Prior to April of 1810, there existed a “Bethel Church Cemetery” according to the City of Philadelphia Board of Health records located in the City Archives. This cemetery appeared to be, according to newspaper reports, located on the land surrounding and adjacent to the church. My research has documented the existence of at least 220 individuals interred in those grounds. There could be more burials that are not documented. Lost records, poor record keeping, and unreported burials were not uncommon during this time period. In addition, Bethel Church burial records “were lost,” according to William Carl Bolivar, “in the church Dissension of 1850.” (The Philadelphia Tribune, 10 Oct 1914)
Total Burials in Mother Bethel Church Cemetery (6th and Lombard Streets) From 1797 to Early 1810.
|Total burials: 220|
The Philadelphia Board of Health published a summary of interments by institution in their end of year annual report. Those reports have not survived. However, journalist and editor Zachary Poulson published those summaries in his annual almanacs for seven years. When that ceased in 1801 his newspaper continued to publish weekly accountings of burials in his newspaper.
- “Poulson’s Town and Country Almanack” for the years covering 1797-1802 and 1804-1805.
- “Poulson’s American Daily Advertiser,” a summary of interment announcements for 1803. There appears to have been a significant breakdown in the reporting of interment city-wide for 1803. I would not be surprised if the actual total interments were more in line with the numbers in 1802 and 1804.
- “Cemetery Returns,” City Archives of Philadelphia for 1806-1810. The number for 1810 is for those that were recorded being buried before the purchase of the Queen Street property which was April 28, 1810.
On Poulson, in general, Professor Susan E. Klepp, Ph.D. of Temple University states that “Poulson’s almanacs are superior to any known sources for eighteenth-century urban America.” Dr. Klepp has used Poulson’s data for a couple of decades in a number of her works.