Profiles in History: Almarion Dickinson Griffith: Son of the Babe of the Alamo



Alamo battle woodblock

This is a new series on our Cherrywood neighbors who have gone before us. They contributed to the fabric of the neighborhood and have fascinating stories to tell. We’ll start with Mr. Almarion Dickenson Griffith who lived at 3103 Robinson.

A.D. Griffith on 3103 Robinson

A.D. Griffith at age 82


A.D. Griffith, son of the ‘baby of the Alamo” was born in May 13, 1853 in Montgomery County. He lived in Austin from 1907 to his death. He was the organizer of one of the first fruit growers’ cooperative associations formed in Texas and has a particularly interesting claim to fame. It was A.D.’s mother, Angelina Arabella Dickenson, who was carried as a baby from the beleaguered Alamo by her mother, Susanna Dickinson, wife of Lieutenant Almarion Dickenson. Dr. Charles W. Ramsdell, Texas historian who married into the family, believes the two-mother and child-were the only persons who escaped from the fortress.
No story of the Alamo is complete without the poignant drama of the little Dickinson family. On February 23, 1836, as the forces of Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna entered the city, Dickinson reportedly caught up his wife and daughter behind his saddle and galloped to the Alamo, just before the enemy started firing.
They were among the heroic group within the Alamo walls when William R. Travis addressed his thrilling letter ‘to the people of Texas and all Americans in the world,” telling them he was besieged by Santa Anna’s forces of a thousand or more. Like Travis, the Dickinsons knew at that moment there was little hope that victory instead of death would come to the defenders.
“The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise the garrison are to be put to the sword if the fort is taken,” Travis wrote to the world. “I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, and our flag still waves proudly from the walls. I shall never surrender or retreat.”
In the Alamo, legend says William B. Travis tied his cat’s-eye ring around Angelina’s neck. Angelina and Susanna survived the final Mexican assault on March 6, 1836. However, within an hour’s time it was all over and the dead of the Alamo lay in piles ready to be burned by their conquerors. Only the wife of Lieutenant Dickinson and her baby girl were spared.

William B Travis ring

Cat’s Eye ring belonging to William B Travis

Angelina Dickenson photo

Angelina Dickinson

Though Santa Anna wanted to adopt Angelina, her mother refused. A few days after the battle, mother and child were released as messengers to Gen. Sam Houston.
At the end of the revolution, Angelina and her mother moved to Houston. Between 1837 and 1847 Susanna Dickinson married three times. Angelina and her mother were not, however, left without resources. For their participation in the defense of the Alamo, they received a donation certificate for 640 acres of land in 1839 and a bounty warrant for 1,920 acres of land in Clay County in 1855. In 1849 a resolution by Representative Guy M. Bryan for the relief of “the orphan child of the Alamo” to provide funds for Angelina’s support and education failed. At the age of seventeen, with her mother’s encouragement, Angelina married John Maynard Griffith, a farmer from Montgomery County. Over the next six years, the Griffiths had three children, but the marriage ended in divorce. Leaving two of her children with her mother and one with an uncle, Angelina drifted to New Orleans. Rumors spread of her promiscuity.
Before the Civil War she became associated in Galveston with Jim Britton, a railroad man from Tennessee who became a Confederate officer, and to whom she gave Travis’s ring. She is believed to have married Oscar Holmes in 1864 and had a fourth child in 1865. Whether she ever married Britton is uncertain, but according to Flake’s Daily Bulletin, Angelina died as “Em Britton” in 1869 of a uterine hemorrhage in Galveston, where she was a known courtesan.
While A.D. Griffith has little more to add to the story since he wasn’t born when much of this occurred, he loved to tell this story to youngsters of the next generation. He passed away one month after his 85th birthday in 1938. It is fitting that his precious great-granddaughter, Wilfreda Gustafson, was born on March 2, the anniversary of Texas Independence Day.

Susannah Dickinson

Susannah Dickinson, mother of Angelina and grandmother of A.D. Griffith




For more information on the fascinating story of William B. Travis’ Cat’s Eye Ring, please visit the link below: