Rezin Pleasant Bowie: Avoyellean of 182?
for designing the first Bowie Knife which was made on his plantation on Bayou Bouef in Southwest Avoeyelles near what is today the western city limits of Bunkie, LA
Rezin Pleasant Bowie resided in Avoyelles Parish Louisiana from October 1824 to August 1827br>
Rezin P. Bowie wrote in the Planters Advocate: August 24, 1838: The first Bowie knife was made by myself in the parish of Avoyelles, in this state (Louisiana), as a hunting knife, for which purpose, exclusively, it was used for many years……The length of the blade was nine and one-quarters inches, its width one and one-half inches, single edged and not curved.
in 1885, Rezin's granddaughter, Mrs. Eugene Soniat, wrote “This instrument, which was never intended for ought but a hunting knife, was made of an old file in the plantation blacksmith shop of my grandfather’s Bayou Boeuf plantation, the maker was a hired white man named Jesse Clift [sic], he afterwards went to Texas. My mother, Mrs. Jos. H. Moore then a little girl, went to the shop with her father, heard his directions, and saw Clift make the knife.
Jesse Cifft was a blacksmith living on Bayou Boeuf in Louisiana and was a close friend and neighbor of the Bowies in the 1820s. On April 10, 1827 James Bowie went to Marksville, LA to conduct a business transaction with William Hargrove. A document defining the transaction was written by Herzehian Dunham, the Notary Public in and for the parish of Avoyelles, and was signed by the principals and by witnesses Jesse Cifft and Caiaphas K. Ham. This document serves as further proof that Clifft and Rezin were together at the right place and at the right time.
Bowie ran for sheriff of Avoyelles, but lost and in his dismay proposed to split the parish into two parts, with the Bayou Rouge Prairie where he lived to the south becoming its own parish. He later served as state representative from Avoyelles, but did not finish his term and resigned about when he moved to Terrebonne Parish.
The knife that Clifft made to Rezin's specifications was later given to James Bowie by Rezin and was very likely the knife that James used in the sandbar fight six months later near Natchez, Mississippi on September 19, 1827.
Colonel James Bowie (1796-1836) was a famous soldier, land speculator, slave trader, gambler and, some say, a con man. James was in a fight in 1826 where a sheriff name Norris Wright fired at James at point blank range but the bullet was deflected and James survived the encounter. After the fight, James' brother Rezin Bowie gave James a large knife that resembled a large butcher knife.
So it was Rezin Bowie who actually designed the knife and commissioned the first one to be made. It is also widely believed that Rezin traveled the country basking in the glow of his famous brothers accolades and had the "Bowie" knife made by several knifemakers and blacksmiths in various towns he visited. Whatever the real origin of the knife, James Bowie was known to carry it and use it in at least one legendary event, the sanbar duel in 1827 in Natchez.
For a list of past recipients of the Avoyellean of the Year award visit: Avoyelleans of the Year