Twenty-year-old Mary Jane Riddell, a white woman, died this date December 23rd in 1846 of Tuberculosis and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. Not married, Ms. Riddell (1) was born in Philadelphia. During my numerous years of research on those buried at Bethel Burying Ground I have found only one other white person buried at the cemetery. She is Diana Potts who was married to a Black man, therefore her interment can be easily understood.
Ms. Riddell lived with her family at #54 Gaskill Street. The head of the household was Crawford Riddell a prominent furniture maker who was born in Ireland. Currently his works are prized by collectors and museums around the world. Also living at the Gaskill address was Crawford’s brother Christopher who was a cabinet maker according to the 1846 City Directory.
It was at the Gaskill address that Mary Jane Riddell’s funeral service was held. Gaskill Street is now Naudain Street
In the week before Ms. Riddell’s death the weather was very wet. It was seven days of heavy rain, freezing rain, and six inches of snow that quickly melted. The local newspaper characterized the results as “The streets presented a muddy appearances.” (2) The city’s cemeteries would have be in terrible shape. It may just be that there was a grave already open at Bethel Burying Ground and it served as a temporary resting place for the young woman’s corpse. The Riddell family had a history of Quakerism and the idea of being buried in a cemetery for African Americans albeit temporary was not out of the question.
Research is ongoing.
(1) Crawford Riddell filled out a passport application in 1849 and spelled his name “Riddell.” He needed the passport to travel to the Caribbean to presumably purchase quality hardwoods for his furniture company. On his return trip he contracted Cholera and died aboard the steamship Falcon. He was buried at sea in September of 1850 off the coast of Cuba.
(2) North American, 2 Jan 1847, p.1.