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Susanna Dickinson’s descendant carries family legacy

Susanna Dickinson’s descendant carries family legacy
PASCALLE BIPPERT Betty (Barrera) Stasny (right) and her daughter, Sandra Byrom-Pape, display a photo collage of their ancestors, Susanna Dickinson, Angelina Dickinson, and Sarah “Sallie” Holmes, during their visit to La Vernia.

If you’ve noticed the mural as you drive past the La Vernia Heritage Museum, you may wonder about the identity of the lady on horseback, carrying a baby.

The mural depicts none other than Susanna Dickinson, Messenger of the Alamo; the child is Angelina Dickinson, known as the “Babe of the Alamo.” The mural commemorates Susanna’s ride from the Alamo to Gonzales, to deliver Gen. Santa Anna’s letter outlining the fall of the Alamo to Gen. Sam Houston. On her way, she crossed the Cibolo near La Vernia, which is why the mural of this event adorns the La Vernia Heritage Museum.

Susanna is the great-great-great-great-grandmother of someone who lives right here in La Vernia. Crystal (Stasny) Kiolbassa of La Vernia has direct ties to the battle of the Alamo.

In honor of the bicentennial celebration of Susanna Dickinson’s birth, Crystal and her mother, Merrie (Stasny) Monaco, brought Crystal’s grandmother, Betty Catherine (Barrera) Stasny to the La Vernia Heritage Museum Nov. 10 to meet with museum Director Susan Richter, La Vernia Historical Association President Elaine Stephens, and Linda Saidler, regent of the Susanna Dickinson chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution. Accompanying Betty was her daughter, Sandra Byrom-Pape, one of her six children.

Betty was born Aug. 15, 1929, in San Antonio to Susanna Dickinson’s great-grandson, San Antonio firefighter George Barrera, and homemaker Francis Lillian Campbell Barrera. Her mother passed away from pneumonia when Betty was five, and her father passed away when she was 11. She lived with her father’s sister Susie, but Susie was abusive toward her, so Betty went to live with her sister, Charlotte, in Houston.

She also spent a lot of time with her paternal grandmother, Sarah “Sallie” Holmes. Sallie was the youngest child of the “Babe of the Alamo,” Angelina Dickinson.

Family tales

During her visit to La Vernia, Betty told the group that Santa Anna sent for Susanna and her daughter. The story is told that as she walked across the courtyard carrying her 15-month-old child, a shot was fired and hit her in the leg, but she kept walking. When she entered the room where Santa Anna was, Angelina wanted to get down; when Susanna let the baby down, she ran to Santa Anna and sat on his lap. During the course of their conversation, he apparently told Susanna that if she and the little girl stayed with him, he would adopt Angelina and would see to it that she received the best education and would be received in society. Susanna refused his offer. Santa Anna let her go, and gave her a letter to carry to Sam Houston.

Betty is proud of how strong her great-great-grandmother was. Family members said Susanna’s leg wound never healed and had to be tended to for the rest of her life.

An elopement

Susanna’s only daughter, Angelina, had four children; she died due to medical complications, leaving the raising of three of the children to their grandmother, Susanna, in Austin. According to Betty, Susanna sent her granddaughter, Sarah “Sallie,” to the Ursuline Academy in San Antonio for “the finest education.”

Sallie was promised, in an arranged marriage, to the son of Texas governor Sul Ross. The wedding invitations had been sent. It was to be the wedding of the season. Instead, according to Betty, Sallie had other plans. She eloped with the “ice man,” Emmanuel Barrera, who delivered ice to the Ursuline Academy. Because she eloped, Susanna disowned Sallie, after buying her a house in San Antonio.

Today’s descendants

Sallie’s only grandchild, Betty, visited the Alamo a few years ago. She noticed one of the photographs of her grandmother was gone. Some of the cherished family photographs and documents are no longer in her possession, though some other family members have some. She does have one large photo collage of Susanna, Angelina, and Sallie.

Sallie is buried in the cemetery at Commerce Street and New Braunfels Avenue in San Antonio.

Crystal is very close to Betty. Clearly, the courage, strength, and tenacity that Susanna Dickinson possessed she passed to her descendants. All of these women display strength of character. Crystal owns her own business, a mobile clothing boutique, one of only a handful in the state. She is a pioneer of sorts, in her own right.

After the interview in the La Vernia Heritage Museum, the family group traveled to the historical marker on F.M. 775 near La Vernia, commemorating Susanna Dickinson’s Cibolo crossing.

History lives on in our little town and Crystal is making sure her daughters know about their ties to Texas history.

Family lineage

-Susanna Dickinson (1814-1883)

-Her daughter, Angelina Dickinson (1834-1869)

-Angelina’s daughter, Sarah “Sallie” (Holmes)

-Sallie’s son, George Barrera

-George’s daughter, Betty (Barrera) Stasny

-Betty’s son, Tony Stasny

-Tony’s daughter, Crystal (Stasny) Kiolbassa

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