Illinois History Minutes

September 16 Illinois History Minute


It’s September 16th, and on this day in 1836, Free Frank McWorter platted the town of New Philadelphia in Pike County, becoming the first African-American to found a town in the United States. New Philadelphia was built on 80 acres in western Illinois that McWorter bought from the federal government for 800 dollars. The town had close to 160 inhabitants by the end of the Civil War. But after being bypassed by a railroad, New Philadelphia gradually reverted to farmland.

More than 800 members of the Potawatomi nation reached the Illinois state line on this day in 1838, part of their forced exodus from Indiana to Kansas in what’s now remembered as the Potawatomi Trail of Death. More than forty people – most of them children -- died during the journey, which included nearly four weeks in Illinois.