Susanna Dickinson – Alamo Survivor

Alamo survivor? Could that be right? I thought everyone died at the Alamo. Isn’t that what made it famous? Well, all the fighting men who made their stand at the mission, did, in fact, die. But there were others present–women, children, slaves–who didn’t perish during that fateful battle in 1836. Susanna Dickinson was one such survivor.

Susanna joined her husband, Almaron, in San Antonio in December 1835 after her home back in Gonzalez, TX was looted. She hosted many of the men at her table (including David Crockett) and took in laundry for the men at the fort. On February 23, 1836, she and her daughter Angelina moved into the Alamo with her husband due to the increased threat from Santa Ana and his army.

On March 6, after the battle was over, Santa Ana collected her along with the other women, children, and slaves, and questioned them before eventually releasing them with a gift of a blanket and two silver dollars. But to Susanna, he gave a special task. She was to carry a letter of warning to Sam Houston. One of the slaves accompanied her for protection. She and her daughter left on March 7 and finally found her way to Gonzalez where Houston was camped by March 12. Susanna accomplished her mission at the tender age of 22.

Unfortunately, her tale hit a rough patch after the death of her husband at the Alamo. Penniless and with a child to support, she married a man named John Williams. The man turned out to be a brute who beat both Susanna and young Angelina. Susanna wouldn’t take the abuse, so she petitioned Harrisburg County for a divorce and was granted one of the first in that  county’s history. She attempted marriage three more times without success. Either death or divorce ended each of the relationships. Nevertheless, Susanna received praise from the Baptist minister Rufus C. Burleson for her work nursing cholera victims in Houston, where he baptized her in Buffalo Bayou in 1849.

Finally, in 1857, she met a German man in Lockhart, TX and became Mrs. Joseph Hannig. They moved to Austin where Joseph set ran a successful cabinet and furniture shop. They remained married until Susanna’s death in October 1883. After all she’d been through, I’m so glad she finally found the love of a good man.

Susanna Dickinson inspired my characters in Short-Straw Bride. As you probably recall, all four Archer brothers were named for heroes associated with the Alamo: Travis, Crockett, Bowie, and Neill. Their mother (named Susanna, of course!) had a healthy dose of Texas pride and took the call to “Remember the Alamo” to heart.

In just a couple weeks, the next Archer brother’s story will hit the shelves. Stealing the Preacher is Crockett’s story. Three years have past since Short-Straw, and Crockett has trained with a local minister to prepare himself for his dream of ministering to a congregation of his own. But when he’s on his way to a final interview, he’s abducted from a train by a gang of aging outlaws and faced with the choice of either escaping to follow his own dreams or staying to help the daughter of his captor fulfill hers.

Stealing the Preacher is avilable for pre-order now! Just click on the cover to order from Amazon.

To read the first 3 chapters for free, follow this link to my Facebook page. If you “like” the page, you gain immediate access to the content. Enjoy!

Question for you:

Do you know someone who was named for a historical figure? Or do you have family names that have been handed down through the generations?

My oldest son carries on the WDW tradition. My husband’s initials are WDW and his father’s initials are WDW. So it was important to Wes that we carry that on with our son. Finding a W name we both liked was a bit of a challenge. I finally opted for Wyatt (what western fan wouldn’t love such a name – Wyatt Earp, anyone?). The D came from my father who passed away when I was 16. His middle name was Dale, so now we were bringing in family tradition from both sides. Then, we we told my grandmother the name we had selected. She was giddy and thanked us for naming him after her. I hadn’t known until that moment that her maiden name had been Wyatt. How cool is that? I love names that are rich with family meaning!

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For those who love to smile as they read, bestselling author Karen Witemeyer offers warmhearted historical romance with a flair for humor, feisty heroines, and swoon-worthy Texas heroes. Karen is a firm believer in the power of happy endings. . . and ice cream. She is an avid cross-stitcher, and makes her home in Abilene, TX with her husband and three children. Learn more about Karen and her books at: www.karenwitemeyer.com.

19 thoughts on “Susanna Dickinson – Alamo Survivor”

  1. Karen, I really enjoyed reading this article. Very interesting. Only thing that would have made it better is if we were having a chance to win your new book, “Stealing the Preacher”. I really need it to go with my “Short Straw Bride”. I live near Houston and have many years in Texas, with other states in between, but have never gotten to go to the Alamo. Loved the movie. How far is Abilene from Houston? I don’t guess we really have a custom in our family that is followed with every generation. We do have a lot of Prestons in our family, in different generations.. I’m glad the names ya’ll picked were just initials, not the same name. But same initials can cause problems in different circumstances. One of my grandsons initials are the same as his dad. The dad signed some title for something he owned, then when he died. the son could just claim it. I have a family of cousins where they named every first son Charles. Either first or second name. Well the oldest was a girl so when she was of age, she changed her name to Charlie.I heard her dad wasn’t very happy, but I thought it was funny. Maxie mac262(at)me(dot)com

  2. Hi, Maxie. Thanks for sharing. A girl named Charles? I hope she had a feminine middle name she could go by. Poor thing.

    Oh, and keep checking in with us here at the Junction. I’ll be giving away copies of Stealing the Preacher soon. I just got my author copies in, so you can plan on a giveaway on the 24th. Yay!

    Abilene is about 8 hours away from Houston, I think. I’ve never actually been to Houston. I hear it’s really humid. Hope you’re having a pleasant spring down there. 🙂

  3. Good morning, Karen! What a great post. Poor Susanna!!! Yet another reminder that life was rough for women in the Old West. Thanks for sharing her story. I’m huge fan of your work, btw. And I absolutely ADORE your cover. Looks like a cute story. Can’t wait to get my very own copy. WOOT!

  4. Thanks, Renee! I was so thankful to learn that Susanna got a fairly happy ending after all her strife.

    Thanks for the compliments on the cover. They did a fabulous job, didn’t they? I’m so pleased. Hope you enjoy the story soon!

  5. What an interesting blog, Karen. I’d heard of Susanna but didn’t know about her later life. And your story sounds wonderful.

    My father (a wonderful man) was named Parley. He hated it. He always said that he’d disown anybody who named a child after him. Nobody did.

  6. Hi Karen. Great blog post. I’d heard there were survivors of the Alamo attack but didn’t know anything about them – poor Susanna – but it sounds like she had a survivor’s spirit and wouldn’t want us feeling sorry for her. And what a great story about your son’s name – so cool that it was your grandmother’s maiden name!

    My given name of Winnie was my father’s mother’s name as well. I never knew her, she died a couple of months before I was born, but I’ve always felt a kind of connection to her.

  7. Hi, Winnie. There is a special connection between namesakes, isn’t there? Naming a child for a loved one seems to be one of the highest honors one could bestow. So glad you are carrying on your grandmother’s name.

  8. Hi, Charlene. Susanna had gumption and courage to spare, that’s for sure.

    Tracy – So glad you enjoyed the post. It’s amazing what women managed to live through back then. I’d like to think I would survive that kind of hardship, but I’m not sure. I’d rather not be put to the test, I think.

  9. Well my mother like the name Jacqueline because of Jacqueline Corchren an airplane pilot about the same time as Amelia Earhart but not as famous so she named me after her. Otherwise there is no history of our family having famous names.

  10. Great blog Karen! I don’t know anyone named after a historical figure but my middle name (Chandler) is an old family name. I used to hate it but now I’ve grown to like it.

  11. Karen, I’ve been anxiously waiting for this new book! I loved your Short Straw Bride! I finished it in 2 days and couldn’t wait for the next book! I hope you are planning to do books on all the boys! I love the covers of your books too. Congrats on the upcoming book. I’ll look for ways to win a copy also – would love that!

  12. I have loved ALL of Karens books, especially Short
    Straw Bride! Never even considered what the title alluded to until reading the book. Cannot wait to hear Crockets story.

    I don’t have any history shaking name stories other than my son being named after both grandpa’s. My friend named her kids Dallas and Dakota , where they were conceived!

  13. Don’t see my comment here from yesterday. I probably fell asleep before hitting send. A story from my paternal grandmother’s family is that Napoleon is in the family tree, but my brother’s research has disproved that. In any case, Josephine has been a popular name for generations.

  14. Liz – Chandler is an interesting middle name. It’s unusual, but I kind of like it. Was it a surname carried forward? My husband’s middle name is Diehl which was a grandmother or grea-granmother’s maiden name.

    Valri – Thanks so much for your comments about Short-Straw. I grew so attached to those Archer brothers, I just couldn’t let them go without their own happy endings. Jim and Cassie are already pretty paired off, so they won’t have a separate story. However, they will make a few cameo appearances in others. 🙂 Neill will be staring in a novella coming in January. His story, A Cowboy Unmatched, will be part of the collection – A Match Made in Texas. Should be fun!!

  15. Melody – Thanks for the wonderful encouragement! I think it’s cool to have a child named after both grandparents. My dad had passed away when I was a teen, so I had both my grandpas give me away at my wedding. It made it so special.

    Patricia – Thanks for coming back and leaving your comment. It’s fun to imagine famous people in your family tree, even if it proves not to be true. When you say Josephine is a popular name, do you mean that many in your family have that name due to the supposed Napoleon connection? That would be fun.

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