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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
During the Civil War, the Yankees left a fine Saddle mare a Booneville, Tennessee.  She was with foal and the foal proved to be GREY JOHN, afterwards the property of Capt. Nathan Boone.  Tracing his breeding we find that he was sired by BLUE JOHN and he, by imported COPPERBOTTOM.  GREY JOHN, we believe, in his day was the most noted saddle horse in middle Tennessee, capturing ninety per cent of the blue ribbons he contested for.  Capt. Boone told me that GREY JOHN had flat-footed with him eight miles an hour many a time winning for himself the name WALKING JOHN.  

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,

During the Civil War, Captain Boone of Lincoln County, was serving with General Nathan Bedford Forrest's cavalry and the famous old sire, BOONE'S GREY JOHN was captured by Federal forces, drifting into Cincinnati, and at the close of the war he was being used as a hearse horse in the city. Captain Boone, after months of search, received the information of his location, and on a visit to Cincinnati, found GREY JOHN working with another grey, and supposed to be the best pair of hearse horses in that section.  A trade was consummated, and Captain Boone returned with his cavalry mount, and the BOONE'S GREY JOHN horse left some of the finest walking horses ever in Tennessee.

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.

This celebrated Saddle stallion will make the season at my stable one-half mile from Speeden and north of Frankewing.  He is the oldest purest blooded, and best Gray John Saddle Horse living today.  He is 22 years old, 16 1/2 hands and weighs 1300 pounds.   We fully believe that no purer blooded saddle stallion lives today, not one that will produce more saddle colts than will this grand old sire. It is his heart's delight to get a saddle colt.  99 per cent of his colts are saddle colts if there is a hint at saddle blood on his dam's side.   Bramblett is owned by J.D. Luna at Petersburg, the home of the Gray John family, and was sired by BUFORD L., also belonging to J.D. Luna.  I have him at my place for the season.  BUFORD L. was sired by Capt. Nathan Boone's old Gray John who won more blue ribbons than any saddle horse of his day. He was by Blue John and he by Imported Copperbottom.  Bramblett's dam was Mattie Crane and she was by Colonel Hugh’s Henry Clay.   If you want a saddle colt, come and get one, for everybody is doing it.  Only chance at this excellent sire.

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, 

Henry Davis 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 successful.

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. 

Sun's Delight D.

Delight Bumin Around

SUN'S DELIGHT and DELIGHT BUMIN AROUND are the only World Grand Champions who trace, through MERRY LEGS, to GREY JOHN blood.