Copperbottom - A Lost Bloodline
by Larry Thornton
(c) Copyright 2005. All rights reserved.
One of the most
interesting aspects of pedigree research is the ongoing search for
information and how that information can change or enhance our knowledge
of the bloodlines we are studying. This is what keeps pedigree research
fresh and interesting. It would get boring if we stopped finding new
information, even on the old bloodlines.
Many of the old
bloodlines have had much of their history lost because we haven’t taken
the time over the years to preserve this information by visiting with the
people involved in developing those lines. One of the bloodlines that has
had much of its history lost was the line founded by the stallion
Copperbottom. The Copperbottom bred horse was considered an outstanding
cow horse in early Texas history. The success of the Copperbottom bred
horse lead to the formation of the second oldest family of modern quarter
researcher will find a limited amount of Copperbottom blood in today’s
quarter horse, with most of it coming through the R. L. Underwood breeding
program. But Copperbottom does counts among his modern day descendants
such noted horses as Jack Fiddler, the 1995 AQHA High Point All Around
Horse; Really In Trouble, the 1996 AQHA High Point Western Pleasure Horse;
Billy All Dun, the 1996 All American Quarter Horse Congress Straight Arrow
Reining Futurity Champion; Royal Evening Star, the 1995 AQHA High Point
Working Hunter and Little Orphan Ote, the 1996 AQHA High Point Cutting
Quarter Horse history through the legendary Sam Houston. Sam Houston
became a legend in Texas history as the freedom fighter who commanded the
army that defeated the President of Mexico, Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana.
The victory over Santa Ana allowed the formation of the Republic of Texas.
Houston became President of the Republic from 1836 to 1838 and then again
from 1841 to 1844. When Texas became a state in the union, he was a member
of the U. S. Senate for 13 years and a two time Governor of the state.
Copperbottom in 1839 from his breeder Edward Parker of Lancaster,
Pennsylvania. This is one year after he finished his first term as
President of the Republic of Texas. Copperbottom was foaled in 1828 and
reportedly died in 1860. He was a chestnut horse.
As the story goes,
Copperbottom was transported by river to New Orleans and then on to
Galveston by steamship. His next move was to Chambers County. Many of the
Copperbottom horses became known as the "Bismark Horses of Elmer Barber at
Barbers Hill, Texas" during their time in Chambers County. Much of this
information was brought out in a series of letters from R. L. Underwood to
Helen Michaelis in their effort to establish a history of Copperbottom.
These letters are in the Denhardt files at the AQHA Heritage Center
Underwood's letter to
Michaelis on July 8, 1942 quotes a man named Leon Van Meldert of Houston,
Texas with information about Copperbottom. Van Meldert tells that "Copperbottom
in Chambers County left a great progenity and we still remember the
Bismark horses of Elmer Barber at Barbers Hill and a great many other ones
in the possession of the Kilgore's, Fisher's, McDain's. Those horses were
stout, very fast in the quarter of a mile, short limbed."
from Chambers County to Huntsville, Texas and then on to Sulphur Springs,
Texas. Van Meldert goes on to tell Underwood that "Copperbottoms have been
very popular over Texas from Sherman to Galveston." The letters indicate
that Copperbottoms were used and bred by the likes of C. T. Herring; T. E.
Mitchell, N "Bud" Kelley; Cal Suggs and George Reynolds. He even assured
Michaelis that men like W. T. Waggoner and Burk Burnett certainly had to
use the Copperbottom’s in their breeding programs.
comments to Underwood about the speed of the Copperbottom horses is
interesting as Michaelis later professes in her story of Copperbottom,
that appeared in the WESTERN LIVESTOCK JOURNAL, October 1941, that the
Copperbottom’s were not widely raced. She put it this way, "At one time
the Copperbottom horses were known from Galveston to Sherman and were
numerous throughout West Central Texas, but unfortunately there is very
little data on them because the men who bred them did not believe in
racing their horses. They believed to race a horse ruined him for top cow
She continued, "Copperbottom
horses have gone down in unwritten history as ideal cow horses with lots
of bottom and refinement. They were intelligent and had a quick burst of
speed; many of them were fast for a quarter of a mile. They were well
muscled, especially over the kidney and loins; they had short backs, flat
bone, short legs, beautiful heads, good withers, sloping shoulder and
pasterns." This is an interesting observation as many of the bloodlines
that have endured over the years were originally established by race
horses. This includes the likes of Peter McCue, Traveler, Joe Reed P-3,
Oklahoma Star P-6 and so on down the line. All of these stallions were
noted for their speed and ability as race horses.
Michaelis does point
out in this same article that several descendants of Copperbottom that
didn’t come through Texas were well known race horses or horses found in
the pedigrees of race horses. She referred to a mare born in 1837 that was
a daughter of Copperbottom. This mare was out of Doublehead by Turpin’s
Eclipse by *Diomed. This mare became the second dam of a mare called "Copperbottom"
born in 1837. This "Copperbottom" was the dam of Buckskin, a race horse
that "ran a half mile heat race as an aged gelding is 1883, at Rochester,
Minnesota...." She was also the dam of Pilgrim, who was raced against
horses like "Lady Hunt, Doley Brown, King Scotland, Manda Brooks, Jim Reed
and Cold Deck." Michaelis found this information in Goodwin’s Official
Turf Guide, 1883, 1893, 1894.
Van Meldert told
Underwood in his letter that he owned a horse named Rock that was of
Copperbottom and Steel Dust breeding. He bought this horse in 1905. He
used this horse as a breeding stallion and then sold him and he was taken
to Mexico. Michaelis reported in the Copperbottom story in the WESTERN
LIVESTOCK JOURNAL, that this stallion could be the same "Rock, that won a
quarter mile race against Winfield at Greenville, California, September
21, 1894." She believed this to be true, although she didn’t have a
pedigree to verify this information.
Van Meldert indicated
to Underwood that there were several horses known as Copperbottom from a
variety of states. He told Underwood that some of these horses were known
as pacers. But he believed that the Texas Copperbottom had come from
Pennsylvania and was sired by Sir Archy. Sir Archy has played a role in
the development of both the quarter horse and the thoroughbred. He is
found in the sire line of such noted horses as the great American sire
Lexington. Lexington was the leading thoroughbred sire 16 different times.
He held that title continuously from 1861 to 1874. He was the sire of
horses like the Champions Asteroid, Norfolk, General Duke, Vauxall and
Harry Bassett. Lexington sired four Belmont Stakes winners.
Sir Archy was an
influential sire in the quarter horse as well. One of his greatest claims
to fame comes as the great great great grandsire of Old Billy, the famous
South Texas Quarter Horse sire. Of course Old Billy is found in the
pedigrees of some pretty famous quarter horses including Peter McCue,
Little Joe, Possum, Yellow Jacket, Sykes Rondo and the list goes on. Old
Billy was sired by Shiloh by Von Tromp by Thomas’ Big Solomon by Sir
Solomon by Sir Archy. Some will show that the sire of Shiloh was Union by
Von Tromp. Underwood indicates in a letter to Helen Michaelis that she
apparently reinforces the fact that Sir Archy was the sire of Copperbottom
with information she got from Bruce’s Stud Book.
The sire of Sir Archy
was the stallion *Diomed. *Diomed was the winner of the first Epsom Derby.
He stood for many years in England but proved to be a failure as a sire.
He was then imported to America where he became an influential sire. The
sire of *Diomed was Florizel, who was sired by Herod or King Herod as some
researchers report. Herod was sired by Tartar. Tartar was sired by
Partner. Partner was sired by Jigg, a son of the Byerly Turk. The Byerly
Turk was one of the three original thoroughbred foundation sires. The
other two were the Godolphin Arabian and the Darley Arabian.
The dam of Sir Archy
was the imported mare *Castianira. She was sired by Rockingham by
Highflyer by Herod. This gives Sir Archy at least two crosses to Herod.
The dam of *Castianira was Tabitha by Trentham.
The dam of
Copperbottom was a mare by the stallion *Buzzard. *Buzzard was imported
and he was sired by Woodpecker by Herod. This makes Copperbottom linebred
to Herod. *Buzzard was out of Misfortune by Dux by Matchem. The second dam
of Copperbottom was a mare by an imported stallion named *Rattle.
R. L. Underwood’s
involvement in trying to verify some of the history is natural as he is
the one breeder that attempted to develop this line of horses prior to and
during the formative years of the American Quarter Horse Association.
Underwood had two ties to Copperbottom. His grandfather Mr. N. "Bud"
Kelley was a rancher "at the head of the Blue House" near Gatesville,
Texas. Kelly had settled this part of Texas after the Civil War and was
known to be a breeder of Copperbottom horses. Underwood professed that he
had heard his grandfather and others talk about breeding and riding
The second person to
play a role in Underwood’s interest in the Copperbottom horses was Colonel
C. T. Herring of Amarillo, Texas. Herring is responsible for getting
Underwood into the oil business and he is the man he got Golden Chief from
to start his Copperbottom breeding program.
Underwood wrote a
note on the letter he got from Van Meldert that explains Herring’s role in
the Copperbottom story. He wrote, "Mr Herring was raised in Hill County,
Texas and came to Archer County in 1880 and ranched there until 1885, then
moved into Indian Territory. He brought Copperbottom horses with him from
Hill County and many others did the same, I do know they were not pacers,
had beautiful heads, good withers, short sloping pasterns and heavily
muscled and could run. RLU"
Golden Chief was
reportedly a direct sire line descendant of Copperbottom. The letters that
Underwood wrote to Michaelis indicate that the verification of the ties
between Golden Chief and Copperbottom was an important project for this
One letter indicates
that the sire of Golden Chief was a stallion known as "The Yellow Stud."
But this letter indicates that The Yellow Stud was also known as a
stallion named Buck. This information came from a friend of Underwood’s
mother. Buck was described in the letter as "a sorrel horse with a few
roan hairs in his flanks and a flaxen mane and tail, about 14-2 and
weighed possible 1050 pounds, and had lots of quick speed, a beautiful
head with fox ears, and was an outstanding cow horse of that day and time.
Am told that he was very heavily muscled and was a great breeder. This is
information I believe to be correct."
reports in THE QUARTER HORSE BREEDER, a book by M. H. Lindeman that the
Yellow Stud was sired by Buck. She wrote it this way, "Golden Chief's sire
was The Yellow Stud by Buck, a direct descendant of Copperbottom. It is
believed that Buck was by Rocket (1879) by Rock by Copperbottom." (This
Rock is not the Rock that was owned by Van Meldert.) Invariably every
source of information on this bloodline indicates that Buck was the sire
of The Yellow Stud and that Buck traced to Copperbottom through Rocket and
Rock. This leads to speculation that Underwood's letter to Michaelis on
May 15, 1942 may have been a typo or an error of some kind. This letter
also indicates that Underwood had apparently been sick and unable to "ride
his horses" and this could explain the potential for an error. The dam of
Golden Chief was listed as "an unnamed range mare of Copperbottom
Golden Chief was held
in high esteem by Underwood. He was "a copper colored (red dun) quarter
horse stallion with a red mane and tail and a brown stripe down his back."
This is a direct quote from the registration application that was filled
out by Underwood. He added this in a note on the application, "This great
old quarter horse stallion's foals speak for themselves. He needs no other
recommendations. He sired 340 foals on open range and is a well known
breeder of good fast cow horses with plenty of speed and action."
A note that
accompanies a letter dated September 9, 1939 tells us that Golden Chief
was more than just a "range stallion." "He was retired at the age of 14
years from the saddle as one of the great calf roping horses of his day."
This note was written when Golden Chief was 21 years old. The note
described him this way, "He is still in sound breeding condition. He is
14-2, weighs 1050 pounds and could out run his shadow."
Underwood had set out
to develop his family of Copperbottom bred horses through Golden Chief. He
also introduced good mares to his breeding program. These mares carried
the blood of stallions like Peter McCue and Old Joe Bailey. He then
started inbreeding and linebreeding to Golden Chief to perpetuate the
blood of Copperbottom.
Golden Chief may have
sired over 300 foals but one of the most important horses in the program
was Dexter. Dexter was sired by Golden Chief and out of Miss Tommie. Miss
Tommie was sired by Tom, a stallion that was also known as Scooter. Tom (Scooter) was sired by Midnight by Badger by Peter McCue. Dexter was a
blood bay foaled in 1936 that was actually bred by L. K. Johnson of
Vernon, Texas. Johnson was the son in law of C. T. Herring, the man that
started Underwood in the oil and horse business.
Underwood wrote the
following on Dexter's registration application, "Dexter is very kind and
gentle, noble head and good conformation. 14-3 hands and weighs 1100 lbs.
Has good bone flat bone, good withers and a quick burst of speed, but
Continued ~ Part 2