Sixteen-year-old Joshua Morris died this date, April 20th, in 1846 of accidental drowning and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. The young man was fishing off of Bolton’s Wharf* and fell in the Schuylkill River on a Friday afternoon and drowned. His body was found the next day with his fishing line still “clenched” in his hand. His body was transported to the City Coroner’s Office where it was determined that his death was an accident. Drownings in Philadelphia were very common in the 18th and 19th centuries. As early as 1774 there was a call for guardians to be more aware of their children’s whereabouts because of the high rate of deaths.** Children would routinely bath and swim in the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers and men working on the docks, wharves and ships would fall into the swift waters and drown. In addition, suicide by drowning was also a common occurrence. In the year that young Joshua died, he was one of 50 recorded deaths by drowning in Philadelphia. For the period 1845-1847, there was a total of 175 deaths.
*Bolton’s Wharf was the third wharf above Market Street and before Arch Street.
**The Pennsylvania Packet, May 9, 1774.