Twenty-two-year-old Isabel Le Count* died this date, May 21st, in 1841 of Tuberculosis and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. Ms. Le Count worked as a seamstress, was unmarried and without children. She lived in her parents’ home with her brothers.
Young Isabel Le Count was a member of one of the most important Black families in 19th Century Philadelphia African American History. Isabel’s father, Joseph, Sr., came to Philadelphia from Delaware and worked as a laborer. He went on to own a business as a shingle maker and then the proprietor of a lumberyard. Joseph Le Count, Sr. along with his brother James were trustees of Bethel AME Church for many years. They left the AME church in 1850 after having major disagreements with the leading clergy. James was a very successful restaurateur and caterer with his business across the street from the State House, now Independence Hall.
Isabel’s mother, Mary Le Count, in addition to being a homemaker, was known for her professional quiltmaking. Isabel’s Aunt Sarah Beulah Le Count was a prominent Shrouder of the Dead, an early version of a funeral director. Possibly the most renowned member of the Le Count family may have been Isabel’s Aunt Caroline Rebecca Le Count, civil rights activist and educator. Please click on the following link for more information. https://exhibits.library.villanova.edu/institute-colored-youth/graduates/caroline-lecount-bio/
The city changed the name of Bonsall Street to Rodman Street in 1860. In September of 1860, there were several white men, newspaper reporters, visiting the Black communities in the city. They came upon the section of Rodman Street that contained the Le Count home.
“We passed with our guide up South Street to Ninth, and thence to Rodman Street. Several fine dwellings, of three and four stories, fronted with white marble, and having doors of carved stone, were exhibited upon those avenues. . . . . It is peopled almost entirely by colored families. We gazed with curiosity at the rows of tall, beautiful houses, and saw, with some interest, the clean pavements and street. In some places, fine ornamental trees stood upon the sidewalks, and to the doorways, the families of colored men were seated.” In their journey, they had not found a section of the city in such a state of “decorum.”*
Ms. Isabel Le Count died on a hot day in May when the thermometer rose to 83 degrees, the highest of the season. She was buried by her family at Bethel Burying Ground.
*After reviewing hundreds of documents and historic newspapers the correct spelling of the family name is “Le Count.” In addition, Isabel’s full first name is Isabella.
**Press, 4 September 1860.