Eighteen-year-old Etienne Florentin Lalagüe died this date, June 5th, in 1824 of Tuberculosis and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. It appears from Department of Health records that the young man was originally supposed to be buried in the no. 2 graveyard of Holy Trinity Church at 6th and Spruce. This Roman Catholic church founded by Germans in 1789 was used by Frenchmen and French-speaking people of color since the arrival of white Canadian Arcadians in 1755. They lived in a cluster of “one-story wooden houses built, on the north side of Pine Street, extending from Fifth Street to Sixth Street.”* Holy Trinity Church was known as early as 1801 for refusing Black congregants burial in the church’s graveyards.**
By 1793, Philadelphia became the center of French refugee life in America primarily due to the revolt of the enslaved in Haiti. Black Saint Dominguans were arriving at the Port of Philadelphia by the hundreds. They had been the domestic slaves of the white plantation owners and now in Philadelphia they were freed. However, most were forced into indentures that would last for many years.*** I believe there is a good possibility that Etienne either came from Haiti as an infant or was born here to a formerly enslaved mother.
Etienne is not the only person buried at Bethel Burying Ground with this background. Feticita “Mary Jane” Ardica, 70 years of age, died on October 5, 1814 and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. She was born in Guinea, Africa and worshiped at Holy Trinity Church and likely was brought to Philadelphia from Haiti. She was refused burial in her church graveyard and was laid to rest at BBG. See “Bethel Burying Ground Name Directory” on this website.
For further reading on the St. Domingan refugees see Haiti’s Influence on Antebellum America by Alfred N. Hunt.
*Annals of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania in Olden Time by John Watson,p. 559. (Available on Google Books)
**1789-1914: A Retrospective of Holy Trinity Parish, p. 61. (Available at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania)
***Gary B, Nash, “Reverberations of Haiti in American North: Black Saint Dominguans in Philadelphia,” PA History (1998), 44-73.