The sixteen-month-old daughter of Mary and Isaac Beckett died this date, January 3rd, in 1848 of Hydrocephalous (1) and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. The Becketts are an example of a family that would flip flop between working poor and desperately poor. The census taker for the 1847 African American Census noted the intemperance of Mr. Beckett and its effect on his inability to keep a steady job.
In the 1847 Census, the family lived in a room or two at #2 Warren Street. Mary Beckett was 26 years old at the time of her daughter’s death. Tragically, Ms. Beckett would die six months later of Tuberculosis. Horribly, five days before her death, she and her husband would lose a three month old daughter to a “fever.”
The 1850 U.S. Census (below ) shows the twenty-eight year old widower and father of nine-year-old Julia and six-year-old Isaac, Jr. working as a porter. Ms. Ann Armstrong, 49, who now is taking care of the children, is possibly Mary Beckett’s mother.
Warren Street was a narrow two-block thoroughfare near the intersection of 12th and Spruce Streets in center city. In 1847, it was home to fifteen Black families with a total of sixty-two men, women, and children. The women were employed as teacher, shirt maker, and domestic. The men labored as wood sawyer, brick carrier, brick maker, and coal hauler.
Baby Beckett died on a clear January day where the temperature rose to fifty degrees. She was buried by her family at Bethel Burying Ground. She would should be joined by her mother and a sister.
(1) Hydrocephalus literally means water or fluid on the brain. The condition could have been caused by many neurological diseases including meningitis, malaria, or scarlet fever. It also could have been congenital. The Philadelphia Board of Health recorded that the Beckett baby was one of two hundred thirteen children to die of the disease in 1848.