Seventy-three-year-old Philip Nelson died this date, May 31st, in 1850 of Tuberculosis and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. Mr. Nelson was employed as a “Gentleman’s nurse,” according to the 1847 Philadelphia African American Census. He reportedly earned $20 a month and his duties would be similar to a personal attendant or valet. Mr. Nelson was a widower. However, below is who I believe to have been his son, William Nelson, and his family. The information is from the 1850 Federal Census. The initial “M” next to the gender category stands for “Mulatto.”
(William Nelson 49 y/o – Blacksmith born in Virginia; Henrietta 43 y/o born in Maryland; Sarah 23 y/o born in Maryland; William 17 y/o born in Maryland; Ezekiel 15 y/o born in Maryland.)
Mr. Nelson’s obituary was published in the June 3, 1850 edition of the Public Ledger. Interestingly, the obit stated that Mr. Nelson “was of the family of the late Dr. Henry Claggett, of Leesburg, Virginia.” Claggett was a white slaver who had plantations in Virginia and Maryland, according to “Laws made and passed by the General Assembly of the State of Maryland in 1835.” Claggett had to get permission from both states to move his slaves from one state to the other. Basically, the obit is stating that the white enslaver was Philip Nelson’s father and Nelson was at one point enslaved.
Although Mr. Nelson died on the 31st of May, he wasn’t buried until June 4th. The funeral service was held at the Nelson family home on 8th Street between Catharine and Queen Streets, only three blocks from Bethel Burying Ground. Mr. Nelson’s obituary stated that, while suffering the long fatal course of Tuberculosis, he “. . . bore the last with Christian patience and resignation.” Mr. Nelson’s coffin was carried to the small cemetery and interred at approximately 4 o’clock on a warm June afternoon.