Fifty-year-old Moses Blake died this date, August 24th, in 1848 of “Fever” and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. Mr. Blake, along with his unnamed spouse, was born enslaved. One had their freedom purchased for $25 and the other was manumitted by his or her enslaver, Richard Baker of Maryland. The 1847 African American Census also reports that the Blakes had three children between the ages of five and fifteen. They attended church services regularly and belonged to at least one beneficial society.
The Blake family lived on Bedford Street, a narrow block long thoroughfare that was where many white Philadelphians believed the devil lived. White and Black men and women were seen “unhesitatingly” mixing and even were rumored to be legally married to each other. Blacks saw Bedford Street as a slum where corpses laid unburied for days, waiting to be picked up and dropped off at the city’s Potter’s Field. Consequently, the neighborhood was a target for church missions, schools, and soup kitchens, not only because of the local desperately poor but also for the presence of gambling dens, houses of prostitution and speakeasies. Violence and disease were constant visitors.
No one chose to live on Bedford Street but that was all they could afford and was likely close to Mr. Blake’s workplace. The 10’x10′ room the Blake family resided in cost them $2.50 a month. Mr. Blake worked as a laborer and Ms. Blake was occupied as a laundress/day worker. Two of the children attended the Bedford Street Mission School.
Ms. Blake and her children buried their spouse and father on a clear day in August with the temperature rising to only seventy-eight degrees.