Free Frank McWorter: From Slave to Wealthy Free Black Man from Pulaski County, Kentucky

A bust showing what Frank McWorter might have looked like, sculpted by his great-great granddaughter Shirley McWorter Moss. (Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum)

Solomon McWorter, son of Free Frank
(Civil War Era Photo)

New Philadelphia was listed in the National REgister of Historic Places on August 11, 2005.  The marker is located in Barry, Illinois, in Pike County.

Hailing from South Carolina, Free Frank McWorter was the son of Juda, a slave owned by George McWhorter. In 1795, Frank and McWhorter settled in Pulaski County, KY where he worked on his master’s farm. He also started his own saltpeter business and used the profits to buy a farm and secure freedom for himself, his wife, and their older son. With his newfound freedom, he adopted the name Free Frank. In 1830, he moved with his free family to Pike County, Illinois and acquired more land. Here, he founded the town of New Philadelphia and continued purchasing the freedom of his children and grandchildren who remained enslaved in Pulaski County.

Eventually, Frank officially changed his name to Frank McWorter [without the ‘h’]. Three years after passing away, parts of the New Philadelphia property were sold to buy freedom for the remaining members of his family still in Kentucky.

To learn more about this trailblazing pioneer on the Antebellum frontier, refer to Free Frank; a black pioneer on the Antebellum frontier, written by J. E. K. Walker.