New Philadelphia: A Pioneer Town...
     The Frontier 1809-1865 
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Illinois Frontier Town...
... where black and white Americans lived together peacefully on the antebellum Illinois frontier.

Philip Bradshaw, President, NPA
Griggsville, IL 62340

Carol McCartney, Secretary, NPA

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The History

The story of Frank McWorter and New Philadelphia is one of daring and hard work, luck, and shrewd family leadership.

Born a slave in South Carolina in 1777, Frank McWorter moved to Kentucky with his owner in 1795. He married Lucy, a slave from a nearby farm, in 1799. Later allowed to hire out his own time, McWorter engaged in a number of enterprises, notably a saltpeter works, that enabled him to buy his wife’s freedom in 1817 and his own in 1819.

Frank and Lucy McWorter and four of their children left Kentucky for Illinois in 1830, the year the Thomas Lincoln family, with son Abraham, came to Illinois from Indiana. McWorter bought a farm in Pike County’s Hadley Township and platted the town of New Philadelphia in 1836. Excellent information on maps, surveys, and land records of New Philadelphia is available at Historical Landscapes of New Philadelphia. McWorter promoted New Philadelphia strenuously, and engaged in other enterprises, managing to buy the freedom of at least sixteen family members. The town itself became a racially integrated community long before the Civil War, the 1850 and subsequent U.S. Census data showing black and white families living there. (See New Philadelphia Census Data) Frank McWorter died at New Philadelphia in 1854. A son, Solomon, assumed family leadership. Bypassed by the railroad in 1869, the townspeople slowly dispersed from the scene from the late 1880s. Today, the town site is an open field. New Philadelphia Map with Deed Information shows the town lots and streets of Philadelphia.

Archeological Work

A field walkover survey of the New Philadelphia town site was conducted on three separate extended weekends in the fall of 2001 and spring of 2002. Leading this research was Joy D. Beasley and Tom Gwaltney of HistArc Consultants of Baltimore, Maryland. Results of the survey can be seen at New Philadelphia Project Field Walkover Survey

On January 12, 2004, at a news conference in Pittsfield, Illinois, Dr. Paul A. Shackel of the University of Maryland announced acceptance of a National Science Foundation-Research Education for Undergraduates grant of $230,000 for three summers of archeological work at the New Philadelphia site.A copy of the grant application can be read at National Science Foundation Proposal. The grant funds a 10-week program for nine undergraduate college students each of the three years. Application and more information is available at: (Follow links for New Philadelphia and the NSF-REU program).

The New Philadelphia Association

The New Philadelphia Association, a not-for-profit organization formed by area residents, seeks to appropriately preserve a substantial portion of the town site in honor of a remarkable man and family of the antebellum Western Illinois frontier. For information about becoming a member visit the Join Us! page, write Carol McCartney, Secretary, NPA, Route 1, Pittsfield, IL 62363.