A Guide to the James Bowie Papers, 1831-1904
The son of Reason (or Rezin) and Elve Bowie, James (Jim) Bowie (1796?-1836) moved around the southern United States in his early life, finally settling on a plantation near Opelousas, Louisiana, in around 1809. During the War of 1812, James and his brother Rezin Pleasant Bowie enlisted in the Second Division, Consolidated, of the U.S. Army. After the war, the brothers bought slaves from Jean Laffite and traded them in St. Landry Parish, until raising $65,0000, which James and Rezin invested in land speculation. In the 1820s, Rezin gave his brother a larger butcher-like hunting knife, later known as a "Bowie knife," to protect the hot-tempered James in fights. Around the same time, James, Rezin, and their brother Stephen founded the Arcadia sugar plantation near Thibodaux, which they sold along with other land in 1831.
In 1830, James moved to Coahuila y Texas, where he swore allegiance to Mexico and met Juan Marín de Veramendi. Bowie bought several land grants, established tracts in Stephen F. Austin’s colony, and purchased a textile mill, which allowed him to become a Mexican citizen. In April 1831, Bowie married Ursula de Veramendi, and the couple settled in Saltillo, the capital of Coahuila y Texas. When the capital changed to Monclova in 1833, the two towns raised forces to contest the decision, with Bowie supporting the new capital. In September 1833, Urusla and her parents died of cholera in Monclova.
In May 1835, Antonio López de Santa Anna abolished the Coahuila y Texas government and ordered the arrest of Texans in Monclova. Bowie fled to San Felipe and in July raised forces, which traveled to San Antonio and seized muskets from a local Mexican armory. In October, he joined Stephen F. Austin’s Texas volunteer army as a colonel and fought at the Battle of Concepción. In January 1836, Bowie went to the Alamo, where the Texas troops had garrisoned in San Antonio de Bexar. He received command of the volunteer army, while William B. Travis commanded the regulars. Bowie became sick and was shot during the battle of the Alamo, while confined to his cot.
Handbook of Texas Online, s.v. "Bowie, James,"http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fbo45 (accessed October 25, 2010).
The James Bowie Papers, 1831-1904, include a photocopy of the 1831 marriage agreement of Bowie and Ursula Maria Veramendi as well as three typescript copies, 1831-1904, of court proceedings concerning the Bowie estate and narratives about Bowie's life as an adventurer and soldier.
This collection is open for research use.
James Bowie Papers, 1831-1904, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.
This collection was processed by archives staff, December 1964.
Basic processing and cataloging of this collection was supported with funds from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) for the Briscoe Center’s History Revealed: Bringing Collections to Light project, 2009-2011.
Detailed Description of the Papers