Home' The Backwoodsman Magazine : November-December 2016 Contents 34
popularity with the local populace, for Gonzales was on
the raw western frontier where the settlers faced the wild
country of the Kiowa and Comanche. The pioneers and
the travelers moving east and west could see a daily need
for the big knife as a tool more than a weapon.
THE NAME “BOWIE KNIFE”
John N. Sowell named the Bowie knife: “Well,” said
the old man “I will name it in honor of you; we will call
it the Bowie knife.”(2) There was no newspaper in Gon-
zales to proclaim Bowie’s big, new knife. But there was
Gelhorne’s tavern and the blacksmith shop; both were
gathering places for socializing and spreading the news.
By what other name could the big Bowie knife have
IN THE ALAMO
The big knife John Sowell made for Bowie must
have been with Bowie in the Alamo, for there is no
contradicting evidence. So what happened to Bowie’s
big knife at the fall of the Alamo on March 6, 1836, is a
subject for the writers of fiction.
John N. Sowell made James Bowie’s big knife and
also named it the Bowie knife. A.J. Sowell’s 1884 account
and documentary evidence are tied closely together by
logic and by the fact that the succession of events hap-
pened in a short length of time-November 21, 1831 to
“the end of the year,” less than a six weeks period. It is
only natural that the origin of the big Bowie knife was
in James Bowie’s theater of operations.
No one to this day has produced any evidence for
another account that even remotely approaches the
credibility of this coherent true story about the origin of
Bowie’s big clip point knife.
SAM HOUSTON’S BOWIE KNIFE
As previously stated, no one knows exactly what the
original Bowie knife, made by John N. Sowell looked
like, but Sam Houston’s Bowie knife, shown below, may
be a very close representative.
Total length is 20”, the handle is 6-3/8”, blade length
is 13-5/8”, widest part is 2-114”.
The picture of the knife and its dimensions are
from the Dallas Morning News, Dallas, Texas, Saturday,
December 28, 2002, III, Page 31A
1. Davis, William C., “Three Roads to the Alamo,”
ISBN 0-06-17334-3, 1998, pbk.
2. Sowell, Andrew Jackson, “Pioneers and Rangers
of Texas,” ISBN 0-938349-65 -1, 1991, Hardback
3. Bowie, Rezin, “An Indian Battle,” Atkinkson’s
Saturday Evening Post and Bulletin 13, August 17,
1833. (1) Pages 360, 669
4. Ham, Caiaphas, “Recollections,” University of
5. Bowie, Rezin, His letter dated August 24, 1838.
6. James Black made a butcher knife for James
Bowie to replace the knife James lost on his way to
Washington, Arkansas. (1) Page 675.
How True is this Story?
1. (FACT) No one can deny or refute the three
separate documents (by James and Rezin Bowie and
Caiaphus Ham) that describe the Indian fight. (Davis,
Pg. 669, Note 46)
2. (FACT) The besieged expedition used their knives
to dig up rocks and dirt to build a protective barrier.
They also had to cut brush. (From Fact #1 Documents,
3. (FACT) And: “...not a man among them failed to
be touched by an enemy ball or arrow, and some of them
bore several superficial wounds.” (304; From Fact #1
Documents, above) That includes James Bowie and sup-
ports the cut hand.
A. (LOGIC) We know that James Bowie must not
have “thrust” at an Indian, for there was no physical
contact with the Indians. He, therefore, must have cut
his hand on his butcher knife while thrusting at stones
and dirt to build the barricade.
4. (FACT) Immediately after his return to San
Antonio, Bowie received approval for another expedition
to hunt Indians. (298,339-340,675 Note 2)
A. (LOGIC) Bowie would not want to take another
expedition into the wilderness with a butcher knife. His
life-threatening experiences in the Indian fight made him
realize that he needed a new kind of knife – one that
could dig rocks and dirt, cut brush and would have a
B. (LOGIC) A.J. Sowell’s statement about Bowie
making a wood pattern for the new knife must be true.
For Bowie must have known that the pattern was the
surest and easiest way to get the kind of knife he wanted.
The pattern would assure a knife handle that would fit
C. (LOGIC) When Bowie gave the pattern to John
THE JOHN SOWELL BOWIE THAT WAS MADE
FOR SAM HOUSTON
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