Twenty-two-year-old Josephine Atlee died this date, December 4th, in 1848 of Tuberculosis and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. It appears from census records that she was the daughter of Adam and Lucinda Atlee and the sister of John and Hannah Atlee. At the time of Josephine’s death, Adam was ~56 years old, Lucinda ~55, John ~22, who may have been a twin of Josephine. Hannah was approximately 17 years old. All family members were born in Pennsylvania, according to the 1847 Philadelphia African American Census and the 1850 U.S. Census. (1)
Adam Atlee was employed as a cart driver in 1847 and a shingle maker in 1850. It appears Lucinda was a homemaker. John worked as a waiter and young Hannah was “at service.” The 1847 Census reports Josephine’s employment as “day worker.” (2)
The Atlee family lived in a room in the 1800 block of George Street, now Samson Street (red pin). The residence was a half a block north of Rittenhouse Square. It was one of the original squares planned by William Penn in the 17th century. The Atlee family lived in one or two rooms for which they paid $3 a month which equates to $100 in modern currency. They reported $50 in personal property, which equates to approximately $1,600 in modern currency.
The Black residents of George Street lived where the white establishment permitted them. They were employed in professions that supported the lifestyle of the wealthy who lived around Rittenhouse Square. Over a dozen Black families lived on the same block as the Atlee family, according to the 1847 Census. Those families consisted of over seventy men, women, and children. The men were employed as coachmen, waiters, barbers, and livery stable workers. The children attended the Adelphia School and the private schools of Sarah Douglas and John Mitchell. It is worth mentioning that not only could three members of the Atlee family read but also two could write. It is likely that young Josephine attended one of the schools mentioned.
Josephine Atlee died on a remarkably warm day in December where the temperature rose to over 70°. Her family buried her, with dignity, at Bethel Burying Ground.
(1) The 1850 U.S. Census spells the family name as “Atley.”
(2) Josephine Atlee was one of 323 Black girls and women who were “at service” or “in-service” in 1847, according to the Philadelphia African American Census. These domestic workers would either live full-time in their employee’s home, or just during the work week, or not at all and live at their home.