I am writing in search of anyone interested in several Wassell families who were listed in the 1860, 1870 and 1880 censuses as residents of the town of New Philadelphia, in Hadley Township, Pike County, Illinois:
The 1860 census lists William Wassell (a 29-year-old farmer born in England), his wife Jane (31, born in Ohio), and their children William (11), Nancy (8), and John (6), all born in Illinois. This household also appears in the 1865 Illinois state census.
The 1870 census lists a Wassell family in nearby Barry, Pike Co., Illinois: Henry Wassell (a 45-year-old farmer born in Kentucky), his wife Mary (age 40, born in Ohio), and their children Lucy (12), George (10), and Mary (6), all born in Illinois.
William and Jane Wassell appear again in the 1880 census. Two other Wassell families also appear in the 1880 census:
John Wassell (25), his wife Sarah (24) and daughter Maud (4), all born in Illinois. Also Frank Wassell (31), wife Anna (25) and son Harry (5), all born in Illinois. Also living in the Frank Wassell household was a 66-year-old widow named Eliz. Crowder, born in Ohio.
I am working with a group of historians and archaeologists from the University of Maryland, the Illinois State Museum, the University of Illinois, and the New Philadelphia Association, to research the social history of this town and its past residents as part of our national heritage. We have recently obtained funding from the National Science Foundation as part of our efforts, and we will be engaged in a multi-year project of historical studies, oral history interviews, and archaeological investigations.
If you are interested in this project, and recovering the national memory of this historic town, please contact us. We seek your input, as a member of the community who may have an interest in this effort, to talk with us about the types of questions you would like to have addressed through such research, and your thoughts and preferences on potential ways to honor the heritage of New Philadelphia.
The story of New Philadelphia is both compelling and unique. In 1836, Frank McWorter, an African American who was born into slavery and later purchased his own freedom, acquired 42 acres of land in the sparsely populated area of Pike County, situated in the rolling hills bounded by the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. He incorporated a town, subdivided the property, and sold lots. He encouraged other families of African American and European heritage to move to the town and create a racially integrated community in the decades before and after the Civil War. New Philadelphia likely served as a stopping place for the "Underground Railroad" of enslaved African Americans who were fleeing northward from the oppression of southern plantations. The history of New Philadelphia serves as a rare example of an integrated early farming community on the nation's Midwestern frontier. The town's population reached its peak of about 170 people after the Civil War, a size comparable to many Pike County communities today. However, by the end of the century corporate politics resulted in the death knell for the settlement: regional transportation investors routed a new railroad line to bypass the town. Many of New Philadelphia's residents eventually moved away and, by the early twentieth century, only a few families remained.
You can learn more about the history of New Philadelphia, and details concerning upcoming phases of our multi-year research efforts by following the related web page links you will find at: http://www.heritage.umd.eduhttp://www.heritage.umd.edu
Thank you very much for your time and consideration,
New Philadelphia Association