Ten-month-old Deanna Smith died this date, August 13th, in 1836 of Cholera Infantum and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. She was a victim of a bacterial disease that, although its symptoms mirrored adult Asiatic Cholera, was of an entirely different etiology.
Little Deanna would have come down with a fever closely followed by vomiting, constant diarrhea, eventual convulsions, severe dehydration, rapid emaciation and finally death from one to four days after the initial onset. Physicians would have little to offer their patients. Not all babies that came down with the disease died from it. However, given how young this child was, it was inevitable. Today, a simple course of antibiotics and Pedialyte would be all that is needed to restore the infant to health.
The identification of the child’s family is problematical. The slim evidence available points to George Smith being Deanna Smith’s father. The 1837 Philadelphia African American Census did not record the mother’s name. He worked as a laborer while his spouse was employed as a day worker. There appears to have been at least one other child in the family in addition to Deanna. The severity of the family’s poverty was evident in the census report that states they only had $10 in personal property. They lived in one room on the 700 block of Shippen Street, now Bainbridge Street. For this, they paid $3.16 a month in rent.
In July of 1835, the Smiths would have been in the path of a marauding white mob numbering over a thousand. They attacked Black men, women, and children as they sacked and burned homes and churches only a couple blocks from the Smith’s home. There was a group of 50-60 African Americans who were armed and who attacked the mob guerilla style throughout the days and nights, as the police looked on and did nothing to protect Black citizens.
Deanna’s mother may have been one of the many Black women who struggled to gather up their children and escape the mob. Some hid in pitch black cellars, while others left the city taking the ferry to Camden, New Jersey.
The Smith family buried their daughter on a relatively cool day in August where the temperature reached only 73 degrees by 3 o’clock in the afternoon.