Susanna Wilkerson Dickinson

Mar 2, 2021 - 5:01 pm

Susanna Wilkerson Dickinson (ca. 1814–1883) is best known today as a survivor of the Alamo. She was born about 1814 in Tennessee and in 1829 she married Almeron Dickinson. The couple moved to Texas almost 2 years later and arrived at Gonzales, TX along with fifty-four other settlers. 

The Dickinsons lived on a lot just above the town on the San Marcos River, where Susanna had at least one boarder that supplemented income. 

In October of 1835, Susanna and her daughter likely joined other families hiding in the timber along the Guadalupe River when Mexican troops from San Antonio demanded the return of an old cannon that had been lent to Gonzales four years earlier. 

This event, the Battle of Gonzales, was the first fight of the Texas Revolution. Almeron left on October 13 with the other volunteers for San Antonio under the command of Stephen F. Austin. Susanna and her daughter, Angelina, followed a few months later.

Photo Courtesy of Susanna Dickinson Wilkerson Museum

After the Battle of the Alamo on March 6, Mexican soldiers found her and took her, Angelina, and the other women and children, to Músquiz's home.

After interviewing and releasing the women and children, Santa Anna sent Susanna and her daughter to Sam Houston with a letter of warning.

Susanna Dickinson probably followed the army eastward in company with the other Gonzales women. Despite being Illiterate and without family the 22-year-old petitioned the government meeting at Columbia for a donation, unfortunately, this was rejected. 

She needed a male protector, and by June 1837 she was cohabiting with John Williams, whom she married about November 27, 1837. He beat her and Angelina, and she petitioned in Harrisburg (later Harris) County for a divorce, which was granted on March 24, 1838—one of the first divorces in the county.

Almeron Dickinson's heirs had received rights to 2,560 acres for his military service; they sold the land when Angelina reached twenty-one. Subsequent requests to the state legislature in November 1849 were turned down. 

Susanna was married a few more times, and it was her last marriage that lasted. She wed Francis P. Herring in 1838 and he died in 1843. In 1847, she married Pennsylvania drayman Peter Bellows, but by 1854 Susanna had left Bellows, though he didn’t file for divorce until 1857. The divorce petition may have accused her of taking up residence in a "house of ill fame." but this didn’t stop the praise from the Baptist minister Rufus C. Burleson for her work nursing cholera victims in Houston.

The last time she was married was to Joseph William Hannig in 1857. He was an immigrant from Germany living in Lockhart. They soon moved to Austin, where Hannig became prosperous with a cabinet shop then furniture store and undertaking parlor. Susanna became ill in February 1883 and died in October. Hannig buried her in Oakwood Cemetery, and even though he married again, he was buried next to Susanna after his death in 1890.