Week 1: #52 Ancestors – Foundations
By Eilene Lyon
This week’s theme brought to mind a 3rd great-granduncle, Isaac T. Bedford, who had a career as a bricklayer in 19th-century Philadelphia. Isaac’s parents were my 4th great-grandparents, Thomas and Jane (Thomson) Bedford. The parents belonged to the Society of Friends, but it wasn’t until after his marriage that Isaac joined the Society.
Isaac T. Bedford was born in Philadelphia about 1812, the second youngest child of eight, one of whom died in infancy. In 1837, he married Sarah Paxson, daughter of Isaiah and Elizabeth (Longstreth) Paxson.1
In the 1840 census, Isaac was listed as being in trade or manufacture.2 From then on, the census recorded him as a bricklayer. He and Sarah lived for many years at 321 Noble Street, though they did not own the property. In the 1850s, Isaac advertised his services in the Public Ledger. In addition to all types of brick work, he built and repaired ranges and heaters. There are undoubtedly buildings in Philadelphia standing to this day that incorporate Isaac’s bricklaying work.
Isaac and Sarah may have had a genetic incompatibility. Poor Sarah suffered two stillbirths, three infant deaths, and two early childhood deaths. Only two sons lived to adulthood. Thomas L. Bedford died at 19 from consumption.3 Her and Isaac’s final remaining child was their firstborn, William Paxson Bedford.*
In the Civil War draft, William was living at home with his parents in the city, but he worked as a farmer, possibly in Bucks County.4 A year later, he married Anna M. Rogers and they moved to Delaware County where they had a daughter together, Sarah P. Bedford.5
This only grandchild of Isaac and Sarah was orphaned before she was two. Little Sarah went to live with maternal relatives (the Rogers family) and never married.6 She grew up to be a librarian and she traveled twice to her ancestral homeland of England in the early 1900s.
It’s probable that consumption (tuberculosis) took both William and Anna (Rogers) Bedford. Isaac Bedford’s niece, Clara J. Bedford, of Springboro, Ohio, visited Philadelphia in May 1865. In a letter to her aunt in Indiana, Clara remarked that William was suffering from bronchitis and also that he’d had two hemorrhaging incidents.7 He died in September 1866, at age 28, and Anna followed him to the grave just six months later.8
“Wm Uncles married son had the bronchitis when I was there but The doctor he consulted said he could cure him, and that his lungs were not affected. But since I left T says he has had two hemorrhages. Aunt Sarah was very much worried about him”
Thus it was that Isaac T. and Sarah Bedford outlived every one of their many children. And since their only grandchild had no children, they have no living descendants. Only Isaac’s brickwork remains as testament to his time here on earth.
Feature Image: Friends Housing Cooperative on N. 8th Street, Philadelphia. Built in 1852. (Wikimedia Commons) Though I have no record of buildings Isaac T. Bedford may have worked on, this is certainly a plausible possibility.
*Clarification: Thomas, twelve years younger than William, was the last child to pass, in 1870.
- Ancestry.com. U.S., Quaker Meeting Records, 1681-1935> Pennsylvania> Chester> Birmingham Monthly Meeting> Records of Births, Deaths, Etc., 1724-1935> image 206. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014. ↩
- Isaac T. Bedford. Year: 1840; Census Place: Northern Liberties Ward 6, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: 485; Page: 174; Family History Library Film: 0020555 – via Ancestry.com. ↩
- Thomas Bedford. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington, D.C.; Non-Population Census Schedules for Pennsylvania, 1850-1880: Mortality; Archive Collection: M1838; Archive Roll Number: 6; Census Year: 1870; Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Page: 1 – via Ancestry.com. ↩
- William P. Bedford. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington, D.C.; Consolidated Lists of Civil War Draft Registration Records (Provost Marshal General’s Bureau; Consolidated Enrollment Lists, 1863-1865); Record Group: 110, Records of the Provost Marshal General’s Bureau (Civil War); Collection Name: Consolidated Enrollment Lists, 1863-1865 (Civil War Union Draft Records); NAI: 4213514; Archive Volume Number: 1 of 1 – via Ancestry.com. ↩
- Agnes Longstreth Taylor. The Longstreth Family Records: Revised and Enlarged. (Philadelphia: Press of Ferris and Leach, 1909) p. 212; Sarah Paxson Bedford. Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Harrisburg, PA; Pennsylvania (State). Death Certificates, 1906-1968; Certificate Number Range: 040951-043500 – via Ancestry.com. ↩
- Sallie P. Bedford. Year: 1870; Census Place: Downingtown, Chester, Pennsylvania; Roll: M593_1323; Page: 77B – via Ancestry.com. ↩
- Bedford, Clara J. (Springboro, Ohio) to “Dear Aunt” [Abigail (Bedford) Jenkins]. Letter. 14 May 1865. Private collection of the author, Durango, Colorado. 2021. ↩
- William P. Bedford. “Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-DZGQ-66?cc=1320976&wc=9F5X-SP8%3A1073109901 : 16 May 2014), 004000959 > image 320 of 416; Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (this record lists chronic bronchitis as the cause of death); https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/40312658/anna-m-bedford ↩