Five-year-old Sarah E. Haight died this date, March 11th, in 1843 of Tuberculosis and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. I cannot be 100% certain as to the identity of her parents. Her father was likely to have been Joseph Haight who was employed as a waiter. Joseph’s spouse, who is unnamed, worked as a domestic servant, according to the 1837 African American Census. In addition to Sarah, there appears to have been an older child in the family.
Sarah died of Tuberculosis (Phthisis), “a disease of misery”/”a disease of darkness.” Tuberculosis is born in rooms without fresh air and sunlight and then spreads easily throughout the neighborhood. A neighborhood of the poor where overcrowding, poverty, and poor nutrition made a perfect incubator for the bacteria.
The family lived on Dock Street, one of the oldest sections of the city. Before it was a serpentine cobblestone street, it was a creek, an open sewer, that carried human waste and the dead animals that littered the city streets – dogs, cats, rats, and horses. In addition, the putrid waste from slaughterhouses and tanneries were dumped into this slow-moving stream. This creek eventually was covered by a road in the late 18th century.
Sarah E. Haight lived in a tenement along this paved-over sewer that would often clog and back up, filling the basements and turning them into fetid cesspools of disease. Heavy rains would fill the first floors of the buildings, causing the streets and pavements to collapse. In this environment, it is not hard to imagine Sarah contracting a deadly illness. It takes some thought on how she lived to five years of age. No one chooses to live like this.
Worldwide 1.7 million people died from Tuberculosis in 2017, despite an effective vaccine.