Sixteen-year-old Joshua Morris died this date, April 20th, in 1846 of accidental drowning and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. The young man was fishing off of Bolton’s Wharf* and fell in the Schuylkill River on a Friday afternoon and drowned. His body was found the next day with his fishing line still “clenched” in his hand. His body was transported to the City Coroner’s Office where it was determined that his death was an accident. Drownings in Philadelphia were very common in the 18th and 19th centuries. As early as 1774 there was a call for guardians to be more aware of their children’s whereabouts because of the high rate of deaths.** Children would routinely bath and swim in the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers and men working on the docks, wharves and ships would fall into the swift waters and drown. In addition, suicide by drowning was also a common occurrence. In the year that young Joshua died, he was one of 50 recorded deaths by drowning in Philadelphia. For the period 1845-1847, there was a total of 175 deaths.
Public Ledger April 21, 1846
This is a depiction of the Spruce Street Wharf during the same period. It would have been very close to what Bolton’s Wharf would have looked like.
*Bolton’s Wharf was the third wharf above Market Street and before Arch Street.
**The Pennsylvania Packet, May 9, 1774.
Twenty-five-year-old Fanny Stockely died this date, April 7th, in 1829 from a hemorrhage after giving birth to a stillborn child. They would be buried together at Bethel Burying Ground.
I am unable to locate any more definitive information on Ms. Stockely. Her doctor lived at 89 Pine Street in the Old City District. So she may have resided nearby. For further reading on “childbed” deaths and hemorrhaging during childbirth during this period you can go to pages 226-230 at https://archive.org/details/textbookofmidwif001spie.
Two-year-old Robert Ashton died this date, March 29th, in 1852 of an unknown disease that infected his brain and lungs and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. Little Robert’s parents John (47) Catharine (44) also had four other children: Catharine (9), Maria (7), Henry (5) and Robert (2) according to the 1850 Federal Census. John worked as a waiter making $15 a month or about $375 according to the 1847 African American Census.
The Ashton family lived at 9 Ronaldson Street that runs from South to Bainbridge Streets between 9th and 10th Streets. The house sat up the street from the large Ronaldson Cemetery.
The arrow indicates the approximate location of the Ashton home. It consisted of one room for which they paid $5 ($125) a month. Ronaldson Street was also home to the father of the Underground Railroad William Still so the street likely saw a good deal of recently liberated African and African American on the run. Ronaldson was also the home to Reverend Benjamin Templeton, pastor of the Second African Presbyterian Church and at one time to the offices of The Christian Recorder.
Sadly, the Ashtons would lose their 11-year-old Robert, Jr. to a wasting disease the very next day. His biographical sketch is also on this website. The brothers are buried together at Bethel Burying Ground.
Mother and children
Sixth-five-year-old Ann Wiggins died this date, March 24th, in 1850 of Typhoid Fever and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. The 1847 African American Census reports that Ms. Wiggins was a washerwoman “when she can get it.” She resided in an 11’x11′ room at 3 Pleasant Avenue with a 15-year-old female who works “in-service” so is probably not there very much. They pay $2.30 a month for rent which is roughly equivalent to $50 in today’s currency.
The Times (Philadelphia, PA), 13 October 1898.
Pleasant Avenue was a dead end alley that ran north/south between Lombard Street and Minister Streets between 7th and 8th Streets in center city Philadelphia. Pleasant Avenue rarely appeared on a city street map. Ms. Wiggins died from Typhoid Fever which is caused by ingesting a certain strain of Salmonella bacteria present in water contaminated with diseased human excrement. Between 1852 and 1854 three hundred and fifty-five citizens died of this disease. This is different from Typhus Fever which is spread by fleas from diseased rats. Certain breeds of ticks also carried the disease.
Below is the link to the current Bethel Burying Ground Name Directory.
BETHEL BURYING GROUND NAME DIRECTORY
(Revised March 22, 2017)
The following is an alphabetical directory of some of the African American Philadelphians who were buried at Bethel Burying Ground from 1810 to 1864. Currently, 2,489 individuals have been identified through City of Philadelphia death records and historic newspapers. Research is ongoing to identify the remainder of the 5,000+ estimated to be buried on Queen Street in old Southwark.
BBG Name Directory
Ten-year-old Mary Ann Henry died this date, March 16th, in 1847 from a brain disease and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. She was the adopted daughter of Joseph Henry; spouse’s name unknown. The Henry family ran a food stand at a local market according to the 1847 African American Census.What they peddled is unknown, however, it is possible that they sold pies and/or cakes.
The Henry family lived at 10 Raspberry Alley near the intersection of 9th and Walnut Streets in center city Philadelphia. They lived in one room for which they paid $5 a week, probably one week take home salary for Mr. Henry. They also had an older woman living with them, presumably the mother of one of the Henrys.
According to 1847 Census, there were 17 African American families living on small Raspberry Alley accounting for 86 individuals. The occupations of these citizens included a dentist, school teacher, dressmaker, laborer, and laundress. In 1897 the name of Raspberry Alley was changed to Hutchinson Street.
The red arrow indicates the approximate location of the Henry family residence.
The above article appeared in the March 14, 1848, edition of The Philadelphia Inquirer. No death certificate that has survived and he is not listed in any city directories, local or federal censuses. He resided near 6th and Fitzwater Streets only two blocks from Bethel Burying Ground. He was buried with full Masonic honors “in a costly manner.”
Mr. Bliss was a musician in the renowned Frank Johnson’s Band.
Gary B. Nash, Forging Freedom: The Formation of Philadelphia’s Black Community 1720-1840, p. 151.
Frank Johnson (1792-1844)