Throwback Thursday – Remember Jim Bowie

Southern Kentucky is home to one of the most famous American pioneers of the 19th century. A man steeped in the Texas Revolution who fought at the Alamo, known for his skillful fighting in duels, the namesake of the bowie knife and folklore hero. Born in 1796 in Logan County, this is the story of James Bowie.

Reason and Elve Bowie were a couple brought together during the American Revolution as a wounded soldier and nurse. They were married in 1782 and moved from farm to farm in Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, and Louisiana. James Bowie was born the ninth of 10 children, in what-was-then Logan County. The county lines were redrawn in 1869, making the Bowie farm part of the modern Simpson County. For this reason, there are two James Bowie historical markers in Kentucky, one in each county.

James, or Jim, enlisted in the militia for the War of 1812. After the war, he dabbled in land speculating, mining, milling, and eventually became a national name thanks to his knife tactics in the Sandbar Fight of 1827. What was supposed to be a one-on-one duel on a large sandbar in the middle of the Mississippi River, turned into a full-on brawl with more than half a dozen fights. A couple men were killed, and Bowie was injured with seven stabs and bullet wounds. Five doctors at the site said he shouldn’t have lived. Forevermore, he carried a large sheathed nine-inch knife at his belt, and thus the bowie knife was born.

Bowie moved to Texas after the fight, married into a prominent Mexican governing family, and became a leader in the Texas Revolution at the Battle of the Alamo with Davy Crockett. In 1836, Bowie was killed when Mexican soldiers swarmed the mission. Accounts vary saying he died blazing pistols and swinging his knife. 

While American history lore reminds us to “Remember the Alamo,” southern Kentuckians remember Jim Bowie.