Eighty-year-old Grace Johnson died this date, September 26th, in 1847 of a Pulmonary Hemorrhage and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. Documents also record her first name as “Gracey” and “Gracie.” Several months before Ms. Johnson died she reported her occupation as a domestic “at service” to the 1847 African American Census. She was one of 194 women in the Census who reported this as their occupation. (1)
Ms. Johnson was single and lived alone in a 7′ x 7′ room at #8 Fothergill Street for which she paid $1.25 a month. In the 1837 African American Census, she reported that she was a widow. She’s listed as a widow in city directories as early as 1824.
Fothergill Street was more like a narrow alley than a proper thoroughfare. It often would have been blocked by garbage, trash, and piles of ash from stoves and fireplaces. In the winter, ice and snow would have made it impassable. In 1897, the name of the street was changed to Hutchinson.
Ms. Johnson was born enslaved in 1767. It wasn’t recorded what colony her parents lived in, but it wasn’t Pennsylvania, according to the 1847 Philadelphia African American Census. She choose not to be specific to the census taker about how she was freed.
Ms. Johnson lived through decades of race riots, white gangs, daily street violence, and epidemics of Cholera, Yellow Fever, Malaria, Typhoid, Typhus and Tuberculosis. She richly deserved a dignified burial where she could rest in peace. She found that on a cloudy late September day that saw intermittent light showers. Ms. Johnson was buried at Bethel Burying Ground.
(1) Philadelphia Negro by W.E.B. DuBois, p. 454.