Title: Centenarian, boarding house proprietor
Birthdate: July 8, 1851
Death Date: October 18, 1952
Plot Location: Section 33, Lots 19 & 21

Screenshot (1728)

Sarah knew about the Korean War because she read about it in the newspaper. But unlike others who only read about the Civil War in history books, she could have actually read about it in the newspaper, because she experienced it. When she was 12 she saw wounded soldiers being brought to homes near hers to recover.

(The City of Brotherly Love lived up to its name during that time, the home of 24 military hospitals with as many as 10,000 beds. An estimated 157,000 soldiers and sailors were treated in the city, including those received at civilian hospitals and in the homes of caring citizens.)

Her parents brought her and her siblings to Philadelphia in 1856. As Sarah grew into adulthood, she filled the same role as many women did in those days, that of housekeeping. By 1870 her widowed father was a laborer living with her twin brothers, age 13, as boarders in a West Philadelphia home, but she wasn’t listed with them.. Her sister Mary was seven years older and on her own, living as a domestic servant.

Sarah did come back to live with her two younger brothers in 1880 after her father died. They lived  on Mount Moriah Lane, a street name no longer used but it was obviously near the cemetery. John Lockhart was a stone cutter and William was a gardener. If her brothers worked for or did business with the cemetery, that might have been how she met William M. Connell, son of the cemetery’s co-founder.

That’s the man she married on April 18, 1891, a man who grew up with three servants in his home. It would seem they shared little in common except they were both 39 years old at the time. In reality he was more like her than he was like his family.

William’s father, George C. Connell, had been elected to four terms as state senator at the time of his death in 1871. Mount Moriah was but one of his many land speculations from which the family enjoyed great wealth. He had 13 children, mostly girls, and William was overshadowed by the oldest son, Horatio. Trained as a civil engineer and surveyor, Horatio succeeded his father as head of the cemetery, was elected to the state legislature and a term as sheriff, and was popular among the city’s movers and shakers.

William wasn’t so self-assured, or self-starting. He doesn’t appear in the city directories from 1878-1884, and in later years it’s often without an occupation listed. From 1885 until the year he was married he lived on his grandmother’s estate, and in two of those years he listed his occupation as a farmer.

Sarah only gave birth once, to William George Connell, in 1994. “Bill” lived with his mother until she died and never got married. The family first lived on Cemetery Lane where William was a laborer. By 1900 they moved to the 5600 block of Woodland Ave. where his occupation was farming. It’s difficult to imagine farms in West Philly but perhaps it was just a couple of acres or he was working on someone else’s farm. 

Sarah became the breadwinner, operating a boarding house. She started with two boarders, one being her brother John, the stonecutter. He died in 1909. There were six tenants listed in the 1910 census. Then, sadly, she lost her husband in 1916 when he died of chronic kidney disease.

Her sister Mary had become a widow a few years earlier. Mary’s daughter, Elizabeth, was married in 1915 and the newlyweds lived in Sarah’s boarding house. Then in January of 1917, Elizabeth’s husband committed suicide with a gun shot to his head. That was just nine months after Sarah lost her husband and that was enough motivation for her to move out. Along with Bill and Elizabeth, she moved in with Mary and her other child, George. The three widows and two male cousins lived at 2011 South 58th Street. 

Bill was a laborer at the Schuylkill Arsenal when he registered for the draft in 1917, but was never called up. He was working as a fitter for a ship builder in 1920 and was a clerk in the city’s highway department and permit department in his later years. His cousin George eventually got married, divorced, and died in 1952, the same year as his Aunt Sarah.

Mary died in 1931, so Sarah remained on 58th Street with Bill and Elizabeth. She only had Bill during the war, since Elizabeth moved out to remarry in 1941. Sarah’s other brother, William Lockhart, died in 1949, so she took in his widow, who happened to be named Mary. The 1950 census shows she was 84 and living with Sarah and Bill.

Being from Northern Ireland, Sarah was a lifelong Presbyterian. Since living at the 58th Street address she was active in church activities at Westminster Presbyterian Church. Until a year before her death she always walked to church since it was just one block north on the corner of  Chester Avenue (now known as New Spirit Community Church).

Sarah was buried beside her husband William. Mary Lockhart died just one year after Sarah and was buried beside her husband William. Sarah’s brother John and her father William Lockhart Sr. are also at Mount Moriah. The only William in this story that was not buried here was her son, Bill. He moved to Cape May, New Jersey where he lived to the age of 93 and died in 1988.

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

Support the Friends of Mount Moriah

Help us in our mission to restore and maintain the beautiful Mount Moriah Cemetery by donating to our cause or volunteering at one of our clean-up events.