Eleven-year-old John Holly died on August 3rd in 1848 from drowning and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. John was fishing with friends on the West Philadelphia Canal, near the north side of the Market Street Bridge, when he fell into the Schuylkill River and drown, according to the City Coroner. His body was recovered almost immediately.
John Holly’s parents were Ann and Aaron Holly. Ms. Holly was forty-one-year-old at the time of her son’s death and Mr. Holly was forty-seven. She was born in Delaware and he was born in Pennsylvania. They had a daughter Harriet, who was thirteen-years-old at the time of her brother’s death and who was also born in Pennsylvania, according to the 1850 U.S. Census.
Aaron Holly was employed as a laborer earning $4 a week while Ann Holly toiled as a washwoman, reportedly making $2 a week. Earning that much for a washwoman usually meant that she had steady clients. Their apartment at #17 Pearl Street in the Spring Garden District contained three rooms. The rent was expensive at $5 a month and they may have rented out a room to help with the cost. The entire family attended church services, according to the 1847 Philadelphia African American Census.
John Holly was one of nineteen Philadelphia boys to die by drowning in the summer of 1848.
The eleven-year-old died on a clear August day where the temperature rose to 80° by mid-day. His parents buried him, with dignity, at Bethel Burying Ground.