Twelve-year-old Lucretia* Blake died this date, June 19th, in 1851 of “Natural Causes”** and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. Her mother, Ellen Blake, was forty-four-years-old at the time of her daughter’s death. Ms. Blake was employed as a laundress. Her spouse, John Blake, was forty-five and was a coachman earning $16 a month, according to the 1847 Philadelphia African American Census. Ms. Blake may have been able to earn $.50 to $1.00 a week.
Lucretia was the oldest child of Ellen and John Blake. At the time of her death, they were also the parents of nine-year-old Mary, five-year-old George, and two-year-old John, according to the 1850 U.S. Census. Everyone in the family was born in Pennsylvania except Mr. Blake who was born in Delaware.
The Blake family lived in a couple of rooms at 29 Barclay Street for which they paid $3.12 a month, according to the 1847 Census. The above map illustrates the proximity of the Blakes’ home (red arrow) to Bethel A.M.E. Church (red circle).
Sixteen months before Lucretia died, her family was in the center of a racist maelstrom. In October of 1849, the Sixth and Lombard Streets area saw thousands of rampaging white racists killing, assaulting, and burning the churches, businesses, and homes of Black families. Did the ten-year-old Lucretia hide with her family at home praying that the mob would leave them alone? Did she help comfort her siblings? Did the family hurry to Bethel Church for protection? The screaming and the smell of the fires would have been terrifying.
Twelve-year-old Lucretia Blake died on a warm June day in 1851. She was buried, with dignity, at Bethel Burying Ground.
*The coroner misspelled Lucretia’s name on the death certificate. The correct spelling appears in the 1850 U.S. Census.
**Death from ‘natural causes’ might include a heart attack, stroke, illness, or infection. By contrast, death caused by active intervention is known as ‘unnatural death,’ such as in the case of murder or suicide. It is likely that Lucretia collapsed in public.