Sixty-five-year-old Janet Jones died this date, October 29th, in 1848 of Erysipelas and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. It appears Ms. Jones chose not to participate in the U.S. Census or the Philadelphia city directories. However, she is recorded in the 1838 Philadelphia African American Census. Ms. Jones reported she was a widow who worked as a seamstress. In addition, she stated she formerly was enslaved and gained her freedom through manumission. Ms. Jones worshipped at Bethel AME Church.
The last known address for Ms. Jones was for a room in a building on the 1100 block of Pine Street for which she paid $2 a month. She may have been able to make that amount in a week as a seamstress. The 1838 Census reported that she only owned $15 in personal property.
Ms. Janet Jones died of Erysipelas. The disease starts out as a skin rash but can spread quickly to vital organs. Since the availability of antibiotics in 1944, the disease is easily cured simply with penicillin. However, the disease has been known since ancient times as a deadly illness. There are dozens of strains of this streptococcus bacteria, some more deadly than others. It is likely that the strain that killed Ms. Jones took 1-3 days to incubate. It would have entered her body through anything from a small scrape to a large wound or surgical incision. She would have been hit with a painful body rash and blistering, high fevers, chills, vomiting, and delirium. Eventual death from a heart attack would come anywhere from a few days to three weeks. Nineteenth-century physicians did not yet understand the concept of germs and the necessity of sterile conditions. (1)
Ms. Jones died on a “pleasant day” in late October where the temperature rose to sixty-five degrees. She was laid to rest at Bethel Burying Ground.
(1) The Butchering Art by Lindsey Fitzharris; The Merck Manuel.