Seven-year-old Henry C. White died this date, September 26th, in 1849 of Kidney Disease and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. He lived with his grandparents Isaac (66) and Hannah (68) along with his sisters Sarah (18) and Elizabeth (16). They lived in a room on Mackey Street. It appears from census and death records that both the child’s parents had died recently and had been buried at Bethel Burying Ground. His mother, Nancy (45), died of Tuberculosis on April 18, 1850, just five months previous. Henry’s father, Handy White (48), died on September 18, 1849, of Cholera.
Mackey Street was a small through fair near 2nd and Reed Streets in south Philadelphia. The street not longer exists and the Herron Playground presently covers the area.
Six-year-old Margaret L. Gillam died this date, September 26th, in 1849 of “Congestion of the Lungs” and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. Her mother, Sarah (29) was employed as a laundress and her father, Wesley (47) as a waiter. Margaret had two sisters and one brother – Martha F. (10), Angelina E. (5) and Samuel (1). They lived in a room behind no. 11 Eutaw Alley in a very impoverished situation. The Gillams paid $5 a month rent. Mr. Gillam only brought home $6 a month from his job. The home was near the intersection of 8th and Race Streets in Philadelphia near where the Philadelphia Police Administration Building (“The Roundhouse”) has sat since 1963.
Both Sarah and Wesley Gillam were born in Virginia. The 1847 African American Census reports that one of the adults was formerly enslaved. According to the Census, there is an older woman in the household, possibly Sarah or Wesley’s mother.
Nineteenth Century African American family
Thirty-three-year-old Francis Hanson died this date, September 18th, in 1843 of a Tetanus infection and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. Mr. Hanson was hit by a train as he was crossing the tracks in the Camden, New Jersey rail yard and sustained a compound fracture of one of his legs. He was transported to Pennsylvania Hospital and died shortly thereafter of an infection that resulted in Lockjaw.
Mr. Hanson was married and did not appear to have any children according to census records. He listed his occupation as “waiter.” He was employed as a servant in the household of United State Navy Commodore Robert F. Stockton who was commanding the Philadelphia Navy Shipyard. He was the first U.S. naval officer to act against the slave trade and captured several slave ships. He was a participate in negotiating a treaty that leads to the founding of the country of Liberia.
Mr. and Ms. Hanson lived near the intersection of 2nd and Catharine Streets next to the Delaware River waterfront and just two blocks from the Bethel Burying Ground.
Ten-year-old Elizabeth Lewis died this date of “Acute Bronchitis” and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. Her parents, David and Sarah had three other children, Ellinor, Margaret and Charles. Mr. Lewis worked as a coachman and Ms. Lewis as a laundress. Elizabeth attended the private school of Ms. Diana Smith on Prosperous Alley, a block away from her home. The Lewis family lived on Quince Street, a small thoroughfare located from Walnut to Locust Streets and between 11th and 12th Streets according to the 1847 African American Census.
Elizabeth’s teacher Diana Smith was African American and established her school in her home in 1836. She would normally have between 15 to 25 students enrolled. Many Black families sent their children to private schools. The publicly segregated “Black schools” had a ratio of 60 students to one teacher and that was one of the best ratios. (the Bird School). The white teachers assigned to these schools were “the worst in the system” and normally “neglected and despised their pupils.” (Roger Lane, William Dorsey’s Philadelphia & Ours: On the Past and Future of the Black City in America, p. 135)
A nineteenth-century private school student body.
Twenty-five-year-old Mary Ann Dutertre died this date, September 11th, in 1843 of “exhaustion.” It is rare to see this cause of death in the death records. When it is mentioned it usually means death due to heat stroke. The weather records indicate a heat wave had locked the city in ninety-degree weather since the beginning of September. However, there possibly existed an underlying medical condition that made Ms. Dutertre more susceptible to the heat. She and her family lived in the tightly packed rows of Washington Court where the rooms were like ovens in the heat. This dead end alley was located only a block away from Mother Bethel Church.
Ms. Dutertre came from a large family and appears to have been the daughter-in-law of the head of the household Francis A. Dutertre. There were eight in the family. The adult men were employed as carpenters (“builders”) and one worked as a typesetter. The women were employed as dressmakers and tailoresses. According to the 1847 African American Census most could read and write and attended church services.
Census and city directories also spelled the family name “Duteer” and “Dutert.” The name “Dutertre” would become well-known decades later with Harriett Dutertre who was the proprietress of a very successful undertaking business.
Five-year-old Justin Cole died this date, September 5th, in 1852 of an “Inflammation of the Brain” and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. The cause of death is not specific and could be from any illness that caused a high fever including Meningitis. Justin’s parents, Elizabeth (“Eliza”) and Charles Cole lived on south 8th Street between South Street and Bainbridge Street. He worked as a waiter making only $10 a month and she was occupied as a laundress. On average you could expect Mr. Cole to be making approximately $16 a month unless there was a disability or illness involved. They paid $3 a month for an 8’x 8′ room. In addition to Justin, it appears the Coles had at least one other child and another adult female living with the family that was possibly the mother of either Charles or Elizabeth according to census records.
“The Laundress,” Robert Henri (1916)
The five-day-old son of Maria and Peter Wise died this date, August 31st, in 1845 of “Inanition” and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. The child was a “preemie” born two months early. The cause of death is what is known as “failure to thrive.” There could be many reasons for this including the poor health of Ms. Wise while pregnant.
The Wise family lived in Currant Alley in the southern part of center city Philadelphia. It appears the family had no other children and lived in a 12’x 12′ room for which they paid $25 a year. Mr. Wise worked as a stevedore but appears to have been only able to work sporadically. Ms. Wise worked as a wash woman.
Currant Alley (now S. Warnock St.) as it looks today.