Sarah Draper,42, died this date, March 18th, in 1824 of Typhoid Fever and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. She and her husband Jesse lived at 92 Bedford Street. Jesse worked as a porter and sadly died 12 years later. He was found dead “lying up against the wall” of a Presbyterian church at the corner of 12th and Lombard Streets on Christmas Day in 1836. The coroner ruled that he “died by the visitation of God.”*
There are infamous alleys and streets that were cesspools of human existence for the Black citizens of 19th century Philadelphia. Bedford Street was one of them. It ran east and west, between Shippen (now Bainbridge) and South Streets. It eventually became a place of violence, squalor, disease, and hopelessness. However, at the time of Ms. Draper’s death it was a mixed race neighborhood of industrious working class families that consisted of carpenters, coachmen, mariners, carters and painters according to the relevant City Directory. The newly (1818) ordained Bethel African Methodist Episcopal minister, Clayton Durham, lived across the street at 65 Bedford Street.** Rev. Durham would travel to parts of Maryland every year to hold “soul-saving” camp meetings, “but more to get [enslaved] men and women their freedom.” Could the Drapers assisted their neighbor in hiding fugitive slaves?***
*Public Ledger, 11/26/1836
**1820 City Directory of Philadelphia
***Allen B. Ballard, One More Day’s Journey: The Story of a Family and a People, p. 47.