Joe Kagan was one of the very few African-American residents of Walnut Grove. Kagan was a champion prizefighter until illness eventually all but ended his career. His obsession with winning one more bout cost him his marriage and his family. He moved to Walnut Grove to put up a challenge for one final fight but became exhausted and near-suicidal.
Charles Ingalls looked after Kagan for a few short months to set him straight and get his strength back by working for Mr. Hanson's mill. When Kagan finally regained his strength, he traveled to Springfield to secure a loan on a Walnut Grove property, only to find his own grown son Tim had followed in his father's footsteps. Joe faced Tim in a boxing match, defeating him. Kagan then retired from boxing forever. In the remaining years of his life he worked as a janitor for the blind schools in Mankato and Sleepy Eye.
Joe Kagan also had a fond relationship and friendship with Hester-Sue Terhune.