Battle of the Alamo Survivor

Black and white portrait of Susannah Dickinson
Credit: Texas State Library & Archives
Portrait of Susanna Dickinson, photographer unknown.

Susanna Wilkerson was born in Tennessee around 1814. On May 24, 1829, Susanna married Almaron Dickinson in Bolivar, Tennessee. The couple migrated to Texas in 1830, arriving in Gonzales on February 20, 1831. The couple’s only child, Angelina Elizabeth Dickinson, was born in Gonzales on December 14, 1834.

Almaron was one of the “Old Gonzales Eighteen,” the small group of Gonzales citizens who began the face-off with the Mexican army over possession of a small cannon that resulted in the Battle of Gonzales. Following the battle Almaron departed Gonzales for San Antonio de Bexar with the Texian Volunteer Army leaving Susanna and Angelina behind.

In early November 1835, a group of volunteer Texas militia members passed through Gonzales breaking into houses and stealing property. The Dickinson house was one of the houses vandalized and Susanna’s safety was threatened. This prompted Almaron to move his family to San Antonio sometime in December 1835 following the Battle of Bexar. While in San Antonio the family resided in the home of Ramón Músquiz and Susanna took on boarders, including David Crockett, and did laundry for the Texas volunteers. On February 23, 1836, when General Santa Anna and the Mexican army arrived in San Antonio, Susanna and Angelina joined several other women taking refuge in the Alamo with the Texian troops.

Following the March 6th battle in which Almaron and the rest of the Texian defenders were killed, Susanna was sent by Santa Anna with a note to General Sam Houston, whom she met with in Gonzales around March 12th. Susanna’s whereabouts for the rest of the revolution are unknown, but she most likely fled east as part of the Runaway Scrape. In October 1836 she petitioned the Texas Government for a $500 pension. Her request was denied. This left the twenty-two year old widow virtually penniless and without any support or family except her young daughter.

Painting of Susannah Dickinson on a horse departing from the Alamo
Credit: The Alamo Collection
Painting of Susanna Dickinson leaving the Alamo by Harry Anthony De Young, 1941.

Susanna married several more times over the years. Her second husband was John Williams, whom she married on November 27, 1837. Williams was abusive towards both his wife and stepdaughter and on March 24, 1838 Susanna petitioned for and was granted one of the first divorces in the Republic of Texas. Susanna was married for the third time on December 20, 1838 to Francis P. Herring in Houston. Herring passed away in 1843, and in 1847 Susanna married again. Her fourth spouse was Peter Bellows, whom she left in 1854 after he charged her with adultery and prostitution, claiming in divorce papers that he filed in 1857 that Susanna had been a resident of a “house of ill fame.” There is no evidence of Susanna having engaged in adultery or prostitution, but it is believed that she might have resided in the Mansion House Hotel owned by Pamelia Mann, which was a known brothel, prior to marrying Bellows.

Susanna’s fifth and final marriage was by all accounts a happy one. She married Joseph William Hannig, a German immigrant, in 1857. The couple moved to Austin where Hannig became a prosperous furniture and cabinet maker. The couple’s Austin home, which Hannig built in 1869, was turned into a museum in 2010. Susanna passed away on October 7, 1883 after being ill for several months.

Susanna is best remembered for her role as messenger following the Battle of the Alamo and the eyewitness accounts of the battle that she provided over the years. A lesser known fact is that on a number of occasions Susanna testified on behalf of the families of Alamo defenders so they could claim the land granted by the Republic of Texas for military service at the Alamo. Susanna gave her last known account of the battle shortly before her death in 1883 around the time the Alamo Church was sold to the State of Texas. This account was published in the memoirs of Mary Maverick, another remarkable Texas woman.


Handbook of Texas Online, Margaret Swett Henson, “Dickinson, Susanna Wilkerson,” accessed October 06, 2016. 

November 4, 1835 Letters from Lancelot Smithers to Stephen F. Austin in Papers of the Texas Revolution, Vol. 2 edited by John Jenkins, Austin: Presidial Press, 1973, pp. 318–319.

Todd Hansen, editor. The Alamo Reader: A Study of History. (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2003).