Twenty-seven-year-old John Murphy died this date, April 8th, in 1845 of Tuberculosis (Phthisis) and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. He passed away at his mother’s house, according to Dr. Samuel S. Hollingsworth, the attending physician. Mr. Murphy was one of 1,633 Philadelphians to die of TB from 1844 to 1845. There is no mention of his occupation in census records or city directories. His mother, Emmaretta Murphy, was a widow and the head of the family at least since the 1838 Philadelphia African American Census. Ms. Murphy was a self-employed laundress, according to census records.
A snapshot of the Murphy family in the 1838 Census shows that there were a total of seven members in the household, four of whom were not born in Pennsylvania. Two were children in school and two members worshiped at Bethel A.M.E. Church. These individuals could have been family members or just boarders.
Two years after John’s death, the family consisted of Ms. Murphy and two males, one of which was under fifteen years old and and the other was under the age of fifty. The names and the relationships of the two males were not provided.
On the night of Tuesday, February 24th in 1845, as Mr. Murphy lay on his bed gasping for air in the last stages of his illness, his street erupted into violence. A white mob of “thirty to forty” men invaded the neighborhood and went on a rampage assaulting any African American they saw on the street. Two city watchmen tried to halt the gang and were severely beaten for their efforts. The rioters were members of the Moyamensing Hose Company, according to one newspaper report. The newspapers did not carry any details concerning the wounded African Americans. Sadly this was not an unusual event in the Philadelphia Black community. The newspapers called the mob members “rowdies.” (1)
On the April day that John Murphy died, the weather turned “cold, raw, windy” with snow flurries that gave the day “the appearance of the depth of winter.” He was buried, with dignity, by his mother at Bethel Burying Ground.
(1) Public Ledger, 25 February 1845, p.2.; North American, 25 February 1845, p. 2.