Forty-year-old Peter Potter died this date, June 11th, in 1841 of Pneumonia and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. Mr. Potter was employed as a seaman, according to the 1838 Philadelphia African American Census. It is unlikely at his age that he was a “blue water” or deep-water sailor. He may have been employed on coastal freighters that went from city to city along the east coast. This work would have been seasonal, with the winters bringing violent storms at sea and ice to the harbors. There is evidence in the city directories that, during the winter, he worked as a “hackman” driving a horse drawn cab.
The 1838 Census does not report his spouse’s first name. We know Ms. Potter was self-employed as a laundress and, along with her husband, she was “free born.” There were no children in the family.
The red circle indicates the location of Crab Street (later Charles Street). The black circle illustrates the location of Bethel Burying Ground and the proximity to the Potters’ home.
Mr. and Ms. Potter lived in a room at #12 Crab Street located between 4th and 5th Streets and Bainbridge and Monroe Streets in the southern part of the city. They paid $3.50 a month in rent or the modern equivalency of $107.50. The 1838 Census shows that #12 Crab Street was one of twelve residences on Crab Street occupied by African Americans. In four of them widows resided, single women lived in six others, and the Potters along with another couple lived in the remaining two homes. The women were occupied as cooks, laundresses, and domestics.
Mr. Potter died on a warm day in June. “Just before six o’clock p.m. we had a gust of wind and a shower of rain to cool the atmosphere so that the laborers and the invalid could sleep at night.”(1) He was buried, with dignity, by his spouse at Bethel Burying Ground.
(1) United States Gazette to the Country, 12 June 1841, p. 1.