Free Frank: New Philadelphia Illinois  
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New Philadelphia Illinois Historic Preservation Foundation, Founder and Executive Director, Dr. Juliet E.K. Walker  
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History of Free Frank
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The Underground Railroad
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Historical Research: The Underground Railroad
The Underground Railroad

Free Frank and his family were active on the Underground Railroad. Free Frank's farm and New Philadelphia were located on two of the major roads that ran through Pike County. Fugitive slaves, always cautious, seldom traveled the open roads, but these roads did serve as guides as they moved across the county. The Free Frank family remained constantly pre-pared to provide aid to the fugitives. Solomon's son John later recalled that "before the war of I860 he [Solomon] was connected with the so-called Underground Railway and assisted at the risk of his life and liberty in help-ing many slaves on their way to the freedom that Canada at that time of-fered."8 The McWorter family not only gave the fugitives specific instruc-tions on how to get to Canada, but in many instances Free Frank's sons ac-companied the fugitives to Canada to insure that they would get there safely. Frank Jr. had fled to Canada as a fugitive in 1826 and lived there until 1829. His brothers Squire, Solomon, and Commodore also traveled to Canada to assist fugitives.9

In the family's underground railroad activities, every effort was taken to help the fugitives avoid detection. According to the family oral history as recalled by Free Frank's great-granddaughter, Ellen McWorter Yates, when Free Frank built his first cabin he deliberately selected a site underlain by granite, which he used as the walls for his cellar. One of the cellar walls opened to a room which the family dug out to be used as a hiding place for fugitives. When there was time, the fugitives were taken to Hadley Creek to prevent any trace of their desperate flight. When they hid in the cellar room behind the stone door they could not be detected by the dogs which slave catchers invariably used. The family was artful in throwing the slave catchers off guard, even inviting them to supper, Mrs. Yates recalled.


  Reprinted With Permission from Dr. Juliet E.K. Walker; ©Copyright Juliet E.K. Walker, Free Frank: A Black Pioneer on the Antebellum Frontier (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1983, 1995). Reproduction in Whole or In Part is Prohibited without Written Permission.