Two-year-old Mary Lavinia* Singer died this date, July 14th, in 1849 of “Tabes” (Tuberculosis) and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. The research materials available pose a mystery – who were Mary’s parents? In the 1847 African American Census, the Singer family headed by Theodore Singer contained him and three others. There were two females and two males; two under 5 years and two under 50 years. Only one was not a native of Pennsylvania. We don’t know Mary’s exact birth date so she may or may not be included in this survey.
Theodore was a waiter making a reported $12 a month and his spouse worked as a laundress, likely earning $1-$2 a week depending upon demand. The family lived in desperate poverty with the whole family living in a 10 ft. by 10 ft. room with no running water. They paid $3 a month in rent or an equivalent to approximately $75 in today’s cash. This room was located at 322 Cedar Street above 7th Street. Cedar is now called South Street.
Name Age Place of Birth Occupation
Theodore Singer 45 PA Waiter
Rebecca Singer 27 NJ Unknown
John Singer 17 NJ Barber
James Singer 5 PA N/A
Eliza J. Singer 2 PA N/A
Lavina Thomas 48 NC Unknown
(Source: 1850 Federal Census)
Ms. Thomas died on January 2, 1854, of kidney disease and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground, likely with or next to Mary Lavina Thomas. Her age was reported to be 56 years old.
Tuberculosis accounted for less than one percent of deaths in children two years old and under. The majority of childhood deaths during the first year of life accounted for 47% of all childhood deaths during this era. Convulsions were the major cause of death in the first year of life and Cholera was the most prevalent in the second year of life. (A Biohistory of 19th Century Afro-Americans, Lesley M. Rankin-Hill, p. 77-78.)
*The correct spelling is likely “Lavina.”