Roy and Kristi Wiggins from Mangham, La., dropped by the Natchez Convention Center and the annual Bowie Knife Show Saturday to get a look at the  knives, guns and collectibles that were available. (Ben Hillyer \ The Natchez Democrat)
Roy and Kristi Wiggins from Mangham, La., dropped by the Natchez Convention Center and the annual Bowie Knife Show Saturday to get a look at the knives, guns and collectibles that were available. (Ben Hillyer \ The Natchez Democrat)

Locals get history lesson, view collection of knives at Bowie show

Published 12:01am Sunday, August 18, 2013

NATCHEZ — Miles from where Jim Bowie became famous, Natchez residents and visitors gathered at the Bowie Knife Show to catch a glimpse of a variety of antique items.

Bowie’s Outfitters owner Michael Worley hosted the 10th annual knife show, which featured more than 30 displays of Bowie knives, antique guns, sheriff’s badges, Native American artifacts and much more at the Natchez Convention Center.

“The Sandbar battle happened right here on the Mississippi River,” Worley said. “So we wanted to do it here where it all began.”

Jack Edmonson, center, looks at one of the knives that were on display. (Ben Hillyer \ The Natchez Democrat)
Jack Edmonson, center, looks at one of the knives that were on display. (Ben Hillyer \ The Natchez Democrat)

As the legend goes, James Bowie was involved in a duel in 1827 in which he was shot and stabbed twice, yet managed to stab and kill a man with his now-famous knife while surviving his wounds.

It wasn’t until the Battle of the Alamo when Bowie died because of an unknown illness.

The knife Bowie used in the Sandbar fight led to the famous Bowie knife, and several men and women displayed their collection of knives, while telling the history behind each one to interested spectators.

Most knives and antiques were for sale. But some displayers were unwilling to let go of their personal treasures.

Knife displayer Jack Shaffer said the Natchez knife show is his favorite stop of several shows he attends each year.

“This is the only show where you can go down Homochitto Street where Bowie walked, and go down to the river where the dual was,” Shaffer said.

Local Bowie  knife collector Bruce Brice Jr. had several display cases full of his knives and other collectibles. (Ben Hillyer \ The Natchez Democrat)
Local Bowie knife collector Bruce Brice Jr. had several display cases full of his knives and other collectibles. (Ben Hillyer \ The Natchez Democrat)

Local knife displayer Bruce Brice Jr. displayed several knives and antiques at the show.

Brice said his most interesting knife was a 2-and-a-half pound Arkansas Bear Hunter knife. While his oldest knife was a Rose/New York made by asurgical instrument maker Peter Rose in the 1830s.

The Rose/New York is an American-made Bowie knife, which is more rare than an English Sheffield Bowie knife.

Brice said American Bowie knives are rare because it was hard to find American blacksmiths. He said most men like Rose, who originally made surgical instruments, made American Bowie knives.

The knives were the most popular weapons on the market during that time.

“Everybody carried a Bowie knife before guns became reliable for more than one shot,” Brice said.

Worley said as the show grew, he opened up the show to more than just Bowie knives.

“When we first started it, it was a strict knife show,” Worley said. “But now we opened up the show to all antiques of the era.”

Antique displayers Bob and Bonnie Vines set up four tables filled with artifacts ranging from hats, spurs, watch fobs and camp blankets.

The Vines, like several other displayers, said they have been collecting antique items for 35 years, and it was time to sell.

“I grew up in Texas, and my collection is kind of a connection with Texas rodeo and ranches,” Bob said. “I like to collect little pieces of history, then it kind of expanded and got out of control.”

The Vines were one of the only displayers to have antique watch fobs in their collection.

Watch fobs were medallions or ornaments attached to a pocket watch by a strap or chain used by cowboys.

“A lot of saddle shops would give fobs away,” Bob said. “Cowboys only had front pockets, and it was hard to dig for the watch while sitting on a horse, so saddle sellers found it easy to advertise if they gave a fob to help get their watch out.”

Worley’s annual knife show started as just a tribute to James Bowie, but expanded into a chance for people to get a piece of Southern history, and possibly take that history home and share it for many generations to come.