Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX


July 30, 2011

Bob Bowman’s East Texas

Bowie and his knife


Texas historians have written volumes about Jim Bowie, who died at the Alamo, but what people remember most about him is a big hunting blade he carried--a weapon known in history simply as the Bowie Knife.

In 1838, two years after the Alamo’s fall, Rezin Bowie, Jim’s brother, claimed he made the first Bowie knife while the Bowie family lived in Avoyelles Parish, Louisiana. He designed it as a hunting knife and gave it to Jim after he had been shot in a fight.

But the man who actually made the famous knife, was Jesse Clifft, a blacksmith who was a friend and neighbor of the Bowies.

The Bowie knife gained widespread popularity after the celebrated sandbar fight on September 19, 1827, near Natchez, Mississippi.

On that date Samuel Levi Wells confronted Dr. Thomas Maddox on the sandbar. After firing pistols at each other without effect, Wells and Maddox shook hands and started off the field. But members of the Maddox group suddenly fired at Wells’ followers, which included Bowie. Bowie fell, shot through a lung,

An arch-enemy, Norris Wright, who along with Alfred Blanchard, stabbed Bowie repeatedly with sword canes. Bowie raised himself, grabbed Wright and sank his big knife into Wright’s heart, killing him instantly.

Newspapers across the nation printed lurid and detailed stories of the Sandbar Fight. The public reveled in the prowess of Bowie and his knife.

Later, W.W. Bowie, a kinsman, wrote that Bowie gave his Sandbar Fight knife to the famous actor Edwin Forrest, whom Bowie had met in New Orleans in February, 1824.

In the history of American arms, three weapons stand out above all the rest: the Kentucky rifle, the Colt revolver, and the Bowie knife. Each became an American legend.

What happened to the original Bowie knife after Bowie died at the Alamo?

It’s a mystery. One supposed original is on display at the Alamo. Another was supposedly lost by Bowie when he left it on the ground after killing a deer near Goliad, returned to retrieve it, but could not find it. And a museum in Arkaansas claims it has the original in its collection of knives.

(Bob Bowman of Lufkin is the author of more than 50 books about East Texas. He can be reached at bob-bowman.com)

Bob Bowman of Lufkin is the author of more than 50 books about East Texas. He can be reached at bob-bowman.com

Text Only
  • Hoisting flags and honoring family

    While searching our syndicated columns to fill this space, I realized ... it's probably time for me to say a few things.
    A lot has been happening lately, professionally and personally.

    April 18, 2014

  • Local reviews ‘Tomato Republic’

    On April 9, I had the privilege and pleasure of seeing the world premiere of The Tomato Republic, a documentary movie about the 2013 Jacksonville, Texas, mayoral election. The film was entered in the Dallas Film Festival within the Texas subjects division.

    April 15, 2014

  • Don’t do it yourself

    After years of fooling with just about every do-it-yourself project imaginable, I finally came to a startling conclusion. Just about everything I can do for myself, or think I can, somebody else can do for me faster and better and cheaper as well. Starting at an early age, I tried to learn every known skill in order to become independent. The heartache and frustration resulting from such a stubborn urge knew no bounds.

    April 5, 2014

  • When push comes to Shuve

    Ever been to Shuve, Louisiana? Don’t feel like you’re by yourself. Lots of folks have never even heard of it, much less been there.

    March 1, 2014

  • The spice of life: Some seasonings have benefits

    In the 15th century, Europe was in search of the spice of life.  For them, salt was not enough.  They also wanted cinnamon, pepper, cumin, nutmeg, ginger and cloves.  It was for spices that the Portuguese sailed around the southern tip of Africa to reach India.  During this time a pound of Ginger was equal in value to one live sheep.

    February 26, 2014

  • President’s Day celebrates leader who built country’s foundation

    This month we celebrate President's Day. George Washington, who is also known as the "Father of our Country,” is one that I admire the most.

    February 7, 2014

  • CVS tobacco decision gives hope

    Just as I was starting to think money ruled the world and everything in it, a national giant makes a move that will cost them $2 billion in annual revenue.

    February 6, 2014

  • The bra: Friend or foe?

    This is a nod to Women Inventors Month; not the best-known observance on the calendar, but worthy of recognition nevertheless.

    February 1, 2014

  • Chocolate and chilies contain vast health benefits

    February is a good month to talk about chocolate.  For most of us, chocolate means dessert, but it can also be an ingredient in savory dishes.  For example the flavorful mole sauce from the Mexican tradition is a different way to work in some healthy dark

    January 29, 2014

  • Hard work and shining light on dark corners

    Newsrooms of today may not be like the image you have in your mind.
    There are no smoke-filled rooms with fast-talking reporters and editors hovered over desks arguing over the best angle to take on a breaking story.

    January 24, 2014