Sixty-five-year-old Flora Anderson died this date, January 31st, in 1844, and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. According to the City Coroner, she died “suddenly” and the “cause of death unknown.” Eight years before her death, she reported to the 1847 Philadelphia Africa American Census that she was the head of a family that included four other individuals. Two were not native to Pennsylvania and the other two were born in Pennsylvania where Ms. Anderson also was born. There was no delineation between male or female or a recording of their ages.
Ms. Anderson reported in 1836, at fifty-eight-years-old, that she worked as a day worker, performing domestic duties when she could get the work. The family lived on the 1200 block of Bedford Street in a room for which they paid $1.65 a month. This was an extreme poverty existence.
No one lived like this out of choice. Being bitten by rats at night and living half dead during the day, near starvation, seeing your children suffer and die are nightmares, not dreams. Enduring arduous working conditions, chronic medical conditions, and infections and daily threats of physical violence were a horrible part of these Black citizens’ everyday life. Every day.
In 1836, Ms. Anderson lived on Bedford Street (now Kater St.), a block and a half over the southern boundary of the city into the district of Moyamensing. The red arrow above indicates the approximate location of the Anderson home. “Moyamensing became known for its penitentiary, violent hose company [volunteer firemen], cemeteries, wretchedly poor inhabitants, and crime. ” (Harry C. Silcox, author of Philadelphia From the Bottom Up.)
The undated photo above shows 1242 Kater Street with outhouses and the water spigot for the block. Notice how close the raw sewage pits or “sinks” (as they were called) are to the water source. If the sinks were not built properly and lined with brick or concrete, the sewage could leak into the water supply and likely cause deadly illnesses such as Cholera.
Ms. Anderson died on a “cold and clear” day in late January with light snow falling. The city was in the middle of a deep freeze that led to the death from exposure of a significant number of the poor.