Two-year-old Miles A. Gillam died this date, November 18th, in 1848 of Pneumonia and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. According to the 1847 Philadelphia African American Census and the 1850 Federal Census, the child’s parents were Wesley and Sarah Gillam. She was born in New Jersey and was 28 years old at the time her son’s death. Mr. Wesley was born in Virginia and was 45 years old at that time. They had three other children: Martha (10 y/o), Margaret L. 5 (y/o) and Samuel who was either a newborn or born very shortly after the death of Miles. Sadly, Margaret died in September 1849 of a pulmonary disease and was buried next to her brother at Bethel Burying Ground.
The 1847 Census also shows that a female over the age of fifty was a part of the family. She was not a native of Pennsylvania. Either this woman or Mr. Gillam was formerly enslaved and gained her or his freedom through manumission.
The Gillam family lived in a shanty in the rear of #11 Eutaw Street in the Northern Liberties section of the city for which they paid $5 a month rent. Mr. Gillam earned $6 a week as a waiter and Ms. Gillam worked as a laundress. The Gillam children attended the Adelphia School, according to the 1847 Census. It was located several blocks from their home.
The Gillam family lived across the street from Franklin Square (above) which was one of the original green spaces designated by William Penn. It often was not green! During the Revolutionary War, it was an ammunition depot and, then, the northwest corner of the plot was used as a cemetery that contained many Yellow Fever victims. It fell into serious misuse being utilized as a dumping ground for garbage, dead animals and the human waste gathered from cesspool and sinks (outhouses). But by 1837, it was on its way to becoming a real park with a fountain in the middle of the crisscrossed walking paths.
The Gillam family buried their baby son and brother at the Bethel Burying Ground on a “pleasant day” where the morning saw no frost and temperatures rose to the mid-30s by the afternoon.