By Amy Grant
In 1865, Rhoda McCoy was buried in the Gloria Dei (Old Swedes’) Churchyard. The message on her headstone — presumably left by her daughter Mary — simply says “my mother.” Mary was an only child and lived with her mother Rhoda until she passed away. We can imagine that mother and daughter were very close.
Details about Rhoda’s early life are difficult to come by. According to her epitaph, she born in 1777. Sources list her place of birth as Delaware. Also, it is not clear when she married Ephraim McCoy. One detail we can be certain of: Rhoda and Ephraim’s daughter Mary was born in Philadelphia in 1814.
Ephraim McCoy is also somewhat of a mystery. He was born around 1771 in Ireland and probably emigrated to Philadelphia in the early 19th century. Ephraim became a father later in life — he was 43 years old when Mary was born — and made his living as a carpenter. Throughout Mary’s youth, the McCoys resided near Gloria Dei Church. They initially settled on Beck’s Alley near Front and Christian and later moved to 4th and Marriott (Montrose).
When she came of age, Mary probably caught the eye of many young men. But it was Augustus Sargent, a shell comb maker, who won her heart. Augustus and Mary were married at Gloria Dei Church in 1832, when Mary was 18 years old. The newlyweds appear to have moved in with Mary’s parents and soon started a family of their own. Their daughter Adelaide was born 1838 and was soon followed by Emma (born 1844), Mary Frances (born 1846), Clara Matilda (born 1849), Malvina Irwin (born 1853) and Ella (born 1858).
Unfortunately, the 1850s were trying times for the McCoy/Sargent household. Sadly, Ephraim developed paralysis and probably became bedridden toward the end of his life. He was 83 years old when he passed away in 1854. Mary then lost her two youngest daughters in quick succession: Malvina died of scarlet fever in 1856 and, in 1858, she lost Ella at 11 days old to malformation. Rhoda, who was in her late 70s, was undoubtably heartbroken.
Despite these losses, Rhoda soldiered on until she was almost 90 years old. She must have had a strong constitution — she died of “old age” rather than an ailment or disease. Mary joined her mother about 30 years later. They are buried side-by-side in the Gloria Dei Churchyard.
If you have information about Rhoda McCoy to help complete this story — such as her maiden name, the names of her parents/siblings, marriage record, etc., — please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Type of Marker: Headstone on base
Date of Marker (estimate): 1835
Issues: Biogrowth, sugaring, sunken
Comments: Base buried below grade
Recommended Treatment: Cleaning w/ biocide, consolidation, pinning & gluing, raising, removing old pins
Historic Integrity: Intact
Structural Integrity: Good
Material Integrity: Good
Legible Inscription: Fair
Degree of Bioturbation: 1/4 sunken
Inventory Number: 309
Historic Number: 134
Cemetery Section: 5
Marker Height/Length (in): 29
Marker Width (in): 20.5
Marker Thickness/Depth (in): 6