Fourteen-month-old Patience Medab* died this date, August 30th, in 1849, of a respiratory infection and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground (BBG). Her parents were Mary, thirty-two-years-old, and George, thirty-nine-years-old. Both were born in Virginia, according to the 1850 Federal Census. He was employed as a shoemaker and Ms. Medab as a laundress. It appears the family tragically lost another daughter, two-year-old Elizabeth, in September of 1847. She also was buried at BBG. Sixty-eight-year-old Patience Medab, whom I believe was the baby’s namesake and paternal grandmother, died from complications of a stroke in April in 1843 and was buried at BBG.
The Medab family lived in a 10’x10′ room at 41 Quince Street for which they paid $4 a month. Mr. and Ms. Medab attended church services, belonged to a beneficial society and claimed to own only $100 in personal property, according to the 1847 Philadelphia African American Census.
The Medad family lived on Quince Street between Spruce and Locust Streets and 11th and 12th Streets. In 1847, there were forty-two Black families on the busy street that had a total of ninety-two family members including the Medads.
Shoemaking was a skill that enslaved Black men were allowed to learn and practice on plantations in the North and South. It was also a trade that could be easily passed down from father to son. According to city directories, Quince Street was home to several Black men who reported their occupation as shoemaking. It was faster to learn than other occupations such as clockmaking or silversmithing and the tools necessary were relatively inexpensive. However, the cost of establishing a shop, purchasing leather, and waiting to establish the clientele while maintaining a family at the same time was beyond the reach of most Black men in Philadelphia during the 1840s. Therefore, most Black shoemakers did “piece work” and they only were paid for making one pair of boots or shoes at a time.
Fourteen-month-old Patience Medab was laid to rest in the family plot on a day when the morning was covered in a “dense fog” that eventually burned off to become a “warm and sultry” afternoon with the temperature reaching 82 degrees.
*Other spellings of the family name include “Medad” and “Meadab.”