Margaret Cutchins* died this date, December 31st, in 1853 of Marasmus** and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. Ms. Cutchins was visiting Camden, New Jersey when she passed away. The local attending physician placed her age at fifty-six years old. In the self reported censuses of 1847 and 1850, she would have been only forty-three years old. Her spouse, Miles Cutchins, was forty-seven years old at the time of her death. He was employed as a porter, making $25 a month (“sometimes”). Ms. Cutchins was self-employed as a laundress and seamstress. Both Margaret and Miles were born enslaved in Virginia. In addition, there was a fifteen year old girl, Maria F. Cutchins, residing in the home. She was born in Tennessee, according to the 1850 U.S. Census, and she was a student at David Ware’s school.
The Cutchins family lived on one floor of a two-story wood frame house at #15 Gaskill Street near the Delaware River wharves in the southern part of the city. They paid $5 a month in rent or approximately $170 in modern currency. In 1847, the value of the family’s personal property was estimated at $1,100 or approximately $32,500 in modern currency. The family belonged to two beneficial societies and attended church services on a regular basis, according to the 1847 Philadelphia African American Census.
An 1847 census taker noted: “After being freed by his (Mr. Cutchins) master, he bought his wife for $250 and he has paid $875.00 for three other persons to save them all within 20 years.”
Mr. and Ms. Cutchins obviously were active in the abolition movement and cared for newly liberated Black men, women and children in their home. It is very likely the Cutchins residence was a stop on the Underground Railroad, helping those being tracked by fugitive slave catchers. Ms. Cutchins may have been on an Underground-related trip to Camden when she suddenly died. Surely an unsung heroine!
Margaret Cutchins died on New Years Eve in 1853 where it snowed heavily all day. She was buried, with dignity, by her family at Bethel Burying Ground .
*The physician incorrectly spelled the family’s last name. All census and city directories have the “s” on the end.
**Marasmus was more of an observation than a cause of death. Ms. Cutchins looked debilitated or “wasting.” She could have been suffering a period of time from cancer, heart disease, diabetes, etc.