Any horse show fans having the chance to meet the Dotson family of Williamson County, likely, will walk away being glad they did.
While they may be too busy this weekend to talk in-depth about their dynamic family history surrounding the Tennessee Walking Horse industry, and their family’s farm presence in Tennessee, know it’s one of which they’re proud.
The Times-Gazette is fortunate to be able to share the legacy behind this family of breeders and exhibitors within the Tennessee Walking Horse industry with readers.
It’s a history from the late 1800s down to the 2021 Celebration―one which just might resonate with Celebration fans that there’s more to their great strides around the arenas, than just their horse.
Dotson family history
The Dotson family history records that Jesse Ewing Dotson Jr. is the only child of Jesse Dotson Sr. and Willie Elizabeth Dotson. His family has owned a farm in Williamson County in the Thompson Station community since 1889.
That’s way before the first Tennessee walker was ever bred. But, all good things come to those who pray and wait, the Dotsons reveal.
The family is honored by the fact that great-grandfather Benny Dotson was a slave and, when he was freed, wanted to buy a farm. Most freed slaves in those days had only farmed for their living, so it was a natural and honorable thing to do.
The Dotsons took great pride in farming. But like many others struggling during that era of U.S. history, they had dreams for their families too.
The family recalls how ancestor Benny dealt with his previous master to purchase a farm, but unfortunate for him, the master suddenly passed away. The land owner’s wife said she knew nothing about this deal between Benny and his master or the money paid on it. The Dotsons note that the master’s wife repossessed the farmland.
Due to Benny's inability to read or write, he had never obtained proper documentation for the land agreement and payments that followed, history records. This was a significant blow, the family said.
The family would struggle to survive.
Along comes a stranger
The Dotson family history also notes how a gentleman rode by one day and saw the family living in a shack; he asked if they were OK.
Humble, hard-working Benny was said to have told the passerby the story of what had happened, basically how the farm slipped through his fingers on a technicality.
Though in a strange form, the family’s merciful prayers were answered.
The very generous gentleman surprisingly gave Benny money to pay for the farm and explained to him how to obtain a written receipt.
Well, course Benny did as the gentleman said and returned with a valid receipt from his purchase. The gentleman then told him exactly how to go to the courthouse and have the farm recorded in his name.
Benny followed through with the business, history reveals. He returned to his loved ones with the deed in hand.
The family history gets even more interesting.
The “gentleman” who gave Benny the money then apparently broke into the home of those who had taken the farm and stole his money back.
Family history records how the passerby happened to be none other than the infamous American outlaw bank and train robber and leader of the James-Younger Gang, Jesse James.
Generally, when this part of the history is told, especially to young ones, the silence is golden.
The family legacy continues
While it might be said the rest is history, that’s far from the truth for this family. There’s so much more which has been written within the pages of their lives.
Recognition has been within the family from early years with Jesse Dotson Jr.'s uncle and father, Luther James Dotson and Jesse Dotson Sr. praised in the 1973 “Ebony Magazine” insert, reflecting on their family-operated farming and land ownership in Williamson County.
Jesse's family has always owned and worked mules and horses, but their favorite has always been the Tennessee Walking Horse.
Still, the family still made sure their kids furthered their educations. They do this in honor of Benny, who was illiterate and didn’t have such opportunities.
Jesse graduated from Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro with a degree in animal science. While attending college, he worked for Dewitt Owen, a well-known vet in Franklin. After completing college in 1976, Jesse went to work for Middle Tennessee Electric.
Part of TWHNC fabric
The vet Owen had colts and Benny Bowman, a fellow co-worker, taught Jesse how to handle and train.
Jesse began showing walking horses in the halter division for Owen. He would begin showing horses of his own in 1977.
Jesse married Sheron in 1986; they have three children, Jessica, Jesse III, and Jaron Dotson. Jessica is married with two
children, but says she just enjoys being a Tennessee Walking Horse fan.
Jesse III’s wife, Melveshia Dotson, is an avid supporter of the breed also and has shown colts. Melveshia has introduced her family to the industry by including her nephew Zyaire Trazie, who has competed in the lead line division with his pony Lookout Mya.
Jesse III started showing at age seven, and Jaron began at age six. They’re still prominent contenders in such shows as Wartrace, where Jaron recently took a blue in the weanling division.
Jesse won the 1989 Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association National Futurity with Cash Caress for owner Bonnie Cady and earned the Reserve World Grand Champion Yearling at the Celebration.
The Dotson Brothers Farm raised World Grand Champion Cash In My Stock. He was started under saddle on their farm by James (Moe) Covington and later purchased by Charles Gleghorn, who owned Cash In My Stock at the time of his 2001 15.2 and Under World Grand Championship win.
The horse, Law & Justice, won the 2001 Youth Weanling World Championship with Jesse III. He became the first African American to win, own, and train such an entry, the Dotsons note.
Other Dotson Brothers Farm winners are Pride's Dr. B won the 1983 Three-Year-Old Gelding World Championship with Ernest Upton riding for owner John Day and the 1983 Walking Weanling Reserve World Grand Champion Everybody's Favorite owned by Dotson Brothers.
Jaron won the 2019 Owner-Amateur Weanling World Champion and Walking Weanling Reserve World Grand Champion with Luchador and the 2020 TWHBEA National Futurity Weanling Fillies with Charlie's Sweetheart.
Between 2011 and 2018, the Dotson family won seven Reserve World Championships--six which go back to one mare, Sweetheart’s Shadow dam of Pride's Dr. B, and granddam of Cash In My Stock.
While they note that are still waiting for that World Grand Championship win, they are proud of their accomplishments in and out of the ring, according to Jaron. He notes they will continue to strive for that World Grand Championship with the tried and true family determination and hard work as the family has known for hundreds of years.
The Dotson Brothers Farm has also taken colts to the Tennessee State and Putnam County Fairs. Jesse has other agricultural interests, such as owning and raising cattle and growing turnip greens. He is also very active in his church, where he serves as a deacon.
The Dotson family farm is indicative of how they take great pride in their heritage as a prominent family in the Williamson County area, and their stock of Tennessee Walking Horses they have produced over the years.
Some of their recent wins and entries at the 2021 Celebration include: Weanling Filly with Lady Serena Williams with notable wins at Putnam County Fair and Wartrace Horse show; Weanling Colt division with Toreador; and Yearling filly division with Jose’s Balenciaga with notable wins at the TWHBEA Summer Sizzler.
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