The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 60, July 1956 - April, 1957 Page: 338
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
larged by legend. He is remembered for the knife bearing his
name; before he died and then on for decades he was in popular
belief the supreme knife wielder of the old Southwest. He is re-
membered for a search, actually futile, for the Lost San Saba Mine
that transmuted it into the Lost Bowie Mine, which still lures
men on. Finally, his name remains indelibly linked with the fall
of the Alamo. Three other names are so linked, but more-many
more-stories sprang up on how Bowie died than on the ends made
by Travis, Crockett, and Bonham combined.
Born in Logan County, Kentucky, in 1796,2 of strong-bodied,
strong-minded upper class stock, James Bowie was the eighth of
ten children, four of whom died young. His father, Rezin Bowie,
a Highland Scot by descent, was a planter. His mother, of keen
intellect, piety, and a fair education, read to her children. The
Bowies were married in Georgia in 1782, moved to Tennessee,
where they lived six or seven years, and then to Kentucky; they
tarried in the province of Missouri two years before settling down
in Rapides Parish, Louisiana, in 18o2. Here turbulent men were
Was Law," in the New York Herald Tribune Magazine (syndicated), and came to
the University of Texas to write a study on Bowie under my direction.
Bowie's part in the Texas Revolution is in virtually all histories of Texas, though
his drunken conduct at the Alamo and quarrels with Travis are generally omitted.
Undocumented, but based entirely on archive material in San Antonio and on
court records, Edward S. Sears, "The Low Down on Jim Bowie," Texas Folklore
Society Publications, No. XIX, 1944, pp. 175-199, gives many facts. The essay is
confused in composition, and the writer was highly prejudiced against Bowie,
though I am positive that he did not fake alleged facts.
A farrago of material bearing on Bowie is contained in the W. W. Fontaine
Papers, in the Archives of the Eugene C. Barker Texas History Center, at the Uni-
versity of Texas. A large part of it was supplied in 18go by John S. Moore of New
Orleans, grandson of Rezin P. Bowie. He claimed to know a lot for which he sup-
plied no proof. Wishing his ancestral kin to be respectable conformists as well as
distinguished, he denied that they smuggled slaves.
C. L. Douglas, James Bowie: The Life of a Bravo (Dallas, 1944), is semi-fictioned
journalese but contains valid quotations on and from Bowie. The best novel on
Bowie is Paul I. Wellman, The Iron Mistress (Garden City, New York, 1951).
In "The Lost San Saba Mine," with appended notes, in Coronado's Children
(1930), the writer has given some of the facts and told the legend of Bowie's
search for Spanish silver, or gold. In a chapter entitled "Jim Bowie's Knife," in
Tales of Old-Time Texas (1955), the writer has tried to assemble all the facts and
tales pertaining to the Bowie knife. The sources for this chapter are extensively
cited, though additional newspaper reprintings of some Bowie knife tales could
have been added.
2John J. Bowie gives this date and place and is confirmed by good evidence,
though the birth dates assigned by various writers are as divergent as accounts
of his death.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 60, July 1956 - April, 1957, periodical, 1957; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101163/m1/367/: accessed September 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.