Ten-year-old Alexander Murrell died this date, June 18th, in 1851 of Stomatitis and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. Stomatitis is a condition that causes painful swelling and sores in the mouth. Causes for this include injury, infection, allergies, and malnutrition. The victim usually dies from Septicemia.
The child’s father was David Murrell. His mother’s name has not been mentioned in any of the available documents. Mr. Murrell was employed as a waiter earning $2.50 a week. Ms. Murrell worked as a wash woman earning $.50 a week, according to the 1847 Philadelphia African American Census. One of the adults was previously enslaved and manumitted by their enslaver. Ten-year-old Alexander was their only child at the time of his death.
Liberty Court was an “African American enclave.” It was a small courtyard community of “band-box” houses squeezed in behind the larger residences that faced the street. “Liberty Court had been erected over a portion of the property along Tenth Street, owned by the First African Baptist Church (FABC), between 1810 and 1822.” A 1985 archeological project revealed the skeletal remains of five African Americans that were missed when the FABC moved its cemetery in 1822. Liberty Court eventually was demolished during the construction of the Vine Street Expressway extension in the late 1980s.*
This “enclave” was home to extremely poor Black families who were paying $0.75-$1.00 a week for one room. Looking at the results of the 1847 Census, there were 18 families with a total of 86 family members living in Liberty Court. The vast majority of the males worked as porters when they could get the work. The women were employed in their usual jobs of domestic and laundress. Many families received public assistance in the form of firewood in the winter. In addition, there was a higher than normal percentage of formerly enslaved men and women. Interestingly, I could not find any of the Liberty Court residents recorded in the 1850 U.S. Census.
The Murrells buried their son at Bethel Burying Ground on a clear warm day in June.
*John L. Cotter, et. al, The Buried Past: An Archeological History of Philadelphia, p. 301-303.