Wiley Kane comes to the Ponderosa, along with his sister Annie, offering to work to pay back the debt he feels they owe the Cartwrights from when their father Sam swindled them. Joe tries to teach Annie to read, but Wiley objects to this out of pride. Later Wiley and Annie learn that their father, whom they assumed was dead, is actually locked up in the Virginia City jail.
Several Virginia City citizens appoint Ben as a temporary circuit judge. He soon faces a major test when the bank is robbed clean, and an old safe cracker confesses to the crime - but refuses to tell where he hid the money unless Ben lets him go free.
Don Jose Ortega claims to have a brass box full of Spanish land grants, giving him ownership over most of the area around Virginia City, including the Ponderosa. Although Jose is reluctant to pursue his claim, his nephew, bitter over the loss of land in the Mexican War, would like to claim it back. Making things worse, many others living in the area are determined not to lose their land and will resort to any means to stop the Ortegas' claim.
After falling off a wagon, a dying friend asks Ben to make sure his large estate is given to a relative since he didn't have a will. After posting an ad in a newspaper, several people come forward to claim it.
If the Pony Express is to survive the growing Indian problem must be addressed. When things get out of hand, it is Ben Cartwright who steps in to save the life of the Indian Chiefs son and secure a peace treaty.