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New Philadelphia
Hadley Township
New Philadelphia
Photo's by Billie Browning, October 2011
New Philadelphia
Photo's by Billie Browning, October 2011

New Philadelphia was founded by Frank McWorter, a free African American, in 1836. McWorter was born in 1777 in Union County, South Carolina. His mother, Juda, was born in West Africa, and after being abducted into slavery, was purchased by a Scotch-Irish plantation operator in South Carolina named George McWhorter. George moved his operations to Pulaski County, Kentucky in 1795. Frank was so industrious he convinced George to permit him to stay on and run the Kentucky farm operations when George decided to move again, this time to Tennessee. Frank married Lucy, an enslaved African American living on a neighboring farm in Kentucky, in 1799. While in Kentucky during the War of 1812, he started a saltpeter mining and production operation in his free time, and succeeded in accumulating earnings through that work and by taking on wage-paying tasks for other neighboring farms in his spare time. With those earnings, Frank purchased freedom for Lucy in 1817 (for $800) and himself in 1819 (also for $800). In time, he succeeded in purchasing freedom for a total of sixteen members of his family, with a total expenditure of approximately $14,000 -- the equivalent of over $300,000 in today's currency.

Source: See the rest of the history -- Historical Landscapes of New Philadelphia, Illinois
New Philadelphia Takes Another Step
The Pike Press by Beth Zumwalt 11 May 2011

Since the project's inception, supporters of New Philadelphia in Pike County have wanted the area to have National Park Status.

New Philadelphia is nationally significant as the first town founded and legally registered by a freed African American. The historic town site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005 and, in 2009, achieved elite status as National Historic Landmark, the federal government's highest recognition of a cultural resource.

Now organizers want to see it become a unit of the National Park Service.

Illinois Congressman Aaron Schock introduced legislation in the U.S. Congress April 14, authorizing a study to determine the qualifications of the historic town site of New Philadelphia.

The feasibility study will affirm New Philadelphia's place among other national treasurers designated National Parks for its contribution to a more complete and accurate account of the people, events, and cultural interactions that formed our nation;s character.

Fifth-generation McWorter descendant Sandra McWorter noted, The lessons of New Philadelphia remain relevant today.

It's always been our ultimate goal, Phillip Bradshaw, long-time supporter and president of the New Philadelphia board said. If this passes, it means it will be preserved forever. Bradshaw thinks the measure will pass.

There is very little cost to the tax payer, he said. We used all private funds to get it to landmark status and we have the support of President Barack Obama and several Congressmen.

Harry Wright of Pittsfield is a member of the New Philadelphia board and agrees the move would be reassuring in seeing that the rich history found at the site is forever preserved.

If it gets national park status, nothing can ever be done to harm the place, he said. They will see that it is taken care of forever.

Founded by Frank McWorter in 1836, the community became a place where formerly enslaved individuals, free born African Americans, and European Americans lived together in a region and an era of intense racial strife, noted Phil Bradshaw, president of the New Philadelphia Association.

Through various entrepreneurial enterprises, McWorter purchased freedom for himself and his wife.

He applied the proceeds of lot sales to purchase freedom for 14 family members. Charlotte King, a director of the New Philadelphia Association living in the Washington D.C. area added, National Park status will ensure that New Philadelphia, now an archaeological site, will serve as an inspiration for generations of Americans as a place of opportunity and freedom.

In an area that resonates with the rich historic legacy of President Abraham Lincoln and Mark Twain, Frank McWorter is an integral symbol of freedom. New Philadelphia, Illinois, Springfield, Illinois; and Hannibal, Missouri anchor one hundred miles of heritage tourism, noted Phil Bradshaw.

After researching New Philadelphia and the area, Congressman Schock recognized the historical significance of New Philadelphia for it's diversity and relevance to the development of our nation.

Shock noted that not only the local community but the state of Illinois would benefit from New Philadelphias inclusion in the National Park system, As a unit of the National Park Service, New Philadelphia would be celebrated not only for what it was, but also for what it represents in our country's history.

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