Thirty-seven-year-old Mary Parker died this date, February 19th, in 1846 of Tuberculosis (Pulmonary Consumption) and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. The morning of the 19th dawned clear and cold at 13 degrees with a stiff wind out of the northeast. By late afternoon, the skies had turned cloudy and gray with the temperature never rising above freezing. The graveyard was covered with snow, making digging the grave by church sexton Shepard Gibbs a more difficult job.
I have not been able to find any more information on Ms. Parker except what is on her death certificate. There are many “Mary Parkers” in the immediate neighborhood of Rose Alley but none that I could definitively say were this Mary Parker.
Rose Alley was a dead end backstreet, only ten feet wide, lined with three-story buildings with tattered masonry and split down the middle by grimy cobblestones. The one-time family homes had been turned into single rooms rented out to the poor working class. Mary Parker lived in one of these rooms. The 1847 African American Census reveals that the year after Ms. Parker died, there were eleven Black families living in small Rose Alley with a total of forty-two members. The women in the households were employed in the jobs available to them such as laundress, seamstress and domestic worker. If Ms. Parker was employed outside of the home, she likely worked in one of these jobs.
Rose Alley was notable for an infamous house of prostitution and for a soup kitchen run by the Society of Friends (Quakers). It provided 600 quarts of hot soup daily during the bitter winter months. It is likely that Ms. Parker and her family (if she had one) took advantage of this life-saving nutrition.
In addition to Mary Parker, research has so far identified nineteen other individuals with the family name of Parker interred at Bethel Burying Ground. Ms. Parker is the oldest one out of the twenty individuals recorded. She was 37 years of age.
Yours is a truly valuable project, and you give so much helpful context. Thank you for your commitment to this stream of history, culture, and memory! (I don’t like using “like” to say this. But that’s what my “like” means.)