Thirty-seven-year-old Joseph Edwards died this date, April 8th, in 1849 of Tuberculosis and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. The 1847 Philadelphia African American Census reports that two years before his death Mr. Edwards was too ill to work. The Census also shows that Ms. Edwards* was employed as a nurse and another member of the residence was employed as a domestic earning $1.50 a week. The Edwards and the unidentified woman lived in a room at #8 Madison Court for which they paid $3.50 a month.
Madison’s Court was a slum within a slum. This dead-end alley branched off St. Mary’s Street which had a wide reputation of being the worst-of-the-worst living environment in the city of Philadelphia. The sun never shone in the ill-ventilated rooms of these tenements. This made it a perfect haven for deadly respiratory diseases, such as Tuberculosis, that killed Mr. Edward.
Eleven Black families totaling forty-five men, women and children lived on small Madison’s Court, according to the 1847 Census. No one would choose to live here. Historically, this neighborhood was one step away from the House of Refuge and its adjoining potter’s field. And yet, Mr. Edwards’ family made sure that he had a dignified burial at a respectable cemetery.
*There are a number of individuals with the last name “Edwards” buried at Bethel Burying Ground. There is some evidence that points to the possibility of Harriet Edwards being Joseph Edwards’ spouse. She died at 40 years old of a lung infection on February 22, 1851, and likely was buried next to her husband.