Forty-six-year-old Jonathan Shockley died this date, March 10th, in 1843 of a heart attack and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. Mr. Shockley was employed as a waiter and his spouse Catharine Shockley worked as a cook after her husband’s death. Previously, she was self-employed as a laundress. She was twenty-nine or thirty-years-old at the time of her husband’s death, according to her death certificate in 1877. Jonathan and Catharine Shockley both were born enslaved in Maryland. Both were liberated through manumission, according to the 1838 Philadelphia African American Census.
In the 1847 Philadelphia African American Census, Ms. Shockley was identified as a single mother with three daughters. Two of them were in service and lived at their employers’ homes. The third daughter was living with her mother and was working as a waitress. Ms. Shockley was earning $2 a week as a cook. She paid $2 a month for their room on Emerline Street. All the women could read and write and they attended church services regularly.
At the time of Mr. Shockley’s death, the family lived at 23 Prosperous Alley, illustrated by the red circle above. They paid between $2.50 – $3.50 a month for the rental of one room. Mr. Shockley would have earned approximately $3 – $5 a week while Ms. Shockley may have earned $0.50 – $1.00 a week, depending on the amount of business he had each week.
There were approximately five hundred Black men employed as a waiter in Philadelphia, according to the 1847 Philadelphia African American Census. They occasionally were categorized as “public” or “private,” with the latter referring to those who were employed in a private home.
The Shockley family physically survived the deadly anti-African American riots of the Summer of 1842. The murders, assaults, and the destruction of Black homes and churches led to a large percentage of African American to just pack up and leave the most racist city in the north. One estimate of the loss was close to 25% of the Black population.
Mr. Shockley died on a cold day in March. “It commenced snowing early in the morning and continued till it was about half an inch when it turned to rain which became the order of the day for the remainder of it.” (1) Mr. Shockley was buried at Bethel Burying Ground.
(1) North American, 1 April 1843.