ORAL HISTORIES OF NEW PHILADELPHIA
During the summer of 2004, the National Science Foundation – Research Education for Undergraduates sponsored an archaeological field school at the site of New Philadelphia in Pike County, Illinois. New Philadelphia was the first town incorporated by an African American, Frank McWorter, and throughout its history was inhabited by both black and white settlers. During the field school, sixteen oral histories were conducted with both the descendants of the New Philadelphia settlement and the local, surrounding community. Participants were asked to relate any stories they heard about the town’s residents, the local community interaction with the New Philadelphia inhabitants, and their own personal experiences. These oral histories can help to illuminate how New Philadelphia inhabitants socially interacted within and outside their community and convey a sense of how people remember the town and its people. Furthermore, the oral histories can confirm or identify archaeological features that can warrant further excavations. The following oral history excerpts are from fifteen of the sixteen interviews. They contain personal or family stories from descendants who went to school at or lived in New Philadelphia, passages that discuss race relations in the area, local stories about the Underground Railroad, community dependence in an agricultural area, memories of building locations, and views about Frank McWorter’s contribution to local history.
Index of Interviews
- Nancy Mills (Johnson)
- Glen Ralph
- Carol McCartney
- Janita Metcalf
- Grace and Thomas Hughes
- Chris Hamilton
- Pat Likes
- Mary Jo Foster
- Ruby Duke
- Robert Gleckler
- Robert and Charlotte Bridgewater
- Elmo Waters
- Norman Dean
- Clara Alexander
- Ron Carter
- Harry Johnson
- Margaret Roberts
Nancy Mills (Johnson) interview
New Philadelphia descendant
May 26, 2004
Nancy Johnson [NM]: I’m Nancy Johnson and I’m the daughter of Frank and Alva Johnson. Frank Johnson was the son of Charles and Nancy Adeline Johnson; and they lived out in New Philadelphia. In fact, they bought some land from Free Frank. It’s out there, it’s in that atlas there on the dining room table. I brought it down. Then, there was a Solomon McWorter that sold some land to my grandfather. Also, my father was a good friend of Cordell McWorter. He’s some place in there. I don’t know who he was the son of, but he was a very large man. I know right after my mother and father were married, my mother’s always told the story that we were out to my grandma and grandpa’s for Sunday dinner. They had a north and south door to the kitchen, but everybody would always come in through the north door. Well, there was a knock at the south door and my grandma said, “Well, Alva, go see who’s at the door” because she was busy cooking. So, my mother opened the door and here was this big black man standing in it. He filled the whole door.
CC: Did they talk about any of the other neighbors?
NM: Well, there were the Burdicks. Then, there were the Butlers and the McWorters. Of course, I always knew Lemoyne Washington, who lived here in town. And, they lived down in that neighborhood. Well, I don’t think LeMoyne did, but his grandfather did; and where Robert Gleckler lives now, they tore that old house down and Robert and Roberta built that house. It was just kind of a neighborhood of black people and white people too.
CC: Did Barry and New Philadelphia socialize a lot?
NM: I don’t know. I have no idea. As far as I know Free Frank, Frank McWorter, he sold stuff, you know. I mean I’m sure he sold his goods to people in Barry. I’m assuming he did.
CC: So, was the schoolhouse still up? Do you remember it?
NM: The Philadelphia schoolhouse, yeah, I remember that. I didn’t go to school there. I went to school here in town, but my aunt Helen and my uncle Ray, my dad’s brother, their kids went to Philadelphia schoolhouse. They would go to those PTA meetings. I used to play the piano and my aunt Helen was in charge of entertainment that night. So, she had me come and play the piano for the entertainment that night. After, they had a big potluck, but that was when I was probably ten, twelve years old.
CC: Was there much of the town left then?
NM: Well, we used to go out there pretty often, you know, in the evenings to see my grandparents because we always lived right here. I remember all these little streets you go out to Baylis Road and you turn and you go this way and this way. I always wondered why that road just kept going this way, you know. There were all kinds of streets. I can’t recall what road that the Burdick’s always lived on there. And what were some names? They lived on the corner. I can’t remember if they were black or white.
CC: So, most black and white folks, they basically . . .
NM: Yeah, they just mingled together. My mom told me one time that she always understood that my Grandpa Johnson, Charles Johnson, that he was a Justice of the Peace out there, but in that book, Free Frank, it doesn’t mention that. It doesn’t mention that, but she always understood that he married several of those black people out there. And, this Mrs. Butler [Irene Butler Brown] from Jacksonville that I was telling you about awhile ago, she mentioned it sometimes when I was talking to her. I don’t know if she was married by my grandfather or not. I don’t know, but he was a Justice of the Peace.
CC: Did he live out there until he died?
NM: Yeah, until he died, they both died out there in 1938. Well, when I went to MacMurray College, my dad, Frank Johnson, decided that I needed to have a job. So, I decided to work in the dining room of MacMurray, it was just a small place that you ate. My dad said, “Well, I think Irene Butler Brown is the head cook at MacMurray College,” so I went to see her. Of course she knew my dad, Frank Johnson, and she thought that was just wonderful [laughs]. Anyways, we had several conversations and she had lived in Jacksonville for a long time. She had married some man by the name of Butler [Brown] and then, they had a daughter who ran The Hub, or I said it was like the union. That’s where we hung out and had cokes and all kinds of stuff down there and played cards. It was at the bottom of the Anne Rutledge home and things like that would go on. I remember that very well.
CC: What was the last building that you remember there in New Philadelphia besides the schoolhouse?
NM: Well, of course, the Philadelphia schoolhouse was to the north of the Baylis Road. I mainly knew everything south of the Baylis Road. That’s where my grandparents lived. Oh, there was an old shack there when you turned off of Baylis Road. I remember a shack to the left, or to the east before you made that first curve. I remember that, but that’s gone now.
Glen Ralph interview
May 27, 2004
Carrie Christman [CC]: Can you state you name first.
Glen Ralph [GR]: Glen Ralph.
CC: Thanks, and when were you born?
CC: What were you saying about what could remember about New Philadelphia?
GR: I remember one McWorter that still lived in the area when I first came around. I don’t really recall much about him because I lived eight more miles up the road. I had some relatives that lived down in this area and that’s the only way I even recall him. I remember the Washingtons, and they were some relation, but I don’t know.
CC: Do you remember anyone else from New Philadelphia that lived there?
GR: I guess the Burdicks are all gone. They were probably the ones that lived the closest around here. There’s one still alive somewhere. Lorraine Burdick that was raised there by where you’re digging. When I knew him, he lived there. The rest of the family that is all dead except for him. However, I have never seen him since he got out of high school, so I don’t know.
CC: Do you remember any buildings that they were still standing as far as you can recall?
GR: Some small sheds were standing there about where, well, let’s see, they moved those log cabins in right in that area, but I can’t remember anything about them. The only other thing that I remember is across the blacktop [Baylis Road] 500 hundred yards to the south, there is an old shed on what’s Norton’s property. There was an old building that stood on that, and trees are still around it. I was told, but I was in it only once, that they used that as part of the Underground Railroad. Another guy told me this and I can’t verify any of it. At that time, there was still some things there where they tied slaves up overnight.
CC: You went up there once and looked at it?
GR: I was bear hunting up there in the winter in one time and the snow was on the ground, I remember. I looked at it and all it was then was kind of a slumped hole in the ground.
CC: Did the black and white people get along in New Philadelphia?
GR: I can remember my uncle talking about this one over here more than anything. He kind of liked the old man. I think he was fairly well-respected. There was different ways that there was discrimination. Depending on who you talked to, there was some discrimination against the Washingtons. This one liked this one and this didn’t like that one. I can find that in the white families. [laughs] When I first started high school, there might have been four of the Washington kids going to high school. I can’t remember for sure how many of them graduated or how many of them quit. It seems like there was one in my class. I think that was Jim.
Carol McCartney interview
local community and Treasurer of the New Philadelphia Association
June 2, 2004
Carrie Christman [CC]: Can you please state your name and birthday?
Carol McCartney [CM]: Carol McCartney, June 28, 1938
CC: And how long have you been a member of the New Philadelphia Association?
CM: Since it became the New Philadelphia Association. There were a few of us who got together. I think it was 1996 because Phil [Bradshaw] had come over to see New Philadelphia. He brought over some friends and the sign was a little wooden one. It had peeling paint; and he was ashamed to show it to his friends. So, he asked some interested people to come and maybe get together to see if we could buy a new sign or fix a new sign for the New Philadelphia site. That was our original intent and I think that was 1996. Then, we talked to the Highway Department and they designed the sign. Terry Ransom was part of that group, so that’s how we incorporated Terry Ransom into our group because he was interested and worked for the State Highway Department.
CC: So what was your vision for New Philadelphia originally and now?
CM: Originally, I thought about some of the houses maybe could be reconstructed. I’m not quite sure, but I wanted Free Frank’s story most of all to be told. New Philadelphia was just a town, I wanted Free Frank’s story and his family to be told; and I thought it should be made into a movie. That’s what I really thought, that he could be the hero of his own movie. Now, they talk about having field school all the time so people can always see how archaeology works in finding out the past. Also, they talk about having an interpretative center, maybe with a gift shop or a museum. The museum is something that’s been suggested and I really like that idea, to show the family and explain New Philadelphia. We even had some of the original papers that could be displayed. Juliet Walker, at the time they [original documents] were given to her anyway, said that she would donate them to a museum.
The Venicombe’s and other Caucasians lived here as well. Everybody respected each other, and worked together. Dilbert Sheppard told me about, he called him, Charley McWorter, that lived across the road from him when he was little. He said that this Charley and his wife were very, very spiritual people. They would always go to church in Barry. He was just a little kid and his family wasn’t very well-to-do, but Charley would always bring him back candy or sometimes he’d take him to town with him. He was just so nice to him; and he said that they said that when he died, they saw angels hovering around the bed. I thought that as a nice picture, you know, of how spiritual they were and their good life.
Janita Metcalf interview
local community and local historian
June 3, 2004
Carrie Christman [CC]: Could you please state your name and date of birth?
Janita Metcalf [JM]: Okay, I’m Janita Metcalf and I was born January the 17th, 1924.
CC: When did you first hear about New Philadelphia or Free Frank?
JM: Actually, it was right after I was married. The Burdick’s lived at a nursery and we went out there to get some kind of a tree or bush. We’re in the middle of field and digging this up and my husband said to me, “There used to be a black town here.” He started telling me about this slave and I wished I’d been interested earlier in history because my father knew so many things. I could have learned so much from him. However, it sort of intrigued me. In recent years, he’s been brought more to our attention. You can see here at the school. There are a lot of people that know nothing about him and we’ve been trying to get the word out that this history is right here in our yard. It’s so important. Free Frank McWorter is really history, and with him being a member of our Baptist Church is history within history.
CC: When you first heard about it, were there any of the buildings still up?
JM: At that time, the foundation of what they call Squire McWorter’s blacksmith shop was still out there. The Pike County Historical Society put the first sign there.
CC: Were Free Frank and his descendants were accepted well in Barry?
JM: They very highly respected. Free Frank had no education, but he used his brain and he was a successful business person. He knew how to make money and I think people had this ability, even without education. I get tickled by with this one thing. He did not have a last name and finally, he was registered with the name McWorter. They had to get married again because of the rules during slavery. It was so quaint, “Will you love, cherish, and take care of her” and he said, “Well God bless your soul, I’ve been doing that for the last twenty years.” I can see it. He was very highly respected and so was the whole family. Thelma, she was a great-granddaughter and her brother came every year for class reunions. When we had the bicentennial for our nation, and I was chairman of our celebration, we had two parades. We had one day of celebrations in the park, but in this parade, I had a float made to honor Free Frank and Mrs. McWorter. I made a log cabin with a front porch. Thelma portrayed Lucy and her brother, Cordell, portrayed Free Frank. You’ll read about that in this article she wrote about the town. I felt we couldn’t have history without this historic event. Then, we had our town’s sesquicentennial and I wrote this ten-scene pageant. I had one whole scene about Free Frank and Lucy. I wrote to them in Chicago and they came and portrayed the parts. I tried to imagine them at their log cabin. He wants Lucy to make a mulberry cobbler in their conversation. That’s when he looks at Lucy and he says, “You know what, Lucy, some day I’m going to build a city here,” and, he stomps his foot, “Right here, on this property.” That’s when I bring in the fathers and the sons and plat of the town of New Philadelphia. I got a “thank you” card from Cordell. It said that it was so lovely for them, and that it meant so much to them to be included in that and play the parts. They came back to the Apple Festival every year.
In that history of New Philadelphia, there was about several intermarriages there. Some of them weren’t full Blacks. Judy Armstead, Free Frank’s oldest child, married twice. The second one was an Armstead. Her grave says “Judy Armstead” and I have pictures of the Armstead family. They showed this lighter complexion. There were a lot of blacks and whites that had married each other. It would have been whites that married descendants.
Grace and Thomas Hughes interview
June 4, 2004
Carrie Christman [CC]: Can I have you name and birthday?
Grace Hughes [GH]: Well, my name is Grace Hughes and my birthday is August 26, 1921.
CC: You were telling me about the blacksmith shop. Was that on the side of the dirt road that’s in New Philadelphia? Would that be on the east side or the west side of the road?
GH: It would be east of the road that goes along side where you’re digging. It would be south of the blacktop [Baylis blacktop].
CC: Okay, and was it still in use when you remember it? Was it still being used?
GH: I can remember my father talking about taking things over there to have things for the blacksmith to do, plowshares and things like that. That’s where he went. I had older brothers and they were old enough that they could go with my dad. They saw more and they knew more about these things, but they’re all gone so that doesn’t help us.
GH: Well, there were McWorters that went to high school with my brothers. They rode to school with them. I don’t know who they belonged to.
CC: You used to go home with Arthur and Frank?
GH: Yeah, he’d give us a ride. Well, Frank and Arthur both would give us rides home. They’d be coming from Baylis, I suspect. We’d be walking and they’d stop and ask us if we’d wanted a ride. We hopped in. [laughs]
CC: It’s a lot easier that way. Do you think there was a lot of interaction between New Philadelphia and Barry or the surrounding communities?
GH: I don’t know about Barry. Well, several of the fellas, the Negro men helped my dad. They worked for him, but I remember there was one man they called Butler, I think that was his last name. He was really strong. They told about a wagon wheel, something was wrong with it. They had to replace it or repair it and this Negro [Butler] held the wagon up all by himself, while they fixed the wheel. Then, he took a sack of wheat in his teeth, the edge of it in his teeth, and flipped it over in the back of the wagon. He was a strong, strong man.
Thomas Hughes [TH]: Was it him that moved the step from that old log cabin that was near father’s place?
GH: I don’t know.
TH: Well, they tell a story that at the front door of the log cabin there was a humongous rock that they used as a step for the front door. Somebody wanted it so they brought their wagon to her folks’ place. This Negro had a tremendous body and he took the stone off the ground. He raised it up, turned it over in the wagon, and laid it down in the wagon. The stone was heavy. It broke right through the wagon, broke the whole business up, and went clear back to the ground again. So, you can imagine, it was tremendous. I don’t know what his name was.
GH: I suspect it was Butler. It sounds like some of the stories that you heard way back then.
CC: What do you think of the archaeology project?
GH: I think it’s good. I think it’s good, and if they can find out how the town was laid out, I think that would be really interesting. I’d like to see that. My sister always said that there was a house right up at the corner, where one road goes south and then the blacktop. She thinks there was a house in that corner.
TH: Out where your tent is.
GH: Yeah, we both think that it was down the hill. Just across from the road that goes north, there was a little old shack there and a couple with a name of Venicomb. They were white people and they lived there. She’s no longer alive, but she always insisted that it was up there at the other corner. I don’t think she was right.
CC: Do you remember the school?
GH: Oh yeah. My aunt taught there many years ago, probably before I was born. And, my sister taught there for several years. I’ve gone to PTA meetings there at the Philadelphia school.
CC: I’ve been told they held social and Christmas engagements there. Do you remember that?
GH: I would suppose so. I didn’t go to that school, so I really don’t know. The main thing I know about is the PTA meetings that they would have each month and they’d have a program. They’d have maybe a musical program. Somebody would come in and play violin, guitar, or something like that. They would have contests, spelling bees, or things like that; and they had pie suppers. People enjoyed it and they had large crowds.
CC: Do you think that the railroad intentionally bypassed New Philadelphia?
TH: The railroad wasn’t intentionally bypassing it. There just was no way that they could build a track that it would come to that area. At that time, it came through Barry. In the 1950s, they took it out of Barry and that didn’t help Barry either. [laughs] But, you didn’t have passenger trains at that time anyhow.
TH: We also have an area just south of us that is still very against Negroes. It’s the county just south of us. They still have a reputation of being . . .
CC: What county is that?
TH: Calhoun. It’s the tail end of where the Illinois [River] goes down and meets the Mississippi. It’s just a long, slim area. There’s a bridge at Louisiana and that’s the only way you can drive and get into it. Let’s see, there’s four ferries and two bridges, but they have a real reputation of being . . . Pike County, if you go back in the history, it was just apt to go one way or the other, either pro or against slavery and against Negroes. So, there’s problems there too.
Chris Hamilton interview
June 4, 2004
Carrie Christman [CC]: Okay, could you please state your name and birthdate?
Chris Hamilton [CH]: Okay, I’m Chris Hamilton, and my birthday is 4-08-41.
CC: And what can you tell me about New Philadelphia?
CH: I guess being specific, I’ve seen the layout from Mr. Gerald Arnett. Back in 1991, I did some work on the farm. He showed me the layout of how the streets were laid out at that time and where some of the houses were. That’s when I became probably better acquainted with it than when I was before.
CC: If you worked on the farm, did he ever tell you like where certain houses or areas were?
CH: He showed me the plat of what it was.
CC: Have you heard anything about the people that lived there?
CH: No, probably not anymore than anyone else. I grew up here and lived here or there all my life. There was the Washington family. I’m not sure whether they were related to the McWorters or not. I have a feeling there was some relation there. Before they moved in 1953, they lived up on the hill where Robert Gleckler lives now, except in an older one and a half or two-story house. I associated with those people and went to school with several of them, four or five of them.
CC: Did they just farm then up the road?
CH: Yes, they had I don’t know how many acres, but they had some acreage there. Raymond, who I was probably closest to, passed away 1950, I think January, 1954. They moved to Perry and Minneapolis soon thereafter. I’m not sure how they’re related or if they are related to any of the McWorters.
CC: When did you first hear the whole story of Free Frank?
CH: Oh, I don’t recall. I mean I can remember knowing it as far back as I can remember, but not a lot of detail.
CC: Oh, okay. Is it because of all the interest in it now that you have all the details?
CH: I learned a little more. I actually bought a farm that was Free Frank’s. Yes, it begins in 1826. Let me get the plat map. [Chris Hamilton brings out plat map] I don’t have the abstract. Now, we don’t use abstracts anymore. It’s from 1827 actually. This is roughly 50.3 acres from the creek [Kiser Creek] up here to the road. Then, there is 60.9 more acres there and our tenant, the Sprague’s, bought this part. This part has been sold off. The abstract which I was talking about in this area was Free Frank’s in 1836, I guess or early 1800s.
CC: Is there anything else that you can remember?
CH: No, not really. I wish I could be more helpful to you. A lot of things transpired from the time that it apparently was abandoned. It was none of it to be. I just remember the Washingtons and it seemed my dad remembered the McWorters. There was a McWorter that used to come to Barry, now that I happen to think of it. Dad used to kind of tease him a little bit, but I can’t remember his first name. I think he was up from up around Chicago. I wish I could remember his name. I remember seeing him too. That would have been probably twenty-five or thirty years ago. I can’t remember his first name.
CC: Your dad used to tease him?
CH: Yeah, of course Dad knew him pretty well, you know.
CH: I just can’t think of what his name was, he seemed like a real swell guy. It seemed like it started with a “C.”
CH: Was there a Cordell?
CC: Yeah, there was a Cordell.
CH: Yeah, that was him. I don’t know who else my dad knew.
CC: Did he tease him about leaving or being in Chicago?
CH: Oh, my dad teased him about anything, women mostly. [laughs]
Pat Likes interview
June 7, 2004
Carrie Christman [CC]: Okay, could you please state your name and birthday?
Pat Likes [PL]: Okay, my name is Pat Likes. My birthday is 7-9-36.
CC: As a member of the New Philadelphia Association, what do you want put here, a visitors’ center or do you want to see a reconstruction?
PL: I want to see a visitors’ center. I want to see a small museum, visitors’ center, and ongoing archaeological studies. And as far as what goes in the visitors’ center, it can go so far beyond Free Frank. You know, a timeline, what was going on in the nation, what was going on when he was here. I would think people would want to know those things. I really do. I don’t know that history keeps us from making the same mistake twice. That’s kind of what I’d like to think. They say that all the time, you know, we will learn what Free Frank went through and then, we won’t make another mistake. I think we will make another mistake probably, but I still think we’ve come a ways. I’d like to see here a state or a national park, museum, visitors’ center.
PL: But that is how I look at this whole story. To take the dream that yes, black and white can live together, to just keep that dream and to try to fulfill it in the face of every adversity. Yeah, it’s a love story. It really is. I think it would make marvelous movie. I really do. I think it would really be historic.
CC: I’d be great. I’d be great if you could generate so much interest, you know international, for it to able to make a movie.
PL: Well, Dr. Walker suggested to me that she was pursuing that idea of it being made into a movie. I don’t know, but it’s quite a story and it’s not the only one. Of course, it’s a first, but think of all the others. See, when I look at my own grandchildren and when I look at my own children and I’m thinking I would have to pay to call them family and I couldn’t see my grandchildren. They could be snatched out of their mothers’ arms, that makes this story really, really get to me when I think about that. So, that’s why I became involved, just to honor this man. We’re really privileged to be able to do that, I think. That’s why I’m here. That’s why I joined the group.
Mary Jo Fosterinterview
New Philadelphia descendant
June 9, 2004
Carrie Christman [CC]: Can you please state your name and birthday.
Mary Jo Foster [MJF]: I am Mary Jo Welbourne Foster and I was born June 29, 1917.
CC: How long has your family lived in Pike County?
MJF: My grandfathers came from England in about 1860, I think. They came and settled up north here a ways, and then they came down here and stayed. That’s when they had all the children. She lost three in one week. There was Uncle Alfie. I have his chest upstairs. It’s got his name Alfa on it. He’s from England. It was Alfa instead of Alfred. I have the chest upstairs to go to my son and it’s got his name on the back.
CC: What are some of the stories that you remember from New Philadelphia?
MJF: We used to have pie suppers and box suppers at these schoolhouses. If a mother’s son didn’t get his girlfriend’s box, it was trouble. One or two of these women would give it back worse than the cow did and they were even the girlfriend. We had pie suppers with just pies after the program, and whoever bought the box ate together. They got a regular meal in it, perhaps a sandwich. Later, it got so we had box suppers more than pie suppers because if a guy bought your pie, he might not like it. He might not like gooseberry pie, I doubt he would. I don’t think anybody would think gooseberry pie was good, although that’s one of my favorite pies.
MJF: When we went to school there, once a month, we’d have community meetings at night and people would take refreshments and then on the last day of school, we just had a regular big blowout. Sophie Washington, LeMoyne’s mother, was such a nice woman, and they lived in the neighborhood. She would bring food just like the rest of us did, and some people would go around looking to see what she put out because they didn’t want to eat anything a Negro woman made. I’d be going around asking what the recipe was because she was a wonderful cook, but that was the attitude.
CC: Do you think the blacks and whites didn’t get along?
MJF: Well, we got along. Charley Washington had about ten or twelve kids. Charlie was LeMoyne’s uncle. LeMoyne’s dad was Ed and this was LeMoyne’s uncle Charley. The kids went to Shaw’s school. They had to toe the mark pretty well and my mother told us, “If I ever hear of you hurting those kids or anything, I’ll blister you when you get home,” she was a school teacher. [laughs]
CC: What was the story you were telling me about cider?
MJF: When we’d go to Sunday school at Shaw’s, Ed Washington, LeMoyne’s dad, would go up to my dad’s because he knew when we had a barrel of cider. Dad had to put it in the barrel so he had the vinegar. You could use the vinegar, but Ed liked to have it before it had gone into vinegar, and he’d drink some of that, and he’d say, “Pretty vinegry, pretty vinegry,” and it was getting more so every week. So we always laughed about that. “Pretty vinegry.” [laughs]
LeMoyne’s dad and LeMoyne had a brother, Thomas, who moved over into Missouri, and they had six children, and they brought some of them back over here, and they’d come back over here for funerals and things. They came for LeMoyne and their aunt Sophie’s funeral. I went the times they were out here, and I went to the funerals too. So, I got to see some of the other family. I was just a little girl then, and they went to Missouri to live. So, it was an interesting time.
CC: So were there any problems with the Ku Klux Klan here at all?
MJF: Barry had a Ku Klux Klan. That’s quite a long story. Mr. H___ in Barry was one of them. He’s a first cousin of my dad. Matter of fact, his mother and my grandma were sisters from up there, and they grew up at Philadelphia.
MJF: Well, this is really interesting, I think. I’ve told several people, very few remember. My dad went to town that Saturday. It was one afternoon. I don’t know what day it was, and he got home. We lived up on the hill, east of the Shaw school and you couldn’t see up that way then, up there where Robert [Gleckler] lives. We went over to the neighbors. Dad just said we were going over to Marian’s tonight, over to Richards up on that hill, and he could see right up that way. So we didn’t know, mother probably did, but we kids didn’t or else we wouldn’t sit still. I suppose we got excited and everything. Anyway, we were in there visiting and dad looked up and said, “Well, there they come” and they were coming out of Barry. The Ku Klux Klan was coming out because they’d moved in a big tent with women, about twenty-eight to thirty, to cook for those men who were putting the highway [Highway 36] through. They had horses and lights and sheets all in front of the things. Oh, it was scary looking. Then, Dad told us we went over there because that was where he could see them. It was up where Robert Ray [Gleckler] lives now. They came on down and they went down on Billy Carl’s farm, on down there by the creek where the bridge is. Well, the bridge is down lower than the highway. They went down there and brought in a tent full of women to cook for the men who were putting the highway through. Well, they weren’t going to have that at all, Negro women and all, they weren’t going to have it. And I know LeMoyne and they [the Washingtons] were scared and they just lived less than a half a mile up there, where they lived all their lives. They didn’t bother them at all because they were natives, but they were scared anyway. And at that time, my mother said they wouldn’t let the Negroes stay overnight in El Dara. They didn’t even want them coming in the day time. Of course, they made sure you got out before night time. Now, that’s just a little town down south of here. My mother was born and raised down there. When the Ku Klux Klan came, Barry had them and this Mr. H___ was one of them. He was Dad’s cousin and he knew Dad. They were real close to the same age and first cousins. We watched them come down there and they went down to Billy Carl’s place. His daughter just died here not too long ago, and she always remembered when they were burning the cross down there on her dad’s farm. The next morning, there wasn’t a Negro woman there. Nobody knows where they went. They got on out of there in a hurry. There was never a Negro woman to help cook for those men. Mr. H___ said, “We’re coming out there tonight, Bill.” So, Dad just went over there across on the other side of the hill so we could see them. And, we saw them go down there and burn the cross. Ruth Carl just died here lately, and she always talked about that because it’s just a few blocks from their house, where they came on her dad’s farm and burned the cross. Well, that ruined the women and they wouldn’t bring any more in to cook for them. They got white women or men to cook for them.
CC: Did you ever hear about them using the Underground Railroad?
MJF: Oh yes.
MJF: Well, I came in from down towards Baylis. There was a big house that Jim Corey lived in. There were holes in the basements, and I read about the Eells House in Quincy. That’s where they took them from here and brought them north to Canada, getting them away from slavery.
Ruby Duke interview
New Philadelphia descendant
June 9, 2004
Carrie Christman [CC]: Allright, could you please state your name and birthday?
Ruby Duke [RD]: Okay, my name is Ruby Duke. I was born Ruby Roberts and I’m from Baylis. My mother was Majorie Echlberger, who went to school at New Philadelphia. I was born November 23, 1941 in Baylis. My grandmother used to live there and she used to help with the slaves.
When my momma was a little girl, she would go with my great-grandmother in an old buggy and go up the road to help deliver the little McWorter babies when they were born. The last one that was born there, my grandmother delivered it. It would be on her birth certificate. They’d have to truck produce and they’d haul them to the railroad to ship it out. When they would, they’d fill it with like crates of chickens or crates of produce. They had a box built under the bottom of the wagon and if a slave come in on the train, then they would hide them in it and take them back to the farm. When they would be working on my great-grandpa’s farm, posses would come and try to find these runaway slaves. My mom had this great, big collied dog and they had it in their yard fenced in. Well, if these blacks would be there working for the great-grandparents, that dog would start barking at those posses coming up this little dirt lane to their house. If some of them that were out in the fields, they would take off and run to the creek. Down by the creek there was a big cave, which I already told someone about. The others would get in this box that was built under the nest where the chickens laid their eggs. Then, my grandparents would let a chicken out and that dog would kill the chicken. So, when the bounty hunters got there, that’s what they thought was all the commotion. The dog was just killing a chicken. My great-grandpa never did lose one of the blacks then, even though they had a lot of people looking for them.
The last time the McWorter boys, Festus and Cordell were here, they were there at my mom’s house in 1964. One of them was rich, he made it real good in life. My daughter was up there and she was out back. My mom let her get dirty when I wasn’t there. She was out there and my mom was hanging up clothes on the clothesline. My daughter was out there stirring mud pies. Well, she had seen colored people before because she had been to the hospitals. Well, my two sisters, one of them was only eight years old and the other one was ten years old, they had never seen anybody black. He walks up to the backyard and those kids ran and hid in the house. Pamela just kept stirring with her big spoon and mom was embarrassed because she was all messy. He talks to her and asked her what she was doing. She said, “I don’t know, but this mud pie is getting awful hard, you’d better start stirring.” So, this tall and well-dressed, nice-looking man, stood there and stirred her mud pie for her. That’s the last time we got to see him, but they stayed there. They helped her stir them until she said, “I think they’re done now,” and put them in the sun to dry. [laughs] But he said when he was little, he used to make mud pies with his little sisters too. One of his sisters, I forgot her name. The older one was my mom’s best friend. My mom always loved that little one named Ruby, so she named me after her.
When I was a little girl, we used to drive, with just a horse and buggy or a horse and wagon and go from Baylis to Barry. We were going to my great-grandma’s house on Sundays for dinner. We’d go by those little huts [at New Philadelphia] and they used to have a blanket hanging in the window. One used to have an old brown feed sack, a gunny sack. The horse needed water to visit grandma and we’d stop there on the way. We were scared to death of that place. There used to be a well and it was on the west corner in front of the schoolhouse. We used to stop there and let the horses get a drink to and from Barry. We’d always stop there. Down there where my great-grandpa worked on his place, that house is still standing. I don’t know how to get to it because they put new roads through there. It’s still down there.
Yeah, they had those people working for them. Well, they would run to that creek. That creek went through. I told Carol McCartney about it because I found out from my brother-in-law, used to help my dad down there, that there was a great, big cave there. She called me to ask me about this cave and how to get to it. Nobody ever got back to me to tell me that they found the cave, but the cave’s still there. It was in the side of the hill and they used to hide them there. Out in the middle, there’s a big, open-hole cave. They said that when they put that overpass through, they filled that one up.
CC: From what you heard, do you think Barry and New Philadelphia got along or do you think there a little tension?
RD: I think there was tension, according to the way my mom and her friends talked. I think there was because this is another story that is really interesting. This lady told me it. Okay, that dish down there at the bottom belonged to Addie Waters that passed away. She was the Sunday school teacher to all those kids. That’s the only thing I have that was hers and that was handed down to her kids and her grandkids. They didn’t want it and I got it from them. I’ll never get rid of it until the day I die. My mother had Addie as a Sunday school teacher and she loved her. She was so good to my mom because she didn’t have a mom. I had them two uncles and they were on the Ku Klux Klan. When the McWorters used to go into town, they wouldn’t let them go after dark.
There are a lot of stories. They told about different things that happened. One time one of the girls was going to have a baby. Festus McWorter said it was just raining and it was muddy. He said, “I was little, bitty tiny boy,” and he thought he was about five or six years old. He asked mom if she remembered that and Mom did because she had a good memory. She remembered being a baby because of her tragic life with her mom dying. She got that disease they brought over from the foreign country when the uncles were in the war, malaria. Festus said he had to walk all the way to their house in the mud and in that terrible storm to get my great-grandmother to come and deliver that baby. They got in the buggy. It was him, my mom, and my great-grandmother. They got in there and got just a little ways up the road when the buggy went all the way down to the axles. He said, “There we were in those itty-bitty short things. She was carrying this lantern. We had to walk the rest of the way.” He said, “I will never forget that experience until the day I die.” [laughs] He said, “I hope I never have to walk through the mud again.” [laughs] He was really nice.
My great grandpa was one of the folks building it and my grandpa was also there. This lady that tells the story, her mom and her dad were there helping too. The Ku Klux Klan came and she hated my two uncles because they were on that. She said that they were listening to a ballgame, the St. Louis Cardinals were playing. So my great-grandma and her mother were relaying to them what was going on in the ballgame. She had been listening all day long and everybody out there working had been waiting for this final score in this ballgame. She said just as they gave the final score, the Ku Klux Klan threw a bunch of dynamite and they missed the score. They had to wait for two weeks before they found out who had won that ballgame. She says my grandmother, her mother, and her dad hated them [the Ku Klux Klan] for that. She swears that when they did that, the colored women that were there on the banks, they were cooking the food, ten of those women took off, ran away, and never did come back to New Philadelphia. Come to think about it, she said she never did know what happened to them. The lady that had taught Sunday school, it was her daughter that told that story. This is really good stuff and I hope that Harry Wright will let you see it. He’s really a nice person and he listens like you’re doing. I tell the truth. If they don’t like it, I didn’t like it because I had two uncles on the Ku Klux Klan. I loved them to death, but I didn’t like it when I found out, but that’s the truth. Why hide the truth? Some families don’t want the truth to come out, but it’s the truth.
Robert Gleckler interview
New Philadelphia descendant
June 15, 2004
Carrie Christman [CC]: Okay, Can you please state your name and birthday?
Robert Gleckler [RG]: Okay, I am Robert Ray Gleckler. I was born in October 17, 1932.
CC: And, you went to the Shaw School your entire school career then?
RG: My eight years of grade school. I went to Shaw and every year that I went, I thought there was four [Washingtons] because there was one born about every two years, but this picture shows five. So, there was four to five Washington kids in the eight-grade school every time, every year I was there. It was a small school and I was the only one in my grade the last five or six years. Juanita Washington was a year under me and James was a year older than me. We had the same classes, some of the classes they combined. We took geography one year and then history the next or something, it was all in one room as far as that goes.
CC: Okay, yeah, and then you said you had a story?
RG: Oh, my grandpa hired one of the McWorters to help him put up hay and they were stuffing loose hay in the barn next to a metal roof up there. And he says, “Harry, if ever gets any hotter in Hell than this, I don’t want to go there.” [laughs]
CC: I know LeMoyne Washington lived here for quite some time. Did you ever associate with him?
RG: Oh yeah, he took care of my great-grandfather when his wife died when he was in high school. He moved in with them and cooked and took care of them while he was in high school. He also did that with Burdick, Virgil Burdick. He took care of him when he got older. And then, in turn, their grand daughter-in-law took care of LeMoyne when got old from the Burdick’s. Mary Burdick took care of him when he got older.
CC: Did you ever go to the cemetery?
RG: I’ve been there a couple of times. I’d never gone there until the four-lane went through. I knew it was there because I remember them taking James Washington, LeMoyne’s grandpa. LeMoyne’s grandpa was buried over there. Of course, that wasn’t a four-lane at that time and they put him in a wagon. There was a creek to cross, so they had to take him in a wagon back there. But when I looked in there, I could not find his tombstone. I didn’t look at all of them.
CC: Is there anything else that you remember about the area or any of the families?
RG: No. LeMoyne was an outstanding fella. I always enjoyed LeMoyne. I got along fine with the other families too. Most of the boys worked out and helped neighbors with odd jobs and that sort of thing. That’s what the McWorters did too, as far as that goes when I was a kid.
Robert and Charlotte Bridgewater interview
June 17, 2004
Carrie Christman [CC]: Could you please state your name and birthday?
Robert Bridgewater [RB]: Robert Bridgewater, I was born October 24, 1927.
CC: What do you remember about New Philadelphia or the area around it?
RB: All I can remember is probably about two or three houses left on the west side of the road there. I helped Mr. Burdick, Virgil Burdick, tear some of those foundations out. I don’t know what he did with the rocks after we dug the rocks out. We dragged them off to the ditch down there to the east. Have you been down to that creek? Their land went all the way down to the creek. We dragged them down there and threw them into the creek.
CC: Did you go to Philadelphia for all of your years in school?
RB: No, I went just about four years.
CC: Did they have any school events then that you can remember that you went to?
RB: Oh yeah, a lot of them. In those days, the schools always put on a big program for Christmas. They’d have Christmas plays and sing Christmas songs. All the neighbors around in the community came to the program.
CC: Did you go to school with any of the Washington kids?
RB: No, I went with them during high school. One rode the bus when I went into Barry for high school. They never lived in Philadelphia. They lived a little west of Philadelphia. I used to know a Negro man by the name of Frank McWorter. He lived down there where Philadelphia school used to be, to the north up there. I had quite an experience with him.
CC: Why, what happened?
RB: He had two little mules and the mules got out and he looked and looked, but couldn’t find them. So, he came and got me to go with him to help look. I got a hint from someone that they’d seen the mules around Pittsfield. We went over to Pittsfield and at that time they had a shoe factory there in Pittsfield. We went over there and found the mules standing in the street out by this shoe factory. He hired me to lead those mules all the way back to New Philadelphia on foot and he come along behind in a car.
CC: How long did it take you to get the mules back?
RB: Oh, it took all day. Another time, I was going to high school and I was coming home from high school. Instead of riding the bus all the time, I’d walk home from Barry to get home faster. I wasn’t quite all around the route and I was going down the hill there by the Philadelphia schoolhouse when I could hear someone yelling. I looked around and there was a deep ditch off the side of the road. I could see a mule and a guy down in the ditch. He’d been riding this mule up on the bank and the mule slipped and fell off the bank. It fell down in that ditch and was on top of him. [laughs] I couldn’t get him out all by myself. So, finally the guy that runs the road maintainer came along. He saw what had happened so he stopped and helped. We got the mule raised up enough so we could get him out from under it. I guess he didn’t break any bones, but he was pretty sore for a long time.
RB: Well, I don’t know. The only black kids I knew were the Washington kids. They went to Shaw school instead of Philadelphia. Some of them were there when I went to high school. My wife’s dad drove the school bus and took some of them to school.
Charlotte Bridgewater [CB]: They were the Washington kids.
RB: The whole family sang.
CB: They sang and they would sing in the park.
Elmo Waters interview
June 23, 2004
Carrie Christman [CC]: Okay, can you please state your name and date of birth?
Elmo Waters [EW]: Okay, Elmo Waters in January 28, 1922.
EW: I remember there’s a big, tall house that used to be Mr. Johnson’s. You went down by that across the creek, across a little bayou, and end up on a little hill. There used to be a stone there, but it’s been years since I’ve been there. There was a spring right below. Back in the drought, that’s where the folks got water. This creek was right above that. That cemetery that you’re talking about, my brother and I dug a grave there once when we were in grade school. Isn’t that something to remember? My dad was always pretty close around. When we were there, there was four Negro families, the McWorters and three Washington families. One had twelve kids and lived in a little, old, square one-story house. I don’t know how.
CC: That was still standing then when you were little?
EW: Oh yeah, they lived in it. Up on the hill, there was Jim Washington. That would have been his dad. Down towards Shaw was LeMoyne Washington, one of the kids. We would run along with him. It was quite a deal. Somebody said that the Washington family moved to Louisiana.
CC: Do you remember any social events at the school when you were there?
EW: Oh yeah. During the PTA meetings, us kids would have to sing. I never did care much for those, but we had some interesting teachers. There was Ruth Carr. I think she’s still living in the Barry nursing home. She married a McClary. Then, there was Helen Laykins from around Baylis. They were two of my favorites. We’d play there baseball and stuff like that, you know, in school. She’d get right in the game, Helen. She was a gifted runner. She was pretty active.
CC: Did you ever remember hearing stories about the Underground Railroad being there?
EW: No, but right across the road from Philadelphia, there was a pretty good-sized cellar made out of rock. They said that had something to do with the Underground Railroad.
Norman Dean interview
June 23, 2004
Carrie Christman [CC]: Okay, can you please state your name and date of birth?
Norman Dean [ND]: Yeah, my name is Norman Dean. I was born September 26, 1913, about four miles east of where we’re visiting now, south of Baylis. In my early years, I remember going by Philadelphia in a team and surrey or a horse ‘n buggy going to Barry to visit. In those days, early 1920s and even the mid 1920s, the road by New Philadelphia was a part of an ocean to ocean trail. The trail came in through Jacksonville to Pittsfield, with the highway from the Illinois River to Pittsfield. It was completed in October 1923, but from then on until 1926, when it’s completed in Barry, the main ocean to ocean road came out of Pittsfield to this road by here and went right by the grounds there at New Philadelphia. It was a dirt road, but people ran it day and night all summer long. Tourists would beat the mud and put on chains and go anyway if it rained. It was really quite a road in those days. A lot of traffic went through here and that road was open. I don’t know if it would have been closed through here in 1926 or 1927 when the highway, old Highway 36 was completed, Pittsfield through Barry and then, Barry to Hannibal. I don’t know what year it was completed. I don’t remember, but prior to 1936, when you’d go from here west to Hannibal, there was no automobile bridge there so you’d cross the railroad bridge. The old bridge at Hannibal, which was just torn down a few years, was opened prior to Highway 36. When you went from Barry to Hannibal, you’d cross the railroad bridge. You waited on trains and they waited on you. [laughs] But we found from a book on Pike County history, that my great grandfather, George . . .
Anna Mae Dean [AMD]: Shipman.
ND: Shipman lived a half mile southeast of Barry on 40 acres and he was one of the two witnesses.
AMD: Three witnesses.
ND: Three witnesses on the will of this Negro that started this town. We read recently differently, but I thought the plaque over there said he died in 1856? Somebody else said 1854.
AMD: Oh yeah, in the book it said 1854.
CC: So, did you ever hear any stories about your great-grandpa?
ND: Not a lot. We think that he . . .
AMD: . . . came from Connecticut.
ND: In the old books, he was from Connecticut. He farmed there for several years. He was my grandmother’s father and mother.
ND: He farmed as far as we know. He had eighty acres there that he farmed. In those days, I mean forty acres, forty acres was probably the standard-sized farm. You had the date when he died. He went back East, didn’t he before he died?
AMD: We’re just not too sure about that. I remember seeing his wife’s obituary, but the person that had it didn’t want to let me see the letter that he had written when he had gone back to Connecticut. He wrote that he did not want to come back here. He didn’t like it back here because his wife was here and a daughter that wasn’t right.
ND: She had to rent the ground out to some neighbor probably?
AMD: So, later when she died, I read this statement about her obituary. When she died, it said in there something about that he had been dead for twenty years or something like that. I sort of figured back, but we think he’s buried in Barry so maybe he came back. The mother was in ill-health for a long time. She just held on until her daughter died and I think only two days later she died.
CC: The daughter?
AMD: His wife.
ND: My great-grandmother.
AMD: The daughter died first. I think she was forty-two or something like that. Apparently, the mother was so ill, but she didn’t know what was going to happen to her daughter if she died. She died two days after the daughter died, but the husband had been dead for a number of years. We’ve never gone to look in the cemetery, I guess, but in the cemetery books for Barry, it does not list him as being buried there. We just don’t know for sure if he ever came back or whether he came back and then was buried over there.
Clara Alexander interview
June 25, 2004
Carrie Christman [CC]: Can you please state your name and birth date?
Clara Alexander [CA]: My name is Clara Mae Bachman Alexander, and my birthday is January 27, 1938.
CC: Alright, and you were telling me that you attended the New Philadelphia school?
CA: I lived there and I went to school there. I went to school there when I was ten years old.
CC: For how many years did you go there?
CA: I can’t remember how many years. I read all this [in Clara Alexander’s mother’s journal]. We moved so many times.
CC: Well, do you remember about what year you went there?
CA: She [Clara Alexander’s mother] doesn’t have the years. That was in 1948 when we lived there. Frank McWorter owned the place.
CC: Did your family know the McWorters?
CA: Dad did. I did too. We were just kids then.
CC: Did they work together then on the farm?
CA: I can’t remember when we moved away from there or how long we lived there. Mother doesn’t have the years. All she says is “summer and spring.” “We moved in the schoolhouse of Mr. Frank McWorter. We were there summer and winter. Then, in the spring, we moved out from Baylis. Dad worked for Kay Lane and Ed Gorton on the farm.” The year’s not there.
CC: When you lived in the New Philadelphia schoolhouse, did you refurbish it?
CA: We did put a stage where the desk was, and that’s where us kids were, and it had a curtain.That way and Mom and Dad’s bed was out in the open with the rest of the stuff. There was a big furnace in the corner.
CC: Was it functioning as a school then?
CA: It was no longer functioning as a school.
CC: Do you remember any other neighbors, or any other people that lived in the area near Philadelphia?
CA: I just remember the Bangor kids and then, the Burdicks that had the strawberry patch.
CC: The ones that your brother wanted to pick.
CA: We picked strawberries free for so many boxes. It’s a long, long time ago. I think Walter Bangor probably remembers more than me. I don’t remember if he’s my age or not. Do you, Lawrence? [to her husband] I think he was my brother, Lonnie’s age. His folks lived past the road that went back from Mr. McWorter’s. The big two-story house is gone. The barn’s still there and there’s a shed.
CC: You were telling me before the story about how your little brother wanted to go with your Dad and Frank McWorter.
CA: He wanted to go with Dad and Frank [McWorter] and Mom said, “Well, you sleep with the boys and then you can go with them in the morning.” I don’t remember where they were going. I think it was to a sale or something, but he wanted to go along, so he slept with the boys. Of course, back then babies slept in the same bed with their parents. We all did. We were all born at home.
Now, the Washington kids went to school, but not with me. I think they went to school in Barry. I know they were at the school with Sharon Coolie.
CC: And you were saying that one of the girls married a white man?
CA: Charley Washington had all those kids. Yes, one of Frank’s [probably Charley Washington] daughters married a white guy and they put a stop to that pretty quick.
CC: Oh, they did?
CA: One of the girls was named Gladys, but I don’t know what the other girl’s name was. Charles Washington came over and Mom said he’d holler, “Gladys! Glaaadys!”
Ron Carter interview
New Philadelphia descendant
July 8, 2004
Carrie Christman, University of Maryland-College
Transcribed on July 26, 2004
By William A. White, III
Ron Carter: My name is Ron Carter. My birthday is 8-12-1933.
Carrie Christman: You were telling me that your aunt was a Butler?
RC: Right, from what I understand, her father was one of the settlers over there at New Philadelphia, William Henry Butler. I don’t know what year he settled over there. I have a picture of him, which I got when I was over at New Philadelphia the other day. I know that lady [Carolyn Dean] had it. I can’t remember her name now. She had a picture of the McWorters and she had a picture of my aunt’s father standing in the background. Now, she was born in 1880 and died in 1966.
CC: Okay, and do you think that was taken in the early 1900s?
RC: Oh, this here, yeah. One of these girls is Dorothy and one these girls is Nelda. I don’t know which one is which, they’re sisters. This is my cousin. That’s her picture up on the wall in that circle. That’s her and her sister. Her sister died when she was about three and a half years old. This is my cousin from which I got all this stuff from. This is her here, William Butler’s wife. There’s a story that Rhonda told me over the phone when I called her and told her about what’s going on. I sent her a brochure about what’s going on over there. [The activities underway at New Philadelphia] so she had some ideas about what this is all about. She told me a story that my cousin had told someone. Now, this lady obviously doesn’t look Afro-American. And she had a child, could have been this child right here [pointing at a picture]. The baby got sick. This was back, maybe in 1900s or maybe before that, 1860 to 1875. Anyway, she called the doctor for the baby and the doctor was a white doctor. He went in the room and said, “I got to shut the door.” So, he shuts the door and they stayed outside. I don’t know why he said, “Stay outside,” but the baby died. It’s suspected that he might have killed the baby. I don’t know. [chuckle, laughs it off] That’s what they suspected. The doctor didn’t like it because of her husband [who was black]. I have the picture right here. [8+ seconds of looking for a picture] That’s her husband. That’s William Henry Butler. These are the McWorters here. I got the names someplace. They suspected that he didn’t like this and this. [points to picture of William Henry Butler, who was black, and Catherine Butler, who was white]
CC: He didn’t like them inter-marrying?
RC: That’s what she told me over the phone.
CC: Where were the Butlers living at this time?
RC: I would imagine probably New Philadelphia. Now later on, as the town died down, they probably moved out of there. I don’t know what year he died.
CC: Do you know when the Butlers left the area?
RC: No, I don’t know. I don’t know that either.
CC: I think they were there for a while. They were there at least in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s. Maybe it was their descendants or relatives because I’ve talked to older people that still remember the Butlers being there.
RC: In the 1930s?
CC: Yeah, the late 1920s or early 1930s.
RC: I don’t believe my aunt was there then. I know she went to school in Barry. The New Philadelphia school probably had closed down by then.
RC: I’m just finding out things about my mother’s side of the family. My father’s side is really murky to me. I know some things he used to say. I know his father came from Virginia, my grandfather. He came from Virginia but I don’t know how he got from Virginia to Pike County, Illinois. He died in Martin County, Jackson, Illinois in 1922. He was ninety-something when he died. That would make him born about 1829, but he wasn’t a slave. My dad used to call him Cochise because he looked Indian. All his brothers looked Indian. They’d wear their braids down their back all the time and they had big cheekbones. He had a look like Geronimo in the face. He had that same look, high cheek bones and big nose, not straight, but flat. They called him Cochise and he told me that his tribe his was called black people. He said black people, but I don’t know if black people ever came from that part of the country. The Blackfeet Tribe? I forget the name of the tribe, but it was east coast out there. Well, you got Seminoles down there in Florida.
CC: Could he be Cherokee?
RC: Yeah, he could have been Cherokee, but he said Blackfeet. He wasn’t joking when he said it, but I know that they were supposed to go to the Arizona homestead out there. All his brothers were going, but there wasn’t any work out there. It’s difficult to find out information about this lady. As a lesson for you, if you are going to find out about your family history, talk to you mother while there’s still time. A lot of the time they don’t know either.
CC: What did your parents do?
RC: My mother was a housewife and that’s all she ever did, you know. She graduated from high school and my father was born in Pittsfield. He went to school in Pittsfield. As a matter of fact, there’s an album picture. I can’t think of his name now, but he used to be a mailman. Now he’s into history, a history buff. He went to the school board someplace and got some information that showed that my father was in the 6th grade in 1904. I saw all that was available. I’m going to see if I can find his number and see if he’s still around. He’s retired mailman. My mother was born in Louisiana, Missouri. Her grandfather was a Kentucky slave owner. He had two legitimate children by his wife and he had a son by a slave woman. They came out west early. When he went off to fight in the Civil War, he left his slave son in charge of the plantation. His two daughters, they married rebel soldiers and they didn’t like that [a black man running the plantation]. Eventually, they threatened him. So, he [his owner] sent him to live in Quincy. That’s across the border from Hannibal, Missouri. I meant he went to Louisiana, Missouri. That’s where he grew up. Now, what time he left there I don’t know. One of his children is my grandmother. Her name was Amanda Burdick. She married a guy named Bell. That’s my mother’s maiden name was Bell, Hazel Bell.
CC: You said you used to go to reunions with some of the McWorter kids?
RC: Yeah, the McWorters and the Earlys. At the time, they would say these are your cousins. These are your cousins. In fact, there’s a brochure from one of the reunions they had. I don’t remember what year it was.
CC: “Cousins, cousins, cousins” [reading the brochure].
RC: This explains what I was telling you about.
CC: Oh, there it is.
CC: Well thank you. What would you like to see when everything is done, with all this information about New Philadelphia and archaeology?
RC: I’d like to see a display down at the museum. I want some nice recognition, something that’s probably unique like a former slave founding a town. There’s been other areas where blacks have accomplished a lot, like Tulsa, Oklahoma, but for a man who had been a slave, buy his own freedom, buy his family, and set up a town is an accomplishment. The only reason the town died out is because the railroad said, “Well, we’re not going there, we’re going north.” To have a community that’s as diverse as it was and the fact that it was during the time of slavery and for a man to be able to do it, that’s beyond expectations for anybody. This is in a system where it’s illegal to read or write. To overcome that despite, against the odds -- that’s great. I’d like to see that happen maybe in the next couple of years.
Harry Johnson interview (abstract)
New Philadelphia descendent
Interviewed by Carrie Christman and Caitlin Bauchat
Carrie Christman (CC): Can you state your name and birthday?
Harry Johnson (HJ): Harry Johnson, November 25, 1914.
CC: And what do you remember about New Philadelphia when you lived here?
HJ: Well I went to school at the old— the other schoolhouse down there, you know where it was. I was there, every morning I’d walk through the old town here to school, except sometimes I’d go across the field. If I walked I’d always go through just the other side of these buildings here, there was a house back here, his named— a fellow named Fred Venicombe lived there, and down on the corner there, the first corner up from the Burdick place, there was an old Negro named William Butler. He lived there. And then just north of that, a little ways was a little schoolhouse and that’s the only buildings that were here at that time.
CC: Did you ever hear any stories about the Underground Railroad coming through here?
HJ: Yea, they always said there’s a place up along the railroad that had an old house up there that was part of it. I’m not sure now.
CC: So what was school like at the New Philadelphia schoolhouse? Did you ever have any school events or pie suppers or anything like that?
HJ: Yea, we had pie suppers and a Christmas event of some kind. Every school district had the three directors, the three school directors, and they would hire the teachers. I could name every teacher I had back then—Nona Gray, Bertha Dennis, Esther Nolan, Jenny Gleckler, and Fay Bennet. Fay Bennet was my seventh and eighth grade teacher, and he was one of the best teachers you could ever have. I got his name several years ago, I knew he was down in the St. Louis area someplace, so the postmaster in Barry got his name and address for me. I wrote him a letter, and I got a letter back from him.
Cordell McWorter was in the same grade as I was, we went up here together. He had a brother Festus, and he had two or three sisters too…Helen and Thelma. I’m not sure if there’s another one or not. Cordell moved to Chicago, and he and I kept in touch until he died recently. We usually exchanged Christmas cards and letters over the years.
CC: I see. What did you do for fun?
HJ: Oh, we had recess then, you know, we’d have a 15 minute recess in the middle of the morning, then in the afternoon and of course we had an hour off at noon. We’d usually play baseball or something like that. We’d throw the ball over the schoolhouse with someone on the other side to try to catch it.
CC: I don’t know, do you know— there wasn’t anything up the road a bit was there, when you were here?
HJ: Up the road, I don’t remember. There was a house on the west side of that road, and then facing south there, there was a house on across the road. I remember it, one cold night, it burned down. That, that time the telephone lines, there’d be maybe a dozen people on the same telephone line. And when you’d have a fire or something like that, somebody would give a lot of little short rings, and everyone would go to the— run to the phone, and that’s when we’d learn there was a fire.
Caitlin Bauchat (CB): Do you remember anything right across Broadway this way, towards the west? Was anything there?
HJ: I think there was a house right across, on the left side of that corner there. I think it might be Roy Arnold’s place, then they moved it over to where it is now. Yea, it seemed to me that it was moved on west. I think there was a well there too; just up next to the house there; just about there was a well there. Well if there was a well, there’s probably rock up the sides of it, and if it was rock, it’d probably still be there. They dug a deep well down there. I think it was dug 90 feet and drilled 100 and something feet, wasn’t it? And I think I’ve heard dad talk about when they were digging that well, William Butler was down there helping, and he was down in the well, and somebody knocked a little, just a little piece of something fell down, by the time it got down there and it hit him on the head you know, and it kind of hurt, you know, he thought somebody was gonna hurt him with it.
Margaret Roberts interview (abstract)
Pike County resident
July 18, 2005
Interviewed by Carrie Christman and Caitlin Bauchat
Caitlin Bauchat (CB): Can you state your name and birthdate?
Margaret Roberts (MR): Margaret Roberts and my birthdate was July 8th, 1912. I just turned 93 the other day!
CB: Now what do you remember about growing up in Pike County?
MR: Oh, a lot of things. I went to a country school, Shady Dell School, for three or four years. And we always lived on a farm. At Shady Dell we had about 30 students from first to eighth grade. And there were people that came into the area to cut railroad ties, they called them tie hackers, and those children didn’t have a chance to go to school all the time because they moved around from place to place, so there were 16 year old boys that were still in the fourth grade.
Carrie Christman: How far away was school?
MR: About a quarter of a mile. It was not very far. We ordinarily walked to school. And school there, in the wintertime, of course the teacher was the custodian. She kept the fire going, and, and sometimes the older boys carried in the coal. In the wintertime one of the teachers would have us bring vegetables from home – potatoes and onions and carrots and things – and she’d make a pot of soup for us, for lunch.
Jean Vitale (JV): Did you, did you tell them about the Ku Klux Klan?
MR: Oh yes, that was, I was talking to Dr. Shackel about that the other night. There was quite an active group of Ku Klux Klan at Meredosia at the time when we were still living in Scott County. And our house was fairly close to the road and we could hear them coming, they rode past the house on the horseback, with the white sheets. And my dad would turn out the lamps and we’d watch out the window when they went by, but we didn’t know where they went or what they did, but we had seen them several times.
Marjorie Beilstein (MB): Well didn’t, didn’t someone disappear after one of those night rides one time?
MR: Yes, there was an old black fellow that lived along the river, that was the same place where we saw the Ku Klux Klan, and he just lived in a little house, and he used to garden and raised a few chickens for his own use. He never bothered anybody and nobody ever bothered him. You know, they got along – people in Naples. That wasn’t a real big town, and they got along all right with this old fellow, but he just disappeared, and no one ever knew what happened to him. So I think they always thought maybe the Ku Klux Klan did something, but nobody ever said that.
CC: So what do you think about the archaeology project that we’re doing now?
MR: Oh I’m real excited about that. I, think it’s just a great thing to do. I think they just need to go as far as they can in that. There should be something there. I don’t know quite what, but it will never be farmed again at least!