The prematurely born daughter of Benjamin Johnson died this date, May 30th, in 1845 and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. The child’s mother is not identified and it appears the family is not recorded in the 1850 U.S. Census where her name would be reported.
The 1847 African American Census shows that Mr. and Ms. Johnson had three children: one daughter and two sons. One was under five years old and two were between five and fifteen years old. All the children and their parents were born in Pennsylvania. They lived in one or two rooms on Little Oak Street for which they paid $5 a month in rent. Mr. Johnson was employed as an oysterman (seller) and Ms. Johnson’s occupation was reported as an oyster dealer.
The Johnson family lived on a short narrow thoroughfare in the Southwark District of Philadelphia County. Little Oak Street was located near the intersection of 5th and Shippen (now Bainbridge) Streets. Although small, this passageway was home to twenty industrious Black families, totaling almost 100 members. The occupations of the residents included brickmaker, seaman, hominy dealer, barber, domestic, laundress, and several other oyster dealers and sellers. Little Oak Street no longer exists.
Horribly, three years before the Johnsons lost their daughter, this community was shattered by marauding racist gangs of Irish immigrants. They invaded the Black neighborhoods that specifically included Little Oak Street and the surrounding alleys and courts.* The local police were overwhelmed and could not stop the murders, beatings, and arson. Only after the military was called out with pieces of artillery did the horror subside after days of the rampage.
The Johnson baby died on a cool day in May where the temperature dropped to 40 degrees in the evening. She was buried at Bethel Burying Ground by her family.
*Severely affected by the mobs were nearby Baker Street, Clymer Street, and Fitzwater Street from Thirteenth Street down to the Delaware River. (History of Philadelphia, Scharf & Westcott, p. 660 -661.)