About noon yesterday, three frame dwellings on Carberry Court, Catherine St. below Fifth were greatly damaged by fire, which originated in the sparks from a foul chimney which had been allowed to burn out. Owing to the high wind, the fire extended along the roofs with great rapidity, and most of the furniture and clothing of the tenants, were destroyed or greatly injured. James Barker and Mrs. McDevitt occupied one house, and Mrs. Ann Sharpley and Mrs. Graves occupied the other two. These females were widows, who lose their all by this calamity, and the destitute situation of Mrs. Graves is one of peculiar hardship. She has five children depending upon her for subsistence, who escaped from their home with no closing but what they had on – and of her furniture only a single bed was saved. The property formerly belonged to the Carberry estate. (Public Ledger, May 2, 1850)
Carberry Court* was a narrow dark alleyway that terminated at the northern boundary of Bethel Burying Ground. For decades leading up to 1850 the “back houses” that lined the passageway were home to white working class, mostly Irish, single men and occasionally single women and whole families. The lane saw its share of violent troubles with gang wars between the “Skinners” and the “Buffers” culminating in a pitched battle that lasted an hour on the evening November of 1847 at the head of Carberry Court. Pistols, bats, knives and stones were all used culminating in the death of a young man named Roger Kelley who was murdered. He was a member of the “Buffer” gang. (Philadelphia Inquirer, 11/8/1847)
Ten years later in June of 1857 a 21-year-old policeman (constable) was stabbed while breaking up a fight in Carberry Court and died of his wounds at Pennsylvania Hospital. The suspected assailant (James Diamond) “escaped over a grave-yard fence” and through Bethel Burying Ground onto Queen Street.(Philadelphia Inquirer, June 22, 1857) Diamond was caught and tried and acquitted of all charges due to numerous discrepancies in witness testimony. (Press, December 19, 1857)
*Also called Carberry’s Court and Carbery.