which is available through most of the major bookstore chains in hardcover and
The story of Free
Frank is not only a testament to human courage and resourcefulness but affords new insight
into the American frontier. Born a slave in the South Carolina piedmont in 1777, Frank
died a free man in 1854 in a town he founded in western Illinois. His accomplishments,
creditable for any frontiersman, were for a black man extraordinary.
We first learn
details of Frank's life when in 1795 his owner moved to Pulaski County, Kentucky. We know
that he married Lucy, a slave on a neighboring farm, in 1700. Later he was allowed to hire
out his time, and when his owner moved to Tennessee, Frank was left in charge of the
Kentucky farm. During the War of 1812, he set up his own saltpeter works, an enterprise he
maintained until he left Kentucky. In 1817 he purchased his wife's freedom for $800; two
years later he bought his own liberty for the same price. Now free, he expanded his
activities, purchasing land and dealing in livestock.
With his wife and
four of his children, Free Frank left Kentucky in 1830 to settle on a new frontier. In
Pike County, Illinois, he purchased a farm and later, in 1836, platted and successfully
promoted the town of New Philadelphia. The desire for freedom was an obvious spur to his
commercial efforts. Through his lifetime of work he purchased the liberty of sixteen
members of his family at a cost of nearly $14,000.
services commanded a premium in the life of the frontier. Free Frank's career shows what
an exceptional black man, though working against great odds, could accomplish through
industry, acumen, and agressiveness. His story suggests a great deal about business
activity and legal practices, as well as racial conditions, on the frontier.
Juliet Walker has
performed a task of historical detection in recreating the life of Free Frank from family
traditions, limited personal papers, public documents, and secondary sources. In doing so,
she has added a significant chapter to the history of Afro-Americans.
1. Frank McWorter #12867 born 1777, Union co., SC, married
9-Mar-1839, in Pike co., IL, Lucy (Denham or) Free #12868, born 1771, VA, died
23-Aug-1870, Pike co., IL, buried: New Philadelphia, Pike co., IL. Frank died 7-Sep-1854,
Pike co., IL, buried: New Philadelphia, Pike co., IL.
.......+ 2. i Juda McWorter #12869 born 13-May-1800.
.......+ 3. ii Frank McWorter #12870 born -Sep-1804.
.......+ 4. iii Sally McWorter #12871 born 1811.
.......+ 5. iv Solomon McWorter #12872 born -Feb-1815.
.......+ 6. v Squire McWorter #12873 born -Sep-1817.
..........7. vi Commodore McWorter #12874 born -Jan-1823, Pulaski co., KY, died
15-Mar-1855, Pike co., IL.
.......+ 8. vii Lucy Ann McWorter #12875 born 22-Sep-1825.
2. Juda McWorter #12869 born 13-May-1800, Fishing Creek, Pulaski co., KY, married
12-Nov-1853, in Pike co., IL, William Armstead #12876, born cir1800. Juda died
12-Mar-1906, buried: Pike co., IL.
..........9. i Calvin McWorter #13047 born 1836.
..........10. ii Commodore McWorter #13048 born 1844.
..........11. iii Robert ? #13049 born 1850.
3. Frank McWorter #12870 born -Sep-1804, Fishing Creek, Pulaski co., KY, married
1846, Mary Ann ? #12877, born 1828. Frank died 21-Jun-1851, Pike co., IL.
..........12. i Mary McWorter #13050 born 1847.
..........13. ii Lucy McWorter #13051 born 1850.
4. Sally McWorter #12871 born 1811, Fishing Creek, Pulaski co., KY, died
22-Mar-1891, Pike co., IL.
..........14. i Lucy Ann McWorter #13052 born bef1838.
..........15. ii Calvin McWorter #13053 born 1838.
..........16. iii Permilia McWorter #13054 born 1839.
..........17. iv Charlotte McWorter #13055 born 1840.
5. Solomon McWorter #12872 born -Feb-1815, Fishing Creek, Pulaski co., KY, married
29-Sep-1863, in New Philadelphia, Pike co., IL, Francis Jane Coleman #12878, born
1843, died 1925. Solomon died 7-Jan-1879, New Philadelphia, Pike co., IL.
..........18. i John McWorter #13017 born 1864, married Edmonia ? #13030,
born cir1865. John died bef1937.
..........19. ii Mary McWorter #13018 born 1865, married ? Washington
#13025, born cir1860. Mary died bef1937.
..........20. iii Julia McWorter #13019 born 1866, married ? Coleman
#13027, born cir1865. Julia died bef1937.
..........21. iv Lucy McWorter #13020 born 1869, married ? North #13026,
..........22. v Francis McWorter #13021 born 1872, married Sadie ?
#13031, born cir1875. Francis died aft1937.
..........23. vi Arthur McWorter #13022 born 1875, married 1905, Ophelia
Elise Walker #13028, born cir1880, Pike co., IL, died 1914. Arthur died 1950.
..........24. vii Reuben McWorter #13023 born 1879, died aft1937.
..........25. viii Eunice McWorter #13024 born 1877, died 1877.
6. Squire McWorter #12873 born -Sep-1817, Pulaski co., KY, married 7-May-1843, in
Pike co., IL, Louisa Clark #12879, born 1826, Lincoln co., KY, died 1883, New
Phildelphia, Pike co., IL. Squire died 18-Dec-1855, Pike co., IL.
..........26. i Lucy Jane McWorter #12881 born 1845.
..........27. ii Squire McWorter #12882 born 23-Jan-1846, Chatham, Ontario,
Canada, married (1) Martha Ellen Stutly #12885, born cir1850, died -Apr-1884,
married (2) 5-Sep-1887, in Barry, IL, Martha Jane (Mrs. Jones) Mathews #12888, born
26-Aug-1856, Rockport, Pike co., IL, died 2-May-1938, Glendale, CA, buried: Grandview
Cemetery, Glendale, CA. Squire died 24-Feb-1915, Pompeii, MI, buried: Hadley, IL.
..........28. iii George McWorter #12883 born 1849.
..........29. iv Eliza Ann McWorter #12884 born 1853, New Philadelphia, Pike
8. Lucy Ann McWorter #12875 born 22-Sep-1825, Pulaski co., KY, married 1-Apr-1858,
in Pike co., IL, Ansel (Vaughan or) Vond #12880, born cir1820. Lucy died
16-Apr-1902, Pike co., IL.
..........30. i Mary Vond #13046 born 1859.