Thirty-two-year-old Henry Matthew died this date, February 3rd, in 1853 of Tuberculosis and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. He was a native Philadelphian who employed as a boat builder. He was probably a sailmaker as his previous profession was cordwainer or someone who make boots and shoes from new leather; as opposed to a “cobbler” who repaired worn shoes.
A Black man who was employed as a sailmaker in all likelihood worked for James Forten (September 2, 1766 – March 4, 1842) “an African-American abolitionist and wealthy businessman in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Born free in the city, he became a sailmaker after the American Revolutionary War. After an apprenticeship, he became foreman and bought the sail loft when his boss retired. Based on equipment he developed, he built a highly profitable business. It was located on the busy waterfront of the Delaware River, in the area now called Penn’s Landing.” See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Forten
Mr. Matthew was married and lived at 56 Currant Alley (now S. Warnock St.) a small narrow alley that ran from Walnut St. to Spruce St. between south 1oth and 11th streets. In the 1847 African American Census at least 85 Black families lived on this small narrow alley. The Matthew family is not listed in the 1850 Federal Census for the City of Philadelphia. His death certificate was signed by J.J. Gould Bias, M.D., an African-American gentleman, a friend of Rev. Richard Allen and a valued member of the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Currant Alley (now S. Warnock St.) as it looks today.