Two-year-old John Conner died this date, March 14th, in 1853 of “Fever” and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. After researching census records, city directories, and death certificate records, I believe that the child’s parents may have been fugitives who were given shelter at a Bethel Church property. There are certainly other possibilities but a self-liberated Conner family is a likelihood.
The address on the child’s death certificate is a four-story tenement on the northeast corner of 6th and Lombard Streets, adjacent to the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. The red arrow indicates the location of the building.
The above 1916 photograph of Bethel Church starts to show the adjacent buildings. The photograph does not show the corner property where the Conner family resided. According to newspaper advertisements, there were businesses on the ground floor. One of them was a popular cigar and tobacco shop.
Three months after the death of two-year-old John Conner, the remaining members of the Conner family may have been alarmed at what was happening outside their building. The whacking thud of a mace (photo above) against a human skull was echoing in the street. A city watchman, Joseph Glenn, had dragged an unidentified Black man from his home at 6th and Lombard into the street and proceeded to beat him with a mace. The newspapers reported that there was no known reason for the “cruel and inexcusable . . . unprovoked and outrageous” deadly assault. The victim was not identified by name.
Joseph Glenn was arrested and, at his trial, he was found guilty. However, the judge, citing “former good character,” only gave the racist thug a small fine. There was no mention of the medical condition of the “colored man.”
The judge knew all about Glenn’s “character.” Only several weeks previous to this sentencing, Glenn was in his courtroom. He was a member of a gang that beat another Black man unmercifully. Glenn also got off for that offense. It appears that he was a professional thug/enforcer for the city. After years of being a constable, he was rewarded by receiving the cushy patronage position as the manager of Rittenhouse Square. (1)
A Black man was dragged out of his home in broad daylight in the center of the Black business, religion and culture hub of the city. He is beaten close to death by a racist thug who is someone that is supposed to be protecting the community.
It is impossible to imagine what the Conner family is feeling after just losing their baby son and then having to endure the terror from the level of violence and threat right outside their window. One can only hope that the memory of Baby John was a blessing.
(1) Philadelphia Inquirer, 16 June 1853; Sunday Dispatch, 3 July 1853; Philadelphia Inquirer, 2 March 1865.