In an age of high infant mortality, Sarah and John Brown experience more than their share of loss. Plagued by smallpox, yellow fever, cholera, typhoid, measles and mumps, early Baltimore families buried one of every three children before their first birthday.
Sarah Levering Brown (1751-1832), a Pennsylvania, and John Brown (1745-1794), a native of Belfast, Ireland moved to Baltimore in 1772, a year after their marriage. Over the next 23 years, Sarah gave birth to 10 children. Six of them died over a 12 year period - four before their second birthday - along with their father. Sarah brown would live another 30 years, dying at age 80 during Baltimore's horrible cholera epidemic of 1832.
Mourning Rites Charles Willson Peale's depiction of his wife and infant daughter captures the pain and suffering all too familiar to people like Sarah and John Brown.
Rachel Weeping by Charles Willson Peale, oil on canvas, 1772
Philadelphia Museum of Art: Gift of the Barra Foundation, Inc., 1977.
A Timeline of Loss: Sarah Brown's Long Journey
1772 (Oct) Sarah, 21 years old, gives birth to her first child, James
1774 (Oct) Sarah's second child, William, is born
1777 (Feb) Sarah gives birth to a girl, Hannah
1780 (Apr) Sarah has another son, John
1782 (Dec) A second daughter, Sarah, is born
1785 (Dec) Sarah gives birth to another boy, Thomas Jameson
1787 (May) Jesse, Sarah's seventh child, is born
1790 (Jan) 20-month-old Jesse dies
(Nov) Sarah gives birth to twins, Mary and Margaret; Mary dies two days later
1792 (Aug) 20-month-old Margaret dies
1794 (July) Sarah, now 43, gives birth to her tenth and final child, Joseph M.
(Nov) Sarah's husband, John, dies at 49, leaving seven children
1795 (?) James, Sarah's eldest at 23, dies
1796 (July) Two-year-old Joseph M. dies
1802 (Oct) Sarah's 16-year-old son Thomas, dies, leaving the 51-year-old widow with four grown children, ages 19-27
Brown family inscriptions:
1. Jesse Brown Died the 29th day of January 1790, Aged 20 Months
2. Mary Brown Died the 14th of November 1790, Aged 2 Days (Footstone M.B.)
3. Margaret Brown Died the 14th of August, 1792, Aged 20 Months
4. John Brown Who departed this life November 4th 1794 in the 49th Year of his Age (Footstone J.B. 1794)
5. Footstone J.B. 1795 [James Brown, born 1772]
6. Joseph M. Brown. Died the 3d day of July, 1796, Aged 2 years (Footstone J.B. 1796)
7. Thomas J. Brown The Son of John and Sarah Brown Who died the 3d day of Oct. 1802, Aged 16 years 9 Months, and 24 Days (Footstone T.J.B. 1802)
8. Footstone S.B. [Sarah Brown]