Title: Professor
Birthdate: June 8, 1852
Death Date: December 18, 1880
Plot Location: Section 206, Lot 19

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He was the son of New Englanders, born in Connecticut to a Congregational minister named John Hancock Pettingell. Amos was named after his grandfather, also a minister and a graduate of Harvard. John Pettingell went to Yale, as perhaps his son might have, if it weren’t for a series of events that led him in a different direction.

A dozen years before Amos was born, his father was studying at Union Theological Seminary while teaching at a school for the deaf. John then married and was pastor at various churches, during which time Amos was born, as well as a sister four years later. In 1862 their mother died and John promptly remarried.

As a teenager, Amos began studying Latin, but any dream his father had of his son attending Yale was put on hold by John’s change in careers. He accepted a job working with the American Seamen’s Friend Society, a ministry to crews of merchant ships. The assignment was in Antwerp, Belgium so the family sailed for Europe in 1866. Amos loved the sea and thoroughly enjoyed the voyage. He loved the entire foreign experience, rapidly becoming fluent in French and German and visiting several other countries.

In 1871 a ship’s captain and family friend invited Amos to sail with him to New York and back, because he knew he enjoyed the seafaring life. The family agreed, since he would only be gone about a month. Amos described in his journal what happened next:

Instead of returning to his studies, he began instructing others. He immersed himself in learning sign language and mastered it so well he began teaching classes in the fall. It was written of him that he was conscientious and hard-working, “winning the esteem and affection of his pupils.”

Writing to his family about his success inspired his father to bring the family to Philadelphia and join him, since John happened to have previous experience with the deaf population. They arrived in 1872 and his father was proud to work alongside him.

The school was originally called the Pennsylvania Institution for the Deaf and Dumb, the third-oldest school of its kind in the United States, located at South Broad and Pine Streets. (The 1826 building is there today as the home of the University of the Arts.)

Amos became a faithful member of Second Presbyterian Church and joined a Masonic lodge. In 1878 he married Emma Stevenson, the daughter of one of the school officials. The 1880 census shows they were living with his father and step-mother.

Just a few months later he fell sick with what was later determined to be typhoid fever. There was no cure since antibiotics had not been discovered. His tenure as a professor was brief, but Amos left a lasting impression on his friends and students. That was in no small part due to his mother stressing the importance of prayer and faith and his father’s teaching from the Bible.

At the base of his solitary gravestone are the words, “Them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him.”

Japanese maple tree in front of a monument at Mount Moriah Cemetery

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