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Though the younger Bowie had dealings throughout central Louisiana — even fighting in the famous 1827 sandbar fight on the Mississippi River at Vidalia — he never lived in Holmesville.

Getting back to the Holmesville question, author Randy Willis points out that Rezin Bowie lived there at the time it was known as Bayou Boeuf. He was, in fact, a neighbor of Willis' great-great-great-grandfather Agerton Willis.

"They were neighbors for four years, between 1824 and 1827," Willis said.

Willis grew up in the Longleaf community of Rapides Parish and now lives in Austin, Texas. He has done extensive research of the central Louisiana area for his books, particularly his novel, "Three Winds Blowing," which includes Jim Bowie as a character.

jim bowie portrait

Portrait of Jim Bowie (c.1796-1836), by George Peter Alexander Healy, from the Texas Historical Associaiton.

One of his research sources was the late Sue Eakin, history professor at Louisiana State University at Alexandria, who researched Solomon Northup's book, "Twelve Years a Slave" for accuracy and republished it.

She also authored several other books about the area, and in her Northup research discovered the house of Edwin Epps, who enslaved Northup. It stood in Holmesville.

That was the community's name between 1834 and 1881, and the named was in 2018 by the Avoyelles Parish Police Jury.

Jim Bowie, meanwhile, was a neighbor of Agerton Willis' father, Joseph, when they both lived near Bayou Chicot.

As for the birthplace of the Bowie knife, Willis looked to the Texas Historical Association, which places the Bowie brothers in Avoyelles Parish at the time Rezin created it.

"(Rezin Bowie) designed it as a hunting knife and gave it to James for protection after his brother had been shot in a fight," the historical association's account states. "Herzehian Dunham, notary public in Avoyelles Parish, certified that blacksmith Jesse Clifft, who lived on Bayou Boeuf and was a close friend and neighbor of the Bowies in the 1820s, forged the knife according to Rezin Bowie's design."

Stop here for a moment. Bayou Boeuf would later be renamed Holmesville, which means the knife, indeed, was invented there.

rezin bowie

Portrait of Rezin Pleasant Bowie, inventor of the Bowie knife and brother of Jim Bowie of Alamo fame, from John Henry Brown's 'History of Texas, 1892, Vol. 1.'

"The original Bowie knife was like a butcher knife in profile, with a thin blade but no silver mounts," the Texas Historical Association continues. "Bowie wore it in a silver-mounted black-leather sheath. The Bowie knife gained widespread notoriety after the celebrated Sandbar Fight on Sept. 19, 1827, near Natchez."

From here, the historical association offers its account on the fight: "On that date Samuel Levi Wells and Dr. Thomas Maddox engaged in a duel on the first large sandbar above Natchez on the Mississippi state side of the river."

Just a quick note: Recent historical accounts have placed this fight on the Vidalia side of the river. 

Continuing, the association's account states that "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, who included James Bowie.

"Bowie fell, shot through a lung. An archenemy, Norris Wright, along with Alfred Blanchard, stabbed him repeatedly with swordcanes. In a final effort Bowie raised himself, grabbed Wright, and sank the big knife into his assailant's heart, killing him instantly."

The "big knife" would be the Bowie knife.

"Combatants and eyewitnesses described the 'large butcher knife' in letters and interviews, and a legend began," the Texas Historical Association continues. "ʷpapers across the nation printed lurid and detailed stories of the Sandbar Fight. The public reveled in the prowess of James Bowie and his lethal weapon. In a day when pistols frequently misfired, the Bowie knife was a reliable and effective backup weapon.

"As its popularity spread, schools were established, especially in the old Southwest, to teach the arts and dodges of Bowie knife fighting. The Red River Herald of Natchitoches, Louisiana, reported, 'All the steel in the country it seemed was immediately converted into Bowie knives.'"

Alamo Memorial

The Alamo Cenotaph Monument, titled 'The Spirit of Sacrifce,' stands across from the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, and features Jim Bowie, left, along with Davy Crockett, William Travis and others. The remains of the three Texas heroes were placed together in a marble casket in the foyer of nearby San Fernando Cathedral.  

Jim Bowie didn't let all of those stab wounds stop him. He eventually would become one of Texas' heroes who died in the 1836 Battle of the Alamo in San Antonio, where his remains lie with those of Davy Crockett and William Travis in the foyer of San Fernando Cathedral.

His likeness is included with those of Crockett and Travis in the Alamo Cenataph Monument called "The Spirit of Texas," towering above the former Spanish mission-turned-National Historic Landmark.

But there is no such monument to Rezin Bowie. He died in New Orleans in 1847 and is buried in the quiet cemetery behind St. Joseph Catholic Church in Port Gibson, Miss., whose construction was largely funded by his daughter, Elvie Bowie Moore.

Email Robin Miller at romiller@theadvocate.com