Elizabeth Karney, a native of Delaware, died this date, March 28th, in 1853 and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. Ms. Karney was suffering from a fistula; a hole between two internal structure that is usually the result of surgery or trauma. It is likely she had an infection from a vaginal fistula that can occur after days of pushing a baby that does not fit through the birth canal. Mothers can experience severe rectal, bladder and vaginal damage causing tissue tears that rip open the walls of one of these areas spilling urine and/or feces into the vagina and bladder. Without early and successful surgery to close the tear, the patient would eventually die of infection in this era before antibiotics.
Ms. Karney lived in the home of Luke Goines and his family. Formerly enslaved, he escaped to Philadelphia through the Underground Railroad and settled in Philadelphia with the assistance of William Still. He was a successful barber who owned the rowhouse at 193 Lombard and was a member of a family long involved in aiding fugitives and fighting slavery according to William Still.* He served on the Board of the Vigilance Committee and was known to harbor fugitives at his Lombard home. According to the 1850 Federal Census, Ms. Karney was not a member of the Goines’ immediate family* and there is no mention of her in the 1847 African American Census.
Ms. Karney was under the care of two nurses for 2-3 months. This would have been expenses and apparently not within her personal financial ability. in 1846-47, Mr. Goines reported his yearly income as $1,200 which is well above the average for a Black man during this time. He also reported personal property at $1,500, again well above the norm.***
** Members of the Goines household per the 1850 Federal Census:
Luke Goines 39
Susan Goines 10