We’ve written about Pamela Dickinson Mann before when in the spring of April 1836, the Runaway Scrape and General Sam Houston’s ragtag Army both fought the rain and mud on their eastward trek. Pamela allowed General Sam Houston to use her oxen to pull the Twin Sisters cannon through the mud as the Army made its way toward the San Jacinto Battlefield where Santa Anna would be defeated.
Remember that when the two groups split direction, the Runaway Scrape taking a more easterly path, and Houston splitting off toward Peggy’s Lake along Buffalo Bayou, Houston insisted on keeping the oxen, but Pamela pulled her Bowie knife and cut them free.
Pamela immigrated to Texas just two-years earlier first settling at San Felipe. She temporarily ran an inn at Washington on the Brazos during the time the Texas frontiersmen met in March to form the Republic of Texas. As the delegates fled Old Washington from the imminent threat of Santa Anna’s approach, so did Pamela, to join the Runaway Scrape and Houston’s Army’s path when it took leave of Groce’s Plantation.
Pamela, who first was married to a man named Hunt, then a Samuel Ezekiel Allen with whom she had one son with each, next married Marshall Mann. Following the win at San Jacinto, Pamela next landed in the Lynchburg area, then near the burned-out town of Harrisburg by Santa Anna’s earlier April approach. By early 1837, the fast-moving Pamela was in the new town of Houston where she quickly established a hotel named the Mansion House on the northeast corner of Congress and Milam streets.
The hotel’s location was prime to attract the newly founded Republic of Texas President Sam Houston, congressmen, clerks and Army officers. It was also the location of much of Houston’s boomtown saloons and rowdiness.
The outrageous Pamela also had a penchant for lawlessness. In the span of the four years from 1836 to the fall of 1840 she became involved in numerous legal cases both as a plaintiff and as a defendant. She was indicted for crimes ranging from larceny, assault and fornication. In 1839, she was convicted of forgery that at that time carried a mandatory death penalty. But, regardless of her notoriety for crime, she was strangely well accepted in the burgeoning community of fledgling Houston. The jury in Pamela’s forgery trial made the “recommendation of clemency” and newly elected Republic of Texas President Mirabeau B. Lamar made the recommendation official.
Pamela’s outrageousness was quickly cutoff when she contracted and died of yellow fever in early November 1840. It is said she tripled her net worth from the time she arrived in Houston to her death leaving an estate of more than $40,000.
William Ransom Hogan, writing about “Pamelia Mann: Texas Frontierswoman” in the July 1935 Southwest Review, described her as: “Alert in thinking and versatility in profanity combined with proficiency in the use of firearms and the bowie knife and in horseback riding to enable her to hold her own successfully in pursuits commonly considered masculine. Hogan claimed she “achieved a close friendship with General and President Sam Houston… and lived a life of notoriety and adventure.”
Written by Betty Dunn, Two Rivers Heritage Foundation. For more information on the Two Rivers Heritage Foundation or to become a member, go to www.tworiversheritagefoundation.org