The sixteen-month-old daughter of Mary and Isaac Beckett* died this date, January 3rd, in 1848 of Hydrocephalus** and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. Tragically, the little girl would not be alone for long.
Mary Beckett was approximately twenty-seven-years-old at the time of her daughter’s death. She was employed as a domestic and had been born in Pennsylvania. She was dying of Tuberculosis. Isaac Beckett was twenty-eight-years-old and employed as a porter. He was born in Delaware, according to the census. However, his death certificate states that he was born in Maryland.***
There was another adult in the family, Ann Armstrong, forty-seven-years-old, born in Pennsylvania, who was employed as a “white washer” or house painter. She may have been Mary Beckett’s mother. All of this information is from the 1847 Philadelphia African American Census and the 1850 U.S. Census.
Baby Beckett had two siblings Julia, seven-years-old, and Isaac, Jr., four-years-old. Both were born in Pennsylvania, according to the 1850 U.S. Census. Sadly, the Becketts lost a three-month-old daughter to “fever” on June 19, 1848. She was buried at Bethel Burying Ground with her sister.
In 1847 six members of the Beckett family lived in a 9’x9′ room without running water or sanitation. The room was one of eight in a house in the 700 block of Lombard Street north side. The eight families in the tenement consisted of twenty-two African American men, women, and children. The adults were employed as an oyster house worker, waiter, seaman, seamstress, laundress, domestic worker, whitewasher, and porter. There were several who reported that they were formerly enslaved, according to the 1847 Census. The children attended the Raspberry Alley School.
The Becketts lost their baby daughter on a clear day in January where the mercury gradually rose from 34° to 50°. The winds were light and variable. She was buried at Bethel Burying Ground.
Tragically, Mary Beckett would die six months after the death of her sixteen-month-old daughter and five days after the death of her three-month-old baby on June 24, 1848, of Tuberculosis. She was buried with her daughters at Bethel Burying Ground.
*The family name is spelled “Becket” on some documents. I have chosen the more common spelling.
**Hydrocephalus is an abnormal increase in the amount of cerebrospinal fluid that circulates in the brain. This puts increased pressure on the brain that produces an enlarged head and may lead to brain damage. The condition is associated with spina bifida, viruses, bacteria, and funguses. (A Biohistory of 19th-Century Afro-Americans, Lesley M. Rankin-Hill)
***Isaac Beckett died on August 28, 1866, at seventy-three-years-old.