Fifty-year-old Joseph Thompson died this date, October 3rd, in 1847 of “Debility” and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. Dr. Thomas T. Smiley did not take the time to take a medical history from the family and, subsequently, just wrote a cause of death that is meaningless. The illness that Mr. Thompson suffered from rendered him weak. Mr. Thompson may have suffered from heart disease. According to the 1847 Philadelphia African American Census, he was employed as a laborer who worked “irregularly,” presumably due to his illness.
Buckley Street was more of an alley than a broad thoroughfare. The Thompson family lived in a 13″x 13″ room at #34 Buckley Street for which they paid $.50 a week. According to the 1847 Census, the family consisted of Mr. and Ms. Thompson and a female child under the age of fifteen. I have not been able to locate a likely match for Ms. Thompson and the child in the 1850 U.S. Census. She was employed as a rug maker and the child attended St. Mary’s Street School. Two members were native to Pennsylvania while the third was not. They had no personal property. The family was desperately poor.
According to the 1847 Census, there were eight Black families who lived on Buckley, including the Thompsons, who totaled thirty-two men, women, and children. The women were employed doing laundry and working as day workers. The men worked on the Delaware River docks as porters and day laborers. The children went to either the Raspberry Street School, St. Mary’s Street School, or the 6th and Lombard Infant School. The Raspberry Street School also offered evening classes in math and reading to African American residents.
When the Irish gangs weren’t hunting African Americans to kill, they were busy trying to kill each other. Mr. Thompson died on the day that two murderous gangs, the Skinners and the Buffers, chased each other through the neighborhood shooting and killing each other through the night. Tragically, they gave no peace to the dying Mr. Thompson and his terrified family. His family buried their patriarch, with dignity, at Bethel Burying Ground.