Four-year-old William Ayres died this date, April 28th, in 1850 after being crushed to death by a horse-drawn trolley and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. I was unable to positively identify the child’s parents. There are some clues, but nothing definitive.
Ironically, there was an eight-year-old child killed in the same manner 11 days before the death of little William. The Public Ledger reporting the death stated that there were a high number of children being killed in the city by hanging onto the back of these vehicles, falling and subsequently being run over by other vehicles. The newspaper wondered, even with he high number of deaths, why there weren’t more accidents given the danger. (4/17/1850 p. 1)
The vehicle that crushed the child was the Omnibus No. 12 owned by John Levering. It would have looked similar to the one in this photo.
These “horse buses” were the later cousin of the old stagecoach and could carry many more passengers. The service was established throughout the city of Philadelphia in 1831. These were the predecessors of today’s trolleys and buses.
Fifty-four-year-old George Miller died this date, April 11th, in 1842 of Tuberculosis and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. I have not been able to locate him in census records or city directories. This is not at all uncommon. Those that had escaped their enslavers and found their way north to Philadelphia would not welcome their presence published if they could avoid it. Mr. Miller was employed as a woodsawyer according to his Death Certificate. He lived in one of the worst neighborhoods in the 7th Ward. St. Mary’s Street was the epicenter of Black vice that included prostitution, gambling, and illegal speakeasies. It is where the poorest of the poor lived in conditions that are hard to imagine. Mr. Miller lived only about a block and a half from Bethel Church (now Mother Bethel).
Twenty-four-year-old Elizabeth Melony died this date, April 4th, in 1823 of “nervous irritation” and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. She lived on Lombard Street near 7th Street only a block away from Bethel Church.
The term “nervous irritation” can mean many things. After reviewing a fair amount of material it commonly meant, during this time period, a disease of the brain. It also referred to “hysteria” in women. A phenomenon that was due to ignorance and a misogynistic culture. For further reading, I found “Sex, Sickness and Slavery: Illness in the Antebellum South” by Marli F. Weiner to be helpful in understanding the disease as it related to 18th and 19th-century African American women; see pages 139-142, Some parts of this book are available online at GoogleBooks.