Fourteen-year-old John Fletcher was a waiter on the Delaware River steamboat New Philadelphia. On the 3rd of June in 1852, he went missing while the steamboat was docked at Bordentown, New Jersey. His body was discovered in the river on June 7th and transported to Philadelphia where the coroner ruled the death an accidental drowning on June 9th. He was subsequently interred at Bethel Burying Ground.
During the work week, the steamboat ferried customers to railroad connections in Trenton and the Upper Delaware River. During the weekend the vessel was an excursion boat that took passengers on day trips to picnic locations such as Burlington and Bristol, both in Pennsylvania. The boat had a lively music band and refreshments were provided including ice cream that the young Mr. Fletcher would serve.
Mr. Fletcher lived at no. 28 Stanley Street which was a short thoroughfare between 3rd and 4th Streets just south of Bainbridge Street in the old Southward District of South Philadelphia. It is not conclusive although it appears that John was an orphan adopted by Anthony Fletcher (drayman) and his spouse a laundress (name not recorded) according to the 1847 African American Census.
Waiting tables at 14? That was a lot younger then than 14 now. And working on a boat, maybe unable to swim if he falls? A vulnerable child– no doubt just doing what he had to do. For the sake of his family. I want to read these stories but I don’t usually like them.