Sixty-one-year-old Nathaniel Gibbs died this date, October 14th, in 1852, of a “Rheumatic Inflammation of the Meninges of the Brain,” in short, Rhematic Fever. Acute RF is a disease that, in addition to the brain, can severely affect the heart, joints, and skin. Without antibiotics, RF is most deadly in the young and the elderly.
The 1847 Philadelphia African American Census shows Mr. Gibbs and his spouse, who I believe was Ann Gibbs, were both born of enslaved mothers in Maryland. Only one gained his or her freedom, presumably by being bought by the other for $250. That sum would be approximately $7,000 in modern currency.
The family suffered a devastating monetary loss when Dyott Bank collapsed. The Gibbs lost $500 which equates to approximately $16,700 in modern currency. The 1847 Census reported five Black families losing life savings with the same Bank.
Mr. Gibbs was employed as a waiter earning $12 a month, $400 in modern currency, according to the Census, while Ms. Gibbs was self-employed as a washer woman earning approximately $1 a week. The family was paying $9 in rent for their room on Lombard Street.
There was an unidentified teenage female living with the Gibbs. The census taker in 1847 commented that the Gibbs were keeping the girl “from the streets.” She did not attend school and likely assisted Ms. Gibbs with her works. All three attended church services, according to the Census. The girl was born in Pennsylvania.
Tragically, on July 7th in 1849 Ms. Gibbs died of Cholera and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. Both Mr. and Ms. Gibbs belonged to beneficial societies that likely assisted with their burial costs. The 1850 U.S. Census shows Mr. Gibbs moved to a tenement in Turner’s Court, near his old address. He was still employed as a waiter. (See above map)
Mr. Gibbs died on a fair weather day in mid-October and was buried by friends at Bethel Burying Ground.