The Reverend John Boggs, 66, died this date, May 11th, in 1848 and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. This pioneering missionary and former pastor of Bethel Church had a funeral procession of an estimated 1,000 individuals including 200 clergymen. However, according to Black journalist and historian William Carl Bolivar this number was less than the numbers for the funerals of Black band leader, composer and musician Frank Johnson (1842), James Forten (1842), Rev. Walter Proctor (1861) and slain civil rights leader Octavius V. Catto (1871). According to Bolivar, ” . . . this last in number [Catto] ranking next to Lincoln’s and General Meade’s.”*
Probable route, given that there were a thousand in the procession, of Rev. Boggs casket from his family’s residence in Acorn Alley (now South Schell St.) to Bethel Burying Ground in the 400 block of Queen Street. (East on Cedar St. – now South St. – and south on 5th St.)
Rev. Boggs’ wife, Sarah “Mother Boggs”, died on September 3, 1873 at 81 years of age. She was born in Maryland, worked as a cook and lived her final years at the Home for Aged and Infirm Colored Persons located at 340 South Front Street. (See below)
Established primarily by the Quakers in 1864, the Home for Aged and Infirmed Colored Persons was located at 340 S. Front Street.
*Philadelphia Tribune, October 10, 1914, p. 4.
Two-month-old Joseph Thompson died this date, May 6th, in 1851 of convulsions and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. The 1850 Federal Census, 1847 African American Census and the relevant city directories do not reveal any information on Joseph’s family. Educator, historian and author Charles L. Blockson claims that the African American neighborhood of Paschall’s Alley “aided and sheltered more fugitive slaves than any other section of the city until the Civil War.”*
Local historian, Harry Kyriakodis** asserts that numerous residents of Paschall Alley were Underground Railroad “agents” and that “. . . . the alley became reputed along the Underground railroad up and down the East Coast.” However, neither Blockson or Kyriakodis cite evidence of their claims.
Could the Thompson family had been fugitive slaves passing through Philadelphia to New England or Canada?
The 400 block of Wallace Street (formerly Paschall’s Alley) in the Northern Liberties neighborhood of the city. The street is near 5th and Coates Streets.
*The Underground Railroad in Pennsylvania, p. 17.
Four-year-old Margaret States died this date, May 3rd, in 1850 “from the effects of a burn.” She lived with her parents, Owen and Margaret, and her siblings on Carpenter Street between 13th Street and Broad Street and Christian Street and Washington Avenue. This street no longer exists. Owen was a laborer, a “jobber,” who was occasionally employed as a basketmaker. Margaret worked as a washerwoman who also did sewing according to the 1847 African American Census. The States were a family of 5 who all lived in a 10′ by 10′ room for which they paid $2.25 a month in rent. There are 16 other individuals buried at Bethel Burying Ground that we know about that succumbed to the “effects of a burn.”
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.