SUSANNA WILKERSON DICKINSON
ANGELINA ELIZABETH DICKINSON
It is sometimes said that life in the early days of Texas was anadventurefor men and dogs, but hell on women and horses.
Susanna Wilkerson Dickinson will always be remembered as the sole adult Anglo survivor and the most extensively quoted eyewitness source (though not necessarily the most reliable) to the final and subsequent events surrounding the massacre at the Battle of the Alamo.
Susanna was born in Williamson County, Tennessee about 1814 as Susanna Wilkerson. On 24 May 1829, at the age of only fifteen years, she married twenty-year-old Almaron Dickinson. Within two years, the young couple arrived in Texas settling in the DeWitt Colony in 1831. Almaron Dickinson received a league of land on the east bank of the San Marcos River below the Old Bexar Road in Caldwell Co acquiring property in inner Gonzales town in 1834. There he set up his blacksmith shop and went into partnership with George C. Kimble in a hat factory. The couple's only child, a daughter, Angelina Elizabeth, was born there on December 14, 1834.
The Battle of Gonzales in the fall of 1835 marked the beginning of the Texas Revolution. Dickinson was among the original 18 defenders of the Gonzales cannon and was in charge of the cannon during the confrontation. Almaron joined a group of volunteers to help secure San Antonio for the Texans and served as an aide to General Edward Burleson during the Siege of Bexar . Susana stayed behind with Angelina.
However, after her home was looted a few weeks later by members of an East Texas militia company, Susanna decided to join her husband in San Antonio. The family set up residence in the Musquiz house on the southwest corner of Portero Street and the Main Plaza, but when Mexican troops arrived in San Antonio on 23 Feb 1836, Dickinson moved the family into the Alamo.
Because she was only 15 months old at the time of the siege, their daughter, Angelina in later years became known as the "Babe of the Alamo." Before his death, Colonel William Barret Travis gave to the infant a ring that had been a gift from his sweetheart Rebecca Cummings.
After the fall of the Alamo, Santa Anna interviewed Susanna, accompanied by her infant daughter and the other female survivors. The general gave each a blanket and two dollars in silver before releasing them.
Legend says Susanna displayed her husband's Masonic apron to a Mexican general in a plea for help and that Santa Anna offered to take baby Angelina to Mexico. Santa Anna sent Susanna and her daughter accompanied by Juan N. Almonte's servant, Ben, and William B. Travis's freed slave, Joe, to Sam Houston with a letter of warning dated March 7. After heading eastward from San Antonio, Deaf Smith and Henry Karnes, scouts for the Texas army found the travelers and they were taken to meet Houston in Gonzales.
Without skills, illiterate and only twenty-two years old when Texas independence was won, Susanna requested but was denied a $500 government donation forcing her to live in poverty.
In the years that followed, Susanna suffered through several stormy marriages. She married John Williams in late 1837, but his abusiveness prompted their divorce by March 24 of the following spring.
She then married Francis P. Herring who died in 1843. This marriage was followed by her union to Peter Bellows. She divorced the latter after he charged her with adultery and prostitution. The divorce petition accuses her of taking up residence in a "house of ill fame." Indeed, before her marriage to Bellows she may well have taken up residence in the Mansion House Hotel of Pamela Mann, a known brothel.
Despite these accusations, Susanna received praise from the clergy for her work nursing cholera victims in Houston.
In 1857, Susanna married German emigrant, Joseph William Hannig . This was her fifth marriage, but a stable and happy one. The couple soon moved to Austin, where Hannig ran a successful cabinet shop and furniture store.
Until her death in Austin on October 7, 1883, Susanna was active in relating her experiences in the Alamo and commemorating its heroes wherever she could find an audience.
Susanna Dickinson's Recollections of The Alamo Siege
Susanna Dickinson originally stated she stayed in one of the rooms of the Alamo church and did not see any of the siege or final assault. Later, when she was rediscovered by the press and sensationalist writers, she continuously changed her "recollections" to fit whatever new story was in fashion.
The gist of what she reported:
The story of William Travis drawing a line across the courtyard didn't surface until the 1870s, when William Zuber claimed to have heard it from Louis Rose, the one who is supposed to have refused to cross the line. But there is no other record to support the story. The fact that Susanna related this story as an eye-witness account, only diminishes her credibility.