“Greatest Fighter in the Southwest”
One of the most popular characters of the old Southwest was the legendary Jim Bowie. He was born in Tennessee in 1795, grew up along the bayous of Louisiana, and gained a fierce reputation as an alligator-rider, an indian-fighter, and a deadly duelist. He killed the son of Jean Lafitte in one of a number of fights that were an occupational hazard of Bowie’s many business ventures. He and his brothers, John and Rezin, had made and lost several fortunes in land speculation and slave running before Jim’s thirtieth birthday.
Henry Clay declared Bowie “the greatest fighter in the Southwest.” Clay had witnessed a confrontation between Bowie and an obnoxious pipe smoker on a stagecoach in 1832. When a lady’s request that the pipe be extinguished was ignored, the gallant and daring Bowie produced his famous knife and caused the fellow to reconsider.
Although the records were destroyed by fire in 1850, he is recognized as a member of Loge L’Humble Chaumiere (Humble Cottage Lodge) No. 19 at Opelousas, Louisiana.
Bowie came to Texas in 1830 and settled in San Antonio, where he married the beautiful Ursula Veramendi, daughter of the Vice-Governor of Coahuila and Texas. With these connections to the established aristocracy, Bowie became one of the most trusted Americans in Texas. But just when the future seemed brightest, his wife and two children died in the great cholera epidemic of 1833.
Bowie joined the struggle for Texas Independence at the siege of Bexar, and accepted the command of the volunteers at the Alamo. On February 2, 1836, he wrote, “we will rather die in these ditches than give them up ….” True to his word, he chose to remain with the defenders of the Alamo, although confined to his cot with pneumonia.
The British historian Thomas Carlyle said of Bowie, “By Hercules! The man was greater than Caesar …. The Texans ought to build him an altar.”
* From The Texas Mason By Pete Normand, PM Texas Lodge of Research
* The Texas Masons The Fraternity of Ancient Free & Accepted Masons in the History of Texas by Pete Normand, © 1986 Book may be ordered from Brazos Valley Masonic Library and Museum Assn. P.O. Box 1300 College Station, TX 77841 Price: $10.00 Postpaid