Ninety-year-old Manuel Till died this date, April 30th, in 1919 of complication due to Asthma and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground on May 1st. Born in 1729 he surely was enslaved at one point in his life. Research has not been able to uncover any other information on Mr. Till. There are five other individuals with the last name of “Till” buried on Queen Street. Hopefully, continued research will be able to add to this gentleman’s life story.
The city directory of 1818 reports that Mr. Till’s physician, Edward Haycock, had his practice at no. 50 South 2nd St. near to what is now known as Head House Square.
This is the legal document that was signed by the attorneys for Richard Allen and the original trustees of Mother Bethel when they purchased the property for the burying ground in April of 1810. Somewhere along the line the document was stolen and eventually resurfaced in a North Carolina flea market where it was purchased! It was donated to the Smithsonian several years ago by the daughter of the woman who acquired it. (Personal communications between myself, the Smithsonian and the donor.)
On April 28, 1810 the Reverend Richard Allen and the trustees purchased a plot of land for $1,600 to be used as a cemetery not only for congregants, but for any Black man, woman or child that wanted a respectable Christian burial; as opposed to an unmarked grave in a potter’s field.
October 10, 1914 “Pencil Pusher Points” column of Black journalist William Carl Bolivar in the Philadelphia Tribune.
In 1823 Rev. Richard Allen wrote that Bethel Church had spent between $1,200 and $1,500 in charitable relief for those who could not afford to pay for a burial on Queen Street.*
*Richard S. Newman, Freedom’s Prophet, p.150.
William Bacon, 30 years old, died this date, April 27th, in 1853 of Tuberculosis and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. He lived with his spouse and children at 10 Acorn Alley and made his living at different occupation over the years, including waiter, seaman and trader. The Bacons paid $12.50 a quarter for their rent which was probably one large room or two smaller rooms.* Mr. Bacon was born in Cecil County, Maryland as it appears was his wife. Acorn Alley (now North Darien Street) ran from Spruce to Locust Streets in the 800 blocks.
The week that Mr. Brown was buried, there were three other individuals interred at Bethel Burying Ground that succumbed to Tuberculosis.
The red star indicates the location of Acorn Alley (now N. Darien Street).
*1847 African American Census
One-day-old triplets died this date, April 22nd, in 1835 of unknown causes and were buried at Bethel Burying Ground. They were the daughters of “L. Hebrens.” I was unable to uncover any information on this family. There is documentation of 40 infants between the ages of 1 to 7 days being buried at Bethel Burying Ground.
Nancy Moses, 50 years old, died this date, April 18th, in 1849 of “disease of the Lungs” and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. Ms. Moses lived with her husband, Ezekiel, next to Bethel Burying Ground on Cobb Street (now Lawrence Street). She took in washing and ironing while Ezekiel earned a living working as a seaman for $20 per month according to the 1847 African American Census. The rent for their rooms was $90 a year. City directories reveal that as early as 1841 the family lived on the little alley street that abutted the graveyard. In addition to her spouse, Nancy also left behind two daughters Anna (18 y/o) and Mary (17 y/o).
The Moses family home is represented in this 1862 map by the red striated rectangle and Bethel Burying Ground by the red circle. Black families living on the surrounding streets of the graveyard were very rare until after the American Civil War. Could Ezekiel and Nancy Moses been some sort of caretakers for graveyard? Hopefully, further research will determine that one way or the other.
The stillborn male child of Jane Vanorkey was delivered this date, April 16th, in 1848 and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. Ms. Vanorkey was a dressmaker with two other young children who attended the Shiloh Baptist Infant School at Clifton and Cedar Streets according to the 1847 African American Census. Simon, her spouse, worked as a bottler in one of the many distilleries and beer breweries in the city and surrounding districts.
One of the most famous dressmakers/seamstresses in American History is civil rights activist Rosa Parkers.
I have chosen to accept the spelling of the last name as “Corsey” because that is how it is spelled in several city directories.”Coursey” is used in the 1847 African American Census and we see that the hurried physician spelled it “Cansey.”
Trim* Corsey lost his 7-month-old son to Pneumonia on this date, April 12th, in 1849 and had the infant buried at Bethel Burying Ground. Mr. Corsey supported his family as a coachman making $15 a month. Ms. Corsey was a washerwoman adding to the family’s income that paid their rent of $56 a year for a room at 15 Watson’s Alley in the Cedar Section of the City. The alley ran south from 104 Locust Street and no longer exists.
In the 1847 African American Census, there were 104 Black Philadelphians who listed their occupation as “coachman.”
*Ancestry.com reports that the name “Trim” is a nickname for someone who is known as “a well-turned out person.” The name was first reportedly used as far back as the 16th century. I have not been able to locate any documents that reveal another first name if there is one.
In Loving Memory
She died April 3, 1819
Aged 26 years old
He that believeth in Me, though he was dead, yet shall live
Twenty-six-year-old Amelia Brown died this date, April 3rd, in 1819 and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. The official death certificate or “Cemetery Return” for Ms. Brown is not in the public record. Whether it did exist at one time and was destroyed through the decades is unknown. Consequently, we do not have a cause of death for the young woman. I do not have any other specific information on her. The search for addition data on the young woman is hampered by the commonality of her last name and that she was a Black female who, in general, have left very little primary source material.
Amelia Brown’s gravestone was unearthed at Bethel Burying Ground on July 25, 2013 by archeologists. It is currently on display at Mother Bethel Church.
The Health Office, on a weekly basis, would make the causes of death for the previous week public and the local newspapers would publish the record. Four people in Ms. Brown’s age range died in the week of March 27th to April 3rd. That this leaves us guessing about her cause of death. It was most likely Consumption/Tuberculosis, but we may never know for certain.
“Poulson’s American Daily Advertiser,” April 5, 1819.