Dr. William P. Chandler did not make the effort to ascertain the baby’s name. It was provided by the Bethel gravedigger in the document below. The physician also put an “s” at the end of the family’s name. All other documents show the family’s name as “Till.”
Nine-week-old Sarah Ann Till died this date, November 19th, in 1820 of “Debility” and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. Little Sarah Ann may have starved to death. Her mother’s breast milk may not have come in or she may have been too sick to breastfeed and there may not have been a wet nurse available. In 1820, Sarah Ann was one of ninety-five children in the city reported to have died with the same diagnosis. In reality, it likely was closer to double that number.
The 1820 Philadelphia City Directory shows Mr. Till’s occupation as “boot cleaner.” He likely had been employed in one of the hotels in the old city area. He was one of twenty-five Black men in the Directory that reported their occupation as boot cleaner. Mr. Till was no longer reported in the city directory after 1822. However, eighteen years after Sarah Ann died, there is a John Till and family reported in the 1838 Philadelphia African American Census.
This John Till lived with his spouse and two other females. One appears to be school age. Three of the adults are not native to Pennsylvania. The child is a native. Two of the adults were formerly enslaved and, reportedly, gained their freedom through manumission. Mr. Till was employed as a porter and Ms. Till as a laundress. They resided in Eagles Court. I suspect that Mr. and Ms. Till were runaways and, after establishing a home in Philadelphia, they were able to bring a relative up from the South. The enacting of the 1820 Fugitive Slave Law may explain why Mr. Till no longer had himself listed in the city directories. But this is just conjucture.
Nine-week-old Sarah Ann Till died on a cold day in late November of 1820 and was buried, with dignity, at Bethel Burying Ground.
It is likely that Reverend Richard Allen, pastor of Bethel A.M.E., presided over the funeral service for the infant. He may have recited the hymn he wrote for the death of a child.
The tyrant, Death, came rushing in.
Last night his power did shew,
Out of this world this child did take,
Death laid low.
No more the pleasant child is seen
To please the parent’s eye.
The tender plant, so fresh and green,
Is in eternity.
“A Collection of Hymns and Spiritual Songs,” by Rev. Richard Allen. Hymn XLI, p. 64.