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 wifes 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 Countys 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.
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: www.heritage.umd.edu (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.