|As is the case with most old horses, the pedigree of GREY JOHN winds through a jungle of contradictions interspersed with intervals where no information at all exists. In dealing with such horses, it is well to remember that the eventual destination of the bloodlines is of more importance than their origin and fortunately, the destination of GREY JOHN'S is much more discernible than its source. It is generally accepted that GREY JOHN represented an extension of the COPPERBOTTOM family on his sire's line. There is little evidence to indicate what he was on his dam's line. According to an article written by J.D. Luna in the January, 1939 issue of "THE NATIONAL HORSEMAN|
Since Mr. Luna was, no doubt, the chief promoter of GREY
JOHN blood in Middle Tennessee, it seems reasonable to accept his
explanation of the animal's origin. Almost without exception, the people
of the Booneville, Tennessee, community regard Luna’s statement as
factual. Other, more colorful, explanations have been printed concerning the
horse's early life. One such was printed in the catalogue of the "Second
Annual Murray Farm Sale." According to this account,
Since many grey horses were called GREY JOHN, it is possible for this story to contain elements of truth, but it is highly doubtful if the story concerns the original GREY JOHN. The horse generally referred to as GREY JOHN in the Booneville community was truly a remarkable animal. Sometime around 1885, GREY JOHN was put in service near Petersburg, Tennessee, where he was crossed with many fine mares and produced some of his most outstanding offspring. According to Luna, "Old men around Petersburg say the GREY JOHNS were the best saddle horses and the ones with the most sense of any family of horses that was ever known around here." GREY JOHN remained at Petersburg for only one year at the barn of Jim Dwiggins, after which he was moved to Shelbyville few months later.
It was while standing at Petersburg that GREY JOHN sired one of his most respected colts, BUFORD L., which later became a Foundation Sire of the Tennessee Walking Horse. BUFORD L. F-11, in turn, sired BRAMBLETT F-9. All three of these horses were described as being made upon the same sturdy patterns, with short backs, broad sloping shoulders, high withers, slender necks, with slim, bony heads and smart ears.”
Both BUFORD L.
and BRAMBLETT were owned by J. D. Luna.
BUFORD L. was bred by Ruben Logan of Petersburg, from who
purchased him as a two-year-old. This grey stallion was from a
mare named BEAUTY HAL by LUNA'S TOM HAL by TOM HAL. In the
pedigree of BUFORD L., GREY JOHN's pedigree is given as being sired by
BLUE JOHN by Imported COPPERBOTTOM. Since GREY JOHN was from a
mare already with foal before the army left Booneville, it would be
interesting to find out how this royal pedigree was established.
Assuming all pedigrees to be accurate, we find in BUFORD
L., a cross between the COPPERBOTTOMS and HALS. BUFORD L. was a
grey stallion foaled sometime around 1900. He stood sixteen hands
high, had powerful shoulders,
and weighed 1100 lbs. It is estimated he died in 1917.
Since this stallion traces both to the HALS and the COPPERBOTTOMS, he represents the blood imported
into the South earlier in the 1800's that supposedly had its origin in
the Narragansett Pacer of Pre-Revolutionary War days. Luna owned BUFORD L. from the
time he was two until the old horse died. Luna related how, even
in old age, the horse performed remarkably well, both in harness and
under saddle. Luna remembered later that BUFORD L. carried his
head up, always looking down the road, and had natural, high tall.
He was full of style, attracting the attention of everyone as he did the
running walk with me or others astride.
Horses of the GREY JOHN family are the only horses that I ever
rode to any great extent, and they made a sick man feel well and a poor
man feel rich. When I was on a GREY JOHN horse, I felt like I had
money in both pockets and in the bank.
Luna was a school teacher and often took BUFORD L. with him different communities where he taught. In this way the GREY JOHN blood was spread to other areas of Middle Tennessee. Although Luna never owned many broodmares, he did purchase MATTIE CRANE from the estate of the Crane family near Lynchburg, Tennessee. MATTIE CRANE was sired by HUGH'S HENRY CLAY by HENRY CLAY F-52, who in turn traces to Imported COPPERBOTTOM. MATTIE CRANE's dam was the same BEAUTY HAL that foaled BUFORD L. When MATTIE CRANE was crossed to BUFORD L. the resulting foal was BRAMBLETT F-9.
BRAMBLETT carried the GREY JOHN bloodlines forward until his death at the age of twenty-nine. He was not only an outstanding sire but a great show horse as well. In 1910, Luna moved to Farmersville, Texas, and carried BRAMBLETT with him. At this place BRAMBLETT bred many mares and in all probability sowed the first seeds of the Tennessee Walking Horse in the state of Texas. After two years the horse was brought back to Middle Tennessee where he remained until his death. Margaret Lindsley Warden discovered an old advertisement designed to promote BRAMBLETT as a sire. The name of the person standing the stallion at the time was torn away from the ad, but it is known that the location was in Lincoln County, Tennessee.
The GREY JOHNS were typical utility
horses of the early 1900s. They worked well in harness, pulling either the fancy surrey
or the plow. They were
excellent saddle horses, gentle, dependable, and energetic. Both BUFORD L. and BRAMBLETT
were fine show stock. From
the writings of Luna it can be assumed that the nature of horse shows
has change little since the day these two horses showed. Writing in 1945 Luna recalled,
BUFORD L. was shown in Fayetteville, and BRAMBLETT in Shelbyville. BUFORD L. was defeated in Fayetteville showing against two Kentucky stallions. One was old RUSKIN, and the other BLACK DIAMOND. They were indeed fine individuals, but could not do too much under the saddle. BUFORD L. was tied third due to his color, and immediately there went up a great howl from those who knew walking horses, many stating "everyone knows you have the best horse in the group. BUFORD L. could canter around an apple barrel, and do the running walk and flat walk perfectly. Luna continued, At the Shelbyville show I refer to, BRAMBLETT was ridden by one of the officials of the fair calling the different classes during the day, and in the afternoon, I rode him in the Walking Horse Class and defeated many of the great stallions of that time, including ROAN ALLEN F-38. Reflecting that intense pride and close association a person can develop for a horse Luna stated, This may sound somewhat exaggerated, however I state it for fact. Though most of them are dead, a few are living, and I can always tell and distinguish the get of BUFORD L. and BRAMBLETT immediately. They placed a certain trade-mark in their body lines, heads and ears, and especially in the striding, easy running walk. If I ever saw a GREY JOHN mare or horse that could not walk, I fail to remember it, and most certainly if it were true, it came from the dam's side.
In later years
there developed quite a rivalry between the ALLENS and all other
families of saddle horses in Middle Tennessee. From the comments made by
Luna this rivalry obviously extended to the GREY JOHNS. Speaking of
Henry Davis, one of the original admirers of ALLAN F-1, and later one of
the driving forces in establishing the Celebration, Luna wrote,
and another gentleman came from Wartrace to Petersburg one time to buy a
GREY JOHN horse and of course I was very anxious to know why, with all
the ALLEN blood they had in their community. I remarked that they had a
great show horse in the ALLEN family (obviously referring to ROAN ALLEN
F-38), but that the blood did not compare with the GREY JOHNS when it
came to utility and "getting on a saddle horse and going somewhere."
They stated that the GREY JOHN blood was to cross with the ALLEN, as the
disposition of the ALLEN horse at that time was not as good as the GREY
JOHNS, and in addition, they believed this cross wou1d be most
Indeed, the cross
between the GREY JOHNS and the ALLENS was successful. Perhaps no
bloodline ever transfused into the ALLEN family was more successful.
It takes only a glance at the stud books of the Breeders' Association to
note that BOONE'S GREY JOHN, BUFORD L., BRAMBLETT, GREY LAD, and other
GREY JOHN bred stallions were of great significance to ALLEN F-I's
offspring in bringing the modern Walking Horse into existence.
GREY JOHN blood crossed especially well with that of OLD MERRY BOY.
BYROM'S ALLEN had for his second dam a mare by BRAMBLETT, while ALEX
ALLEN, also sired by MERRY BOY, was from a GREY LAD dam. NELL
GLEAVES, a GREY LAD mare, was bred to OLD MERRY BOY twice and foaled
ADMIRAL GLEAVES followed by MY RHAPSODY IN BLUE. Both these were among
the most outstanding show stock OLD MERRY BOY ever sired, and ADMIRAL
GLEAVES proved to be a substantial sire in his own right.
On at least one occasion MERRY LEGS was bred to GREY LAD whose sire was BRAMBLETT, by BUFORD L., by BOONE'S JOHN. From this cross MERRY LEGS foaled a filly colt name SNIP was later bred to LAST CHANCE, and the resulting foal was SNIP'S CHANCE. After Albert Dement's death, SNIP'S CHANCE purchased by W. S. "Audie" Dean of Rutherford County, Tennessee. Dean bred the mare to MIDNIGHT SUN on several occasions but was not pleased with the results, therefore decided to breed her to his own stallion, WILSON DEAN. From this cross came the famous "four sisters, offspring made Walking Horse history. From these four mares came SUN'S HERO, JOHNNY MIDNIGHT, MIDNIGHT IKE, MACK K'S TRIGGER, DELIGHT'S CHANCE, DELIGHT'S SUNBEAM, DEAN'S BOSS MAN, and the incomparable SUN'S DELIGHT D. the Grand Champion Walking Horse in 1963.