Jim Bowie, The Alamo Legend
The name Jim Bowie is strongly connected to Frontier violence and his heroism at the Alamo. The following examines some lesser known facts about the man in the shadow of the knife wielding legend.
Born in Elliot Springs, Tennessee in 1795, James Bowie was the third son of Elve and John Bowie. His parents were the frontier version of real estate developers, building and selling homesteads as they made their way west, each time upgrading to a larger and better home. Jim was the most adventurous of the lot, and began wrestling alligators at a young age. He showed proficiancy with a knife at a young age and was adept at hunting and skinning animals. This wild side was tempered with a solid education provided by his mother via home schooling. Although he sometimes enjoyed the company of others, Jim was much of a loner and rather than settle down like others in his family, struck out on his own to make money clearing land and selling lumber.
He arrived in New Orleans to sell lumber, and took a liking to the city, enough to shave and look the part of a dandy when he was in town, but then head back to the wild to clear more land. He became an excellent farmer and businessman. He eventually established a land office in New Orleans. Most men liked him and women were crazy about him.
However, frontier towns were busy, dangerous places and most men carried a gun. Jim was no diffrent in that he carried protection. What made Jim stand out was that his protection was his famous knife, which he could swiftly use on any man who threatened him. This knife was a gift to him by his older brother, Resin, who had it specially made at a blacksmith.
What brought Bowie to Texas was more land than adventure. He saw much money to be made from real estate dealings in this Mexican territory. He converted to Catholicism, as this was one of the requirements to own land in Texas. Soon after being baptised, Jim was was introduced to Mexican society by Stephen F. Austin and joined the Texas Rangers. Bowie rose to the rank of Colonel and made a good soldier. He also got married to a local woman named Ursula and as was the custom of the day, awarded land as her dowry. He and his new father in law became partners in a cotton mill in Satillo. As Jim wasn't one to have a long attention span, he soon moved on to new venture ideas, sent for his brother Resin to come to Texas and partnered with him. Jim had many interests going at once and was quite the wealthy family man.
His happiness was short lived when his wife and children succombed to an outbreak of cholera. Jim's health was never great after that and he often had infections and fevers. Once the Texas revolution was in full swing, Jim was an important part of the armed forces. His taste for adventure as well as a nothing to lose attitude after his wife's death put him right in the middle of the action. When General Travis asked for volunteers to defend the Alamo in what would be a suicide mission, Jim, once again ill, reportedly dragged himself across the famous line in the sand. Most sources leave out the dramatics and attest he may not have crawled across the line, but that he was more than willing to go. He was killed in his cot in the chapel of the Alamo and his remains were cremated at the site with the other slain soldiers.
Therefore upon examination of his life, and separating fact from fiction it can be ascertained that he was not more violent than others of his time, he just chose a more sporting weapon than most. If one would compare him to modern legends, it could be said he was much more like Donald Trump than Mack the Knife.