Bowie on the bayou
In 1809, an American named Reason Bowie bought 640 acres of land along the lower Vermilion River. His family worked in the lumber and sawmill business, eventually moving to the Opelousas region of St. Landry Parish. According to John J. Bowie, son of Reason and brother of Jim Bowie, of the Alamo fame, and Rezin P. (who gave Jim a knife the original Bowie knife, which was probably made in a blacksmith shop somewhere near Abbeville), the Bowie brothers made a fortune working with the pirate Jean Lafitte.
John J. Bowie said that when Lafitte overtook a slave ship, the brothers would purchase the slaves from Lafitte “at the rate of one dollar per pound, or an average of $140 for each negro; we brought them into the limits of the United States, delivered them to a custom house officer, and became the informers ourselves; the law gave the informer half of the [auction] value of the negroes, which we put up and sold by the United States Marshall, and we became the purchasers of the negroes, which entitled us to sell them [legally] within the United States. We continued to follow this business until we made $65,000, when we quit and soon spent all our earnings.”
The Bowie brothers would bring the slaves up the Vermilion River, then overland to St. Landry Parish, where the slaves were sold.
The Seat of Justice
The Steamboat Era
Plantation Life Along the Vermilion
Antebellum and Post-Bellum Vermilion
Effect of the Railroad and Congressional help
Ecological threats of 1911
Connecting with the Intercoastal Canal
No good deed goes unpunished: The consequences of the 1927 flood