Interactive Frontier Museums: Free Frank Cemetery Restoration Project
Free Frank Cemetery Restoration Project
From Left to Right: Helen
Wildermuth, Stonehugger Cemetery Restoration, Gravestone
Preservation Free Frank Cemetery Restoration Project
Directors: Jeffrey E. Walker, great great great grandson
of Free Frank McWorter, and Dr. Juliet E. K. Walker,
great great granddaughter of Free Frank McWorter.
Photo taken by October, 2004 by Cemetery Electronic
Reconnaissance and GPS Survey: Richard Green HRC,
Historic Archeological Research.
Dr. Walker, with the moral support from her mother,
single-handedly, through intensive lobbying and effort,
had the gravesite of her great great grandfather declared
a National Register of Historic Place in 1988. Free
Frankís gravesite is one of three in Illinois listed
in the National Register of Historic Places. The other
two are President Abraham Lincoln and Illinois Senator
Stephen Douglas. The Free Frank New Philadelphia Historic
Preservation Foundation has launched plans to restore
the Free Frank Family Cemetery and also to rebuild
New Philadelphia, as a pioneer museum village, as
it existed at its height as a frontier town in the
On June 24, 2005, in the barren and neglected family
cemetery, Dr. Walker announced that the Foundation
has launched the Free Frank Cemetery Restoration Project.
A team comprised of geologists, architects, botanist
and archaeologists will restore the cemetery. Using
global positioning, ultraviolet imaging and other
technological processes will confirm the location
of graves that are unmarked and/or not designated.
The tombstones will be restored and replaced. The
projectís target completion date is 2007.
A TRIBUTE TO FREE FRANK McWORTER -- HON. RICHARD J. DURBIN (Extension
of Remarks - October 03, 1990)
HON. RICHARD J. DURBIN
in the House of Representatives
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 3, 1990
Mr. DURBIN. Mr. Speaker, on Saturday I will attend a
ceremony honoring Free Frank McWorter whose pioneering spirit and
entrepreneurship led to freedom from slavery for himself, his family,
and many others he helped escape through the underground railroad.
His great-great-granddaughter, Prof. Juliet E.K. Walker,
has worked long and hard to secure Free Frank's place in history. Her
efforts have made many people more aware of an aspect of
African-American history and business that is little known to most
Americans. Her most recent undertaking involves an effort to put his
gravesite, in Barry, IL, on the map. She set out on September 20, to
trace Free Frank's 1831 journey from Somerset, KY, which he left in
search of better opportunities, to Barry, IL, where he is buried.
Free Frank was a man with remarkable determination and
courage. As a slave, he earned extra wages by hiring out his labors to
other masters during the little spare time he had. Eventually, while
still a slave, he established his own business, mining and selling
saltpeter for the manufacture of gunpowder, which was in high demand
during the War of 1812. He used the money he earned to buy his freedom
and that of his wife, Lucy; two sons; two daughters; seven
grandhildren; two great-grandchildren; and a daughter-in-law. The total
cost of this struggle for freedom is estimated to have been $15,000.
After their liberation, Free Frank and his family set
out for Illinois, where land was cheap. They bought 160 acres from the
Federal Government for $100, in what is now known as Pike County. It is
believed that at age 53, Free Frank was the first black man to legally
establish a town, which he called New Philadelphia, in this country.
Free Frank and his family played an important role in shuttling runaway
slaves to Canada through the underground railroad station in their
Ms. Walker's efforts to ensure her
great-great-grandfather's place in history, including years of research
leading to a book entitled `Free-Frank: A Black Pioneer on the
Antebellum Frontier'; and a listing of his gravesite in the National
Registry of Historic Places, have generated public interest in Free
Frank. A well-deserved profile of Free Frank appeared in the Chicago
Tribune on September 28.
It is my hope that the remarkable accomplishments of
Free Frank McWorter will be read by many more people for years to come.
He deserves to go down in history as the dedicated pioneer that he was.