One-year-old Charles Elias died this date, July 6th, in 1844 of Cholera and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. His mother Elizabeth was young, at nineteen-years-old, while his father James was twenty-four-years-old. James worked as a waiter and Elizabeth labored as a laundress, according to the Philadelphia African American Census of 1847 and the U.S. Census of 1850. Mr. Elias was born in Delaware and Ms. Elias in Philadelphia. It appears that Baby Charles was their only child at that time. However, Elizabeth Elias would have two daughters by the 1850 Census. Sarah Ann was born in 1847 and Mary in 1848.
Quince Street was a narrow street near Rittenhouse Square, toward the western end of center city Philadelphia. It was little more than a cart path that would often be blocked by piles of garbage, ash, and animal waste. In the winter, snow and ice would make it impassable. The existence of several stables and carpenter workshops on the street made buildings vulnerable to frequent fires. In 1847, this small thoroughfare was crammed with forty-three Black families totaling one-hundred and thirteen members that worked as laborers and domestics. The poor living conditions led to the deadly diseases of Tuberculosis, Cholera, and Pneumonia.
On the day that one-year-old Charles Elias died the city erupted into a hellish battlefield. For the second time in a month, thousands of Nativists, white Protestants, invaded the Southward District, looking to destroy Catholic churches and the Irish men and women who worshipped in them. The death and destruction continued for days, until the military intervened. Black families fled the city or hid in their homes with the memories of the race riots of 1839 and 1842 still fresh in their minds.
With measureless grief, the young couple watched their baby quickly deteriorate and suffer constant diarrhea, vomiting and, then, the convulsions. They were unable to do anything as their infant slipped into a coma and died. They buried their son on a hot day in July at Bethel Burying Ground.*
*Little Charles Elias is the tenth documented individual as of July 6, 2020 to have resided on Quince Street and interred at Bethel Burying Ground.