Eighteen-month-old Joseph Middleton died this date, February 28th, in 1848, due to Whooping Cough, and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. I believe he was the grandson of Francis and Catherine Middleton. Comparing the 1847 Philadelphia African American Census and the 1850 U.S. Census, one could draw the conclusion that the child’s unnamed parents moved from the family’s residence shortly after their son’s death.
In 1850 the family contained Francis (60 y/o) and Catherine (50 y/o), both were free-born in New Jersey. Their four children included William (21 y/o), George (19 y/o), Alexander (15 y/o), and Tabitha (12 y/o). Tabitha was enrolled in Solomon Clarke’s private school. The four siblings were all born in Pennsylvania and could read and write.
Francis was employed as a porter, Catherine was self-employed as a laundress, doing wash and ironing. Both William and George were apprenticed to a bootmaker in 1847. By 1850, only George was listed as a bootmaker in the 1850 Census.
The Middleton family paid $3 a month in rent or approximately $103 in modern currency. It appears they rented more than one room. According to the 1847 African American Census, Stevens’ Court was solidly working class. It was home to sixteen Black families with a total of eighty-six men, women, and children. All of the women in these families worked as laundresses while the men worked as laborers. There were two men who reported their occupation as “seaman.”
The historical records show that the Middletons were industrious and religious people who sought education for their children. They thrived, despite living through decades of persecution that included race riots, daily street violence from white gangs, and epidemics of Cholera, Yellow Fever, Malaria, Typhoid, Typhus, and Tuberculosis.
The Middletons worshiped at Richard Allen’s Bethel A.M.E. Church at 6th and Lombard Streets and paid into their beneficial society that acted like a bank’s savings account for emergencies. Some funds from this society were likely used for little Joseph’s burial expenses.
Eighteen-month-old Joseph Middleton was one of Philadephia’s one hundred thirty-three children to have died of Whooping Cough between 1848 and 1849. He died on a day that started out sunny and clear but by late afternoon a storm hit the city bringing hail, snow, and rain. The child was buried, with dignity, by his family at Bethel Burying Ground.
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