Seventy-four-year-old Fanny Jackson died this date, May 8th, in 1841 after being crushed under the collapsed north wall of Bethel Church (now Mother Bethel) on May 1st. She was taken to Pennsylvania Hospital but succumbed to her injuries a week later on the 8th and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. According to the 1838 Philadelphia African American Census, Ms. Thomas was a widow, mother, and grandmother. She worked as a laundress and was released from enslavement by manumission.
This is a photo of Mother Bethel church as it stands today. The parking lot was the location of the three small tenement building that was home to several families including the family of Fanny Thomas. The brick wall that faces the parking lot collapsed and fell on the flimsy wood structures killing four and wounded at least six.
The newborn infant of Margaret and Arthur Tate died this date, January 26th, in 1847 of “Debility” and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. The Tates lived at 229 Lombard Street and he was employed as a porter no doubt working on the docks and or the large open market shed that was only feet from his front door. Ms. Tate was a homemaker taking care of four other children four boys and a girl according to the 1850 Federal census. The Tates lost two of their sons, Francis and James. Both of their biographical sketches are on this website. All of the children were buried at Bethel Burying Ground.
Soon after the death of the Tate infant, Arthur became the Sexton of Bethel Church. He replaced Sheperd Gibbs. One of his responsibilities would have been the management of the burial ground in which his children were buried. As we can see from the document below Mr. Tate was highly thought of in the Black community and was very involved in his church.
From BETHEL GLEANINGS by Rev. Joseph S. Thompson, Pastor of Bethel A. M. E. Church. PHILADELPHIA, PA (1881). This can be view at http://stillfamily.library.temple.edu/bethel-gleanings-page-23.
Eight-year-old James Furrow died this date, December 3rd, in 1853 of Tuberculosis and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. James and his parents, Arnold and Pleasant, lived at 8 Lombard Row near the intersection of 7th and South Streets in center city Philadelphia. Lombard Row no longer exists.
Arnold was a “huxter” or peddler according to the 1847 African American Census and Pleasant was a domestic day worker. She had given birth to James in Wilmington, Delaware. One of them was born into enslavement and paid $375 to end their captivity. The other adult was not born to enslaved parents. It appears that Arnold’s father, Joseph, lived with them for a period of time. He died in September of 1853 at 60 years old from an ulcer and was also buried at Bethel Burying Ground.
Arnold Furrow was one of the many African American peddlers that sold their goods walking the streets of the city. One of the more common items they sold was oysters. According to historian Gary Nash, “Black Philadelphians had a virtual monopoly on oyster and clam selling.(Forging Freedom, p. 215)
Below is part of a newspaper article from the April 27, 1892, edition of “The Times.”The city officially acquired the cemetery in late 1889 and it wasn’t until 1904-05 that they had enough money to actually landscape it as a park. In-between it was a “hard dirt” lot where children played and garbage and the bodies of dead animals were heaped and burned. In 1902-03 the city allowed the local elementary school to use it as a community garden. (See photo below).
HISTORIC GROUND – INTERESTING ASSOCIATIONS OF THE NEWLY -ACQUIRED PARKS
What is now known as Weccacoe Park, in quaint old Southwark, was, a few years ago, the old burial ground of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. It was back in the early years of the century when Bethel Burying Ground was first used, the property having been secured by Richard Allen, the first African Methodist Episcopal bishop. At that time colored people after death were often treated with but little respect and it was the wish of Bishop Allen to set apart a place where his people could have the same kind of Christian burial as the white people. Just in what way he got the property is not clear but having gained possession of it he made it over to unfortunate results; for when, in succeeding years, the rains beat down upon old Bethel Burying Ground, the water washed the bones of the dead out of their graves and the Board of Health was forced, out of regard for the health of Southwark, to interpose. It has been over twenty-five years now since any burials have taken place in Bethel, and after the Board of Health issued its mandate the ground was neglected and rapidly went to ruin. . . . The committee on municipal government endorsed a recommendation to purchase the plot, and it was in the first batch of small park ordinances passed.
Twenty-four-year-old Frances Ann Davis died this date of unknown causes and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. Ms. Davis had a fourteen-month-old daughter, Mary Ann, die of an “Inflammation of the Breast” fifteen months early in August of 1849. From that death certificate, we learn that the family lived at 19 Barclay Street now Delancey Street that runs from 6th to 8th Street between Spruce and Pine Streets. Ms. Davis’ residence was only two blocks from Bethel Church (now Mother Bethel).
Bronze sculpture by artist Frank Bender based on forensic facial reconstructions of three intact skeletons exhumed at the African Burial Ground in New York City.
The abbreviation “us” = “unspecified.” All years of death are from the 1800s. Ex: 9 Jan 25 = 1825
The data is laid out in this order: name; age; gender; cause of death; date of death; additional information.
- Johnson, Unspecified; 3 weeks; m; Catarrh Fever; 8 Dec 46; father, H. Johnson.
- Jones, Sarah: 54 years; f; TB; 8 Dec 47; resided, 20 Washington Street.
- Kerr, Unspecified: 0; us; stillborn; 8 Dec 22; father, George Kerr.
- Legs, Unspecified: 10 days; u; Fits; 8 Dec 22; mother, Lettia Legs.
- Luster, Thomas: 21 years; f; Typhoid Fever; 8 Dec 47.
- Matthews, James H.: 1 year; m; Fever; 8 Dec 47.
- Needes, London: 5 years; m; Fever; 8 Dec 24.
- Rollings, Eliza: 21 years; f; TB; 8 Dec 52; married.
- Tillman, Daniel: 5 years; m; TB; 8 Dec 24.
- White, Mary: 24 years; f; Typhoid Fever; 8 Dec 29.
The attending physician mistakenly put down “Samuel” instead of “Simon.” It was subsequently corrected on the church sexton’s form.
The Reverend Simon Murray died of Tuberculosis on this date, March 11th, in 1840 at the age of eighty years and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. At the time of his death he lived with his spouse at #4 St. Mary’s Street in the Seventh Ward only a block away from “Big Wesley” in the middle of the 500 block of Lombard Street. He moved with his family to Philadelphia in 1818 at the age of 58 years of age. He was a used clothes seller and lay preacher who joined Richard Allen’s A.M.E. Bethel Church.
After several years, Rev. Murray became disenchanted with Richard Allen’s authoritarian manner and joined with other former Bethelites to break away from Bethel Church to form their own church situated only 90 feet away on Lombard Street. He left Bethel with “about a dozen” other congregants and “formed an independent African Methodist church that they called the Wesleyan Society,” according to J. Gordon Melton. (A Will To Chose, p. 106.)
Rev. Murray was eventually made senior pastor of Wesley Church (aka “Big Wesley” and “Brick Wesley”). He held this position for a year and was then placed in charge of “Little Wesley,” the congregation’s mission church located at 515-519 Hurst Street (now S. Randolph Street). “Little Wesley” consisted of two adjoining row homes that no longer exist. For a thorough history of the conflict between Bethel and Wesley please read Freedom’s Prophet by Richard Newman, p. 209-227.