While there is still no definitive proof that James Black made a knife for Jim Bowie, one thing is certain: a descendant of Black’s received a “recreation of a James Black knife” during the Natchez Antique Bowie Knife Show last month.
ABS master smith James L. “Jim” Batson made the reproduction of the knife and presented it to Mrs. Celia Johnson, who claims to be a descendant of Black. She says she is descended from Gradison DeRorysten Black, the son of James Black. Celia and her husband, Jerry, traveled from Baytown, Texas, to accept the silver-mounted knife and sheath fashioned by Batson and based on what is believed to be a Black knife in the Historic Arkansas Museum in Little Rock, Arkansas. The Johnsons stayed at the Dunleift Hall, owned by Mike Worley, during the show. Worley sponsored the show, which was held in Natchez, Mississippi.
The Johnsons brought a scrapbook full of old family pictures and a handwritten list of ancestors and originally showed it to Batson during the American Bladesmith Society’s 2012 All-Forged Knife Expo in San Antonio, Texas (see page 44, July 2012 BLADE® www.blademag.com). Batson is one of the world’s foremost authorities on Jim Bowie and James Black. He has conducted extensive research on Bowie and bowie knives, written any number of stories on the subject for BLADE, a book on Bowie’s famous Sandbar Fight, coordinated Bowie Symposiums at the BLADE Show (www.bladeshow.com), and much more. He also coordinates the Batson Bladesmithing Symposium each spring in McCalla, Alabama, and is a past multi-term chairman of the ABS.
Batson pored over the Johnsons’ documents and pictures at the 2012 San Antonio show. Among the topics of their discussion was the famous 19th-century daguerreotype that reportedly shows James Black and Judge Jacob Buzzard, the physical resemblance of the man some believe is Black in the daguerreotype to that of some of Celia’s ancestors, and Black family history in general.
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