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New Philadelphia Town Site

Family and local residents’ accounts, documented oral histories and primary documentation attest that New Philadelphia and area residents participated actively in the Underground Railroad by concealing, harboring and sometimes accompanying runaway African Americans to Canada. New Philadelphia, Illinois was a gathering place for African Americans of the region and, although integrated, regarded by many local residents as a black town.

Founded in 1836, New Philadelphia is the first town in our nation legally registered by an African American. The town traces its association to resist enslavement to founder Frank McWorter. Before moving to Illinois from Kentucky in 1830, McWorter purchased freedom for his wife, himself and a son who had fled to Canada. Risking capture by slave trackers, the McWorters returned to Kentucky to purchase freedom for family members. McWorter freed sixteen family members with funds earned through entrepreneurial enterprises.

Now an archaeological site with only a few building foundations visible on the landscape, New Philadelphia was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2005 for its potential to provide nationally significant information about the lifeways and relationships of African Americans and European Americans in a pioneer setting, and designated a National Historic Landmark in 2009 for its potential to yield information of major scientific importance and to affect archaeological theories, concepts and ideas.


Visitor Information: Currently open to public.

Location: Section 27, Hadley Township, South of County Highway 2, Barry, Pike, 62563

National Park Unit: No

Ownership: Larry Armistead

Location Type: Site

UGRR Operatives: Frank McWorter