kill the first man who puts weight on the rope. He takes Blackie back and helps Adam up. More men quit the posse, including Jeb and Scroggs who realizes he won't get the hanging he wanted. Even Billy leaves despite his father's pleadings to get the man that killed Billy's mother. Only two young men remain with Flint.

Adam sees everyone leave and knows it's over. He and Joe take Blackie out of the cabin. Flint asks again for Blackie. Joe and Adam note that Flint's son left him, probably got tired of looking at a man who led a lynch mob. Finally, Flint gives up and Adam and Joe take Blackie back for a trial.

Cast and Characters[]

The Cartwrights


  • Adam Williams: Blackie Marx
  • Alan Reed Jr.: Charles Buford
  • Arthur Hunnicutt: Paiute Scroggs
  • Barbara Pepper: Lil McSween
  • Bob Kline: Kirk
  • Dick Rich: Shoehoffer
  • Evelyn Scott: Vannie Johnson
  • George Sawaya: Posse Member
  • John Harmon: Schuster
  • Onslow Stevens: Flint Johnson
  • Ray Hemphill: Buck Timmons
  • Robert Griffin: Deputy Jeb Clinton
  • Ron Hagerthy: Billy Johnson



"Two men dead, friendships broken, a man parted from his son. I hope you boys remember this."
Adam Cartwright[src]



See The Hanging Posse/videos

See also[]