Some say he was a “fighter, frontiersman, and adventurer.” Others say he was a brawler, treasure hunter, slave trader, and money launderer for the pirate Jean LaFitte. Those who knew him wrote that he was an humble man who did not boast of his adventures and never used profanity or vulgarities. Whatever else is true of Jim Bowie, he is one of the most memorable figures of early Texas.
Bowie came to Texas in 1828, after he was involved in a duel that turned violent. He killed a man (with a rather large knife remembered as a “Bowie Knife”) and was very nearly killed himself. When he recovered, he headed west.
His first sweetheart, Cecilia Wells, died two weeks before their wedding in 1829. In 1831 he married Maria Ursula de Veramendi, daughter of the vice-governor of the province. They settled down in San Antonio and had two children, but a cholera epidemic in 1833 wiped out Bowie’s entire family. He sank into despondency and began to drink.
As the rebellion heated up, Sam Houston sent Bowie to the Alamo with authority to evacuate the volunteers and artillery and blow the place up. Instead he stayed as second in command.
Bowie was bedridden with pneumonia on the day the Alamo fell, but fought valiantly from his cot before dying in defense of the town and the state he adopted as “home.”