The five-day-old son of Maria and Peter Wise died this date, August 31st, in 1845 of “Inanition” and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. The child was a “preemie” born two months early. The cause of death is what is known as “failure to thrive.” There could be many reasons for this including the poor health of Ms. Wise while pregnant.
The Wise family lived in Currant Alley in the southern part of center city Philadelphia. It appears the family had no other children and lived in a 12’x 12′ room for which they paid $25 a year. Mr. Wise worked as a stevedore but appears to have been only able to work sporadically. Ms. Wise worked as a wash woman.
Currant Alley (now S. Warnock St.) as it looks today.
Forty-five-year-old James Miller, died this date, August 27th, in 1848 by drowning and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. He boarded the Walnut Street ferry to Camden and before it docked he fell overboard and drowned in the Delaware River. His body was recovered from the Camden wharf. The 1847 African American Census reports that the Millers owned property in New Jersey. He may have been on a trip concerning that property.
Mr. Miller was a porter and his spouse a seamstress. Ms. Miller’s first name is not recorded. The Millers had three children two boys and a girl. They lived in a room on what is now Addison Street near the intersection of 5th and Lombard Streets, a block away from Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church.
Thirty-year-old George Washington Nash died this date, August 21st, in 1846 after being hit by a train while crossing tracks* and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. The Nash family lived at the same address as a fabric shop for which they paid $52 a year. Ms. Nash occupation is recorded as a shopkeeper. It is logical to assume that she work at the shop that was located at 166 S. 5th Street across the street from Independence Hall. She was paid $3.40 a week. They had one child.
Mr. Nash was a bootblack with his business located in the 200 block of Chestnut Street only a couple blocks from his home. He earned $3.50 a week to add to the family’s income. Bootblacks polished shoes, boots, and military leather accessories. It was a trade often learned while enslaved.
*Dollar Newspaper, August 19, 1846, p. 2.
Black men often pooled their resources to open shops in busy parts of the city.
The 18-month-old daughter of Joseph and Sarah Watson died this date, August 16th, in 1851 of Hooping Cough and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. The little girl was the youngest of six children. She had three sisters and two brothers according to census records. Mr. Watson was employed as a “hog carrier” which usually meant someone who hauled bricks on a construction site. He would be paid $4-$5 a week for his labors. Ms. Watson did occasional day work to supplement the family’s income. They lived at 3 Gilles Alley for which they paid $2.50 a week in rent. Their home was near the intersection of 5th and Lombard Sts., a block away from Mother Bethel Church.
A young African American hog carrier
The stillborn male child of Stephen Parker was delivered this date, August 13th, and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. I have not been able to find the name of the child’s mother as of yet. There is compelling evidence that the Parkers were driven from their home in the 600 block of St. Mary’s Street (now Rodman) by a vicious, violent white mob that went on a rampage in Southwark from August 1 – 3. What is commonly known as “The Locust Street Riot” was a war on Black families. White men looted numerous blocks of homes destroying doors, shutters and breaking windows. Buildings were sacked, furniture was broken up and the pieces were thrown out onto the street. A church and meeting hall were burned to the ground. Black men were lynched and women and children assaulted. African Americans fled the city carrying what they could. Many escaping to Camden. There is no doubt that the Parker family were victims of this violence and in all likelihood led to the stillborn death of their son.
According to the 1847 African American Census Mr. Parker was employed as a cesspool cleaner making $7 a week. It was a filthy and dangerous job with ever-present exposure to disease. Ms. Parker took in washing and ironing to supplement the family’s income. They had two other children, one of which was severely handicapped. After the riot, the Parkers moved to the neighborhood around the intersection of 7th and Dickerson Streets in south Philadelphia. There Ms. Parker gave birth to another child.
Numerous white men were arrested for the violence, however, only several stood trial and none were found guilty.
Nine-month-old Thomas Todd died this date, August 5th, in 1845 of Pneumonia and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. He lived at 40 Blackberry Alley with his father William and his mother Henrietta. His brothers and sister were Martha, John, William, Jr., and Daniel. Blackberry Alley,which no longer exists, was located between 8th and 9th Streets and from Walnut to Spruce Streets in center city Philadelphia. The Todds paid $120 a year for the room that housed the entire family. Mr. Todd was a coachman and made relatively good wages at $27 a month. Ms. Todd worked as a domestic, according to census records.
Tragically, four years after baby Thomas died Mr. Todd died suddenly of an enlarged heart and was buried next to his baby son at Bethel Burying Ground.
Nineteenth-century African American family.
Jane White, 110 years of age, died this date, August 2nd, in 1851 of “old age” and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. According to census records, she was born into enslavement in the state of Delaware and was eventually manumitted. Coming to Philadelphia she went “in service” to a household in the Kingsessing section in the southwest part of the city. Servants who were “in-service” could lodge in the employer’s home or travel back to their own residence. The vast majority of single African American women lived-in while just the opposite was true with married women. (See W.E.B. DuBois, The Philadelphia Negro, p. 454.)
The 1847 African American Census registers a “Jane White” living at 7 Osborn’s Court located near the intersection of 8th and Walnut Streets in Philadelphia. She had a total of $35 in personal property and lived in a 9’x9′ room for which she paid $28 a year. Her occupation was that of a wash woman. Ms. White would have been approximately 100 years of age.
A young 19th Century African American woman and her employers.