The ferry (named for Allen "Buck" Campbell who lived nearby) operated from about 1825 until about 1925. It was a small, rope-drawn affair, connecting Live Oak on the east bank of the Vermilion River to a crooked little road on the river's west bank that led along Little Bayou to Esther and beyond. The Bowie knife and Campbell's Ferry were linked in a newspaper debate in 1850.
My encyclopedia says the Bowie knife was sometimes called "the Arkansas toothpick" because the most famous one was made about 1825 in Washington, Arkansas, by a blacksmith named James Black. The book says Bowie picked Black to make the knife because Black had discovered how to temper the steel to keep the edge razor-sharp.
You can believe that if you want to. But in 1850, when a Texas newspaper claimed that the knife was made along Bayou Teche in Louisiana, it drew a fiery letter to the editor from a reader named Ambroise Lacour Sr., who said that the newspaper's account was so much malarkey.
The knife, he said, was made at a blacksmith shop below Campbell's Ferry on the Vermilion River, where Bowie lived at some time before 1834.
Bowie was only 37 when he was killed at the Alamo in March of 1836, but apparently was well traveled by then. We know that he lived for a time in Louisiana. The Bowie Oak, next to the Palace Cafe in Opelousas, is named for him, and some of the old Vermilion Parish plat maps mark out a place below Little Bayou, called "Bowie Island," where Jim Bowie's brother, Rezin, apparently held 60 or 70 arpents of land.
This is interesting because the ever-trustworthy Wikipedia reports that "the historical Bowie knife was not a single design, but was a series of knives improved several times by Jim Bowie over the years. The earliest such knife, made by Jesse Clifft at Rezin Bowie's request, resembled Spanish hunting knives of the day, and differed little from a common butcher knife."
A post on the website of the Antique Bowie Knife Association agrees with Wikipedia that Rezin, not Jim, had the first one made, but the bad news is that Rezin was probably living in Avoyelles Parish at the time.
In a letter to Col. David F. Boyd, dated Sept. 14, 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."
There are also tales that place Jim Bowie all along the Cajun coast, linking him with some of the exploits of the pirate Jean Lafitte and naming both Lafitte and Bowie as regular visitors to such places as Pecan Island, Cameron, and other coastal communities.
Another story says that Jim Bowie lived for awhile at Isle de Grand Bois, as the Big Woods area of Vermilion Parish was first known. That story says that one day he rode his horse to Abbeville and forced the release of a friend who was being held on suspicion of murder.
It was shortly after that, according to the story, that Bowie left for Texas, where he was drawn into the cause of Texas Independence, and to the Alamo.
You can contact Jim Bradshaw at email@example.com or P.O. Box 1121, Washington LA 70589.