Report updates available HERE.

During the next three summers professional archaeologists from the University of Maryland, Illinois State Museum, and the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign with the support of the New Philadelphia Association will work in Pike County to unearth New Philadelphia’s past. In 1836 Frank McWorter founded the town of New Philadelphia, the first town incorporated by an African American in the United States. Today, the town is all but invisible to the untrained eye. Only a few remaining foundations can be seen in the plowed field near Barry, Illinois. The goals of this upcoming research project are 1) to learn more about this racially integrated community that existed for about one hundred years and 2) to train undergraduate students.

The National Science Foundation has awarded three years of funding to support this research that will train nine students annually in its prestigious Research Education for Undergraduate (REU) program. The goal of REU is to recruit a diversified pool of talented students who do not have a chance to participate in rigorous scientific curriculum. The program will increase the participation of women, underrepresented minorities, and students from local colleges and universities.

Each summer students will work with professional archaeologists and perform state-of- the-art geophysical testing at the archaeological site. They will use radar and other scientific techniques to help locate foundations, wells and privies. Students will then work with mentors to carefully excavate portions of New Philadelphia.  They will also spend time at the Illinois State Museum where they will work with the experienced staff to scientifically analyze artifacts, animal bones, pollen, and seeds retrieved from the fieldwork.

The excavations promise to provide significant information about the development of New Philadelphia and the life ways of its many inhabitants before, during, and after the Civil War. This work will add to our understanding of this important part of our national story.

Read the latest updates on the field school HERE.

Point of contact:
Dr. Christopher Fennell
NSF-REU program
Department of Anthropology
University of Illinois
109 Davenport Hall, MC-148
607 S. Mathews Ave.
Urbana, Illinois 61801
(217) 244-7309

Web address for site info and application forms go to: and look for the link to New Philadelphia and the NSF-REU program. The 2008-2010 grant proposal can be seen here.

Participating institutions directly sponsoring the field school: University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; Illinois State Museum; DePaul University

We also appreciate the support of the University of Maryland, University of Illinois-Springfield, University of Central Florida, Hannibal-LaGrange College, and Sprague’s Kinderhook Lodge.

When: Summer 2008-2010

Where: New Philadelphia, near Barry, Illinois, Pike County