The one-year-old daughter of Southern and Julia Forten died this date, March 3rd, in 1852 of Catarrh Fever and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. The diagnosis is an archaic term applied to several respiratory infections such as the flu, pneumonia, and even the common cold. The Forten child was one of 462 children to die of various respiratory illnesses in Philadelphia between 1852 and 1853, according to the Board of Health records.
According to the 1847 Philadelphia African American Census, the Fortens lived in Salem Alley near the intersection of 12th and Lombard Street. As the above map shows, it was a narrow thoroughfare with three-story tenements and warehouses. The family lived in one room for which they paid $3 a month or in modern currency approximately $111.00. The Fortens were one of nine Black families living in the alley. The families totaled thirty-two men, women, and children. The men worked as coachmen, laborers, seamen, and waiters. The women were self-employed as laundresses, domestics, and hucksters (aka peddlers).
The 1847 Census records show twenty-four Black women were employed as hucksters, while eleven Black men were employed in the profession. These street vendors usually carried fresh vegetables and fruit. These peddlers meant that Black women do not have to hazard the harassment by drunk white thugs at the local outdoor markets. The top image is from the Emory University Collection and the other is from the Philadelphia Library Digital Collection.
Southern and Julia’s last name was spelled several ways during their lives. “Fortin” and “Fortune” were used and, in one instance, his first name was spelled “Southernland.” It is impossible to tell which spellings were accidental or intentional. It looks like the couple frequently would switch residences between Philadelphia and Burlington City, NJ. Julia died, a widow at 87 years old, in January of 1907 in Atlantic City, NJ. She would have several more children and, sadly, none lived to their teens.
The Forten baby girl died on an early day in March in 1852 and was buried, with dignity, by family and friends at Bethel Burying Ground.