Twelve-year-old John Tilton died this date, February 5th, in 1854 of convulsions and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. John was buried next to his father Charles Tilton and two sisters, Adelia, seven months old, and a three-year-old whose first name was not recorded. (See below for further information on these.)
At the time of his death, John was being raised by his thirty-four-year-old mother, Matilda Tilton who was born enslaved in Maryland. Her freedom was purchased for $100, according to the 1847 Philadelphia African American Census. Ms. Tilton worked as a wash woman to support her family, according to 1847 and 1850 U.S. Census.
At the time of his death, young John Tilton had a thirteen-year-old brother William. Both boys were born in Pennsylvania. They lived with their mother in a tenement on Eutaw Alley between Rodman and South Streets and between 11th and 12th Streets in the southern part of center city. The short narrow thoroughfare was previously named Wagner’s Alley and currently is called Sartain Street. The Tilton family home was one room for which Ms. Tilton paid monthly the approximate equivalent of what she would earn in a good week of work.
According to the 1847 Census, young John Tilton and his siblings attended the Raspberry Alley School that was established in 1840 through Quaker philanthropy. Ms. Emeline Higgins, a highly respected educator, would teach reading, writing, and arithmetic to approximately thirty boys and girls yearly in Raspberry Alley near the corner of Ninth and Walnut Streets in center city Philadelphia. She was one of several African American women and men that taught in private schools for Black children.
Twelve-year-old John Tilton died on a cold day in January where the temperature only reached 19 degrees. He was buried next to his father Charles Tilton who died ten years earlier of Tuberculosis at forty-two-years old. John was also laid to rest with his sisters Adelia who also died in 1844 of Cholera at seven months old and an unnamed three-year-old sister who died in 1839 of an unspecified lung disease.