Thursday, May 1, 2008

The New Philadelphia story

Today brings a press release from the University of Illinois about another year's archaeological work on New Philadelphia, Hadley Township, Pike County, Illinois, the first town platted and subdivided by a black man -- "Free Frank" McWorter, who used his own work and the proceeds of subdivision to buy family members out of slavery in the 1830s and even after his death in 1854. The town was integrated and peaceful; it's not named in the 1860 census but a browse of the township in HeritageQuest Online shows families designated "M" (mulatto) or "B" (black) on images 16, 18, 26, 28, 29, and 33 of the 33 imaged pages of the township. (It's a telling point that although the from asks for color -- "White, Black, or Mulatto" -- the census taker evidently saw no need to record the race of the white people in the township.)

This township map from Pike County Genweb gives the geographical location; many more detailed maps and further reading are at U of I anthropologist Christopher Fennell's website.

There's a video link in the release. Also on line is an article from the 2004 Living Museum giving some more background and showing a little bit about how land and census records have been used to help design the essential and ongoing archaeological digging.

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