The two-month-old son of Robert Veazy died this date, November 22nd, in 1828 of an unknown cause and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. The signature in the lower left corner is that of Isacc Cork, the sexton of Bethel AME Church and the manager of the cemetery. Dr. H. Bond of 114 Mulberry Street signed the death certificate. (1)
According to Philadelphia Board of Health records, there were one hundred eighty-two individuals between 1828 and 1829 whose cause of death was labeled “unknown.”
Robert Veazy was approximately twenty-seven years old when his son died. The child’s mother’s name and age are unavailable. Ten years after the child’s death, the 1838 Philadelphia African American Census reports the couple was childless and living at #94 Gaskill Street. Ms. Veazy was self-employed as a laundress while Mr. Veazy worked as a porter. The Census reports both were born free and attended Bethel A.M.E. Church.
When Baby Veazy died the family lived in Clever Alley which was located from 5th to 6th Streets between Spruce and Pine Streets. This narrow thoroughfare was home to Black laborers and white craftsmen.
In the first half of the 19th century, Philadelphia porters were all Black men. It was a back-breaking job, hauling hundreds of pounds on the dirt and cobblestone streets of the city in the heat and humidity of summer and the bitter cold of winter. Business slowed down in the winter when the rivers froze, and ships couldn’t dock to unload their goods. During this time, according to African American journalist William Carl Bolivar, these men would collect “twine and burlap” and turn the material into door mats that “were always in demand.” Dressed in “high hats and leather aprons,” the men would loudly hawk their wares near heavily trafficked areas such as the State House, now known as Independence Hall. There were city laws that prohibited these men from being stationary and blocking the already crowded sidewalks. However, when it snowed these sidewalks and roads became impassable the vendors had little choice. From the newspaper articles below, it appears Mr. Vesey (sic) was, on occasion, in violation of those ordinances. (2)
(The first article is from the February 26,1844 edition of the SUN and the second article is from the March 19, 1845 edition of the Daily Chronicle.
Mr. and Mrs. Veazy buried their two-month-old son on a cold day in late November, with dignity, at Bethel Burying Ground.
(1) The name “Veazy” has many variations including Vesey, Vasey, Vesy, Veasey, Veazy, Very, and Vizy. Ten individuals with some form of these variations have been identified interred at Bethel Burying Ground.
(2) “Pencil Pusher Point,” Philadelphia Tribune, 10 May 1913, p. 4.