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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Madman With a Bowie Knife

In an article on the bowie knife in the Galveston Daily News (March 21, 1920), J. O. Dyer discounted the idea that James Bowie’s knife had some special property, writing: “Given a blade sharp enough to cut; long enough to penetrate; strong enough not to break readily; given also a hand strong enough to dexterously wield such a simple weapon, and it requires no Bowie record; such a one in the hands of a madman has often wreaked terrible execution.”

To illustrate his point, we have the case of a Mr. Jenkins, of Cairo, Illinois, who “went postal” one day January 1853, demonstrating that a madman with a bowie knife in each hand is not to be taken lightly. The article, from the Dixon Telegraph (January 22, 1853) states:
Yesterday was “estimate day,” with the hands laboring on the Cairo levees—Mr. Ellis, contractor, commenced making settlements, but his office soon became so completely jammed with creditors that he found it impossible to proceed unless he could clear it. He therefore requested the crowd to leave remarking that he would call them in and settle singly. They did not go. A Mr. Jenkins now ordered them out, and not having his orders properly noticed, rushed among them with a bowie knife in each hand, cutting right and left in an earnest and indiscriminate manner. He had seriously wounded two persons, and still was at his murderous work when an axe was buried in his head up to the helve, cleaving open his brains. He died soon afterwards. It is well perhaps that Mr. Jenkins was killed so soon, for his early death, no doubt, prevented him from taking a half dozen lives, so fierce and determined was his onslaught on the crowd. One of the persons he wounded will probably die. Mr. Jenkins was in the employ of Ellis, Jenkins & Co., and professed to be a doctor.

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