Why Was Fullersburg Named After Benjamin Fuller?
Fullersburg was named after Ben Fuller because he was a courageous, innovative leader.
Less than a year after the 1833 Treaty of Chicago was signed, Ben traveled alone by horseback from Broome County, New York to Chicago, which was only a trading center at the time; he was exploring the area to find a new home for his expanding family. Ben discovered Brush Hill about fifteen miles west of Chicago, which had been the largest Potawatomi village in DuPage County, called Sauganakka. The terms of the treaty required the Native Americans to depart this area, although many stayed for several years. Ben traveled approximately 700 miles in three weeks in the spring of 1834, averaging about 30 miles a day over rough roads and trails.
Ben was 24 years old when he temporarily left his pregnant wife, young son, and extended family in New York to embark on his journey west. Ben's parents, Jacob and Candace, had twelve children, and Ben was the oldest of their six sons; there also were six daughters. According to historian Hugh Dugan, Ben was able to grasp the concept of opportunity that the "Northwest frontier" presented. Ben became discouraged in muddy Chicago and its swampy surroundings after he arrived, however. He was advised to explore Brush Hill, where he found an ideal location for his new home, as there was game for food, trees for wood, open space for farming, and fresh water.
Ben returned to New York and told his family about the area he had discovered. The entire Fuller clan had confidence in Ben's judgment and decided to accompany him to the Northwest, as Illinois was called, the following year. The move from New York to Brush Hill in 1835 was grueling for the family. Two of the daughters sailed by steamship through the Great Lakes while the rest of the family traveled by wagons and horseback, experiencing illness, storms, swollen waterways, and equipment breakdowns. The Fullers were reunited
in Chicago after about six weeks, and they immediately proceeded to their new homesite.
The family cleared land, then built a cabin that was approximately 25 x 15 feet. The fireplace was on the north end of the cabin, and the floor was flagstone. As stated by historian George Ruchty (great grandson of Ben), "Sleeping quarters for the children were arranged by cutting an opening in the rough log ceiling over the main room and a ladder was used in place of stairs. The roof was made of pieces of bark carefully overlapped and fitted together as tightly as possible." Pots and pans caught water when it rained, and snow that blew in through openings in the logs was shaken off of blankets to the floor below. (See
The Fullers of Fullersburg in "For You" section of this website.)
The Fuller family purchased about 160 acres of land from the government at $1.25 per acre, or a total of $200. Ben eventually built his home in the Mayslake area, where friendly Potawatomi also lived. The Potawatomi called Salt Creek Wewanippissee, which means "the pretty little river." Ben taught his neighbors how to shoe horses, and in turn, they gifted a pony named Ninoldi to Ben's infant son, John, who later showed empathy toward the Native Americans. (See "Journal" section of this site.)
The Fullers soon became successful farmers. A letter written on 6/15/1836 by another settler, J.J. Torode, states that the Fuller family had planted 14 acres of corn, twice as much as other neighbors in the vicinity. Ben invented tools and machines to assist with labor, including a plow and a reel to measure flax. As stated in The Fullersburg Chronicles, Ben lived near a spring known as Ginger Creek, and he built a small paddle wheel that powered a hand saw for cutting wood; he also was a talented cabinet maker. According to Don Fuller (great, great grandson of Ben), a popular local saying was, "Jacob's oldest son has made perpetual motion run." (See "Fullersburg Chronicles" in the "For You" section of this site.)
Between 1835 and 1855, Ben purchased approximately 800 acres of land that was located on either side of the main road running east-west from Chicago. In 1851, Ben platted the village; he and his father also decided to move closer to town, near the current intersection of Ogden Avenue and York Road. Ben built a family home in a new style called balloon frame construction, which consisted of sawn lumber and sheathing for exterior and interior walls. The Ben Fuller Farmhouse is still in existence but in a different location, and it may be the oldest remaining example of balloon frame construction in the country. (See the "Fullersburg" section of this site.)
Around the same time, Ben's skills as an entrepreneur emerged; he built a store and tavern on York Road called The Farmer's Home, which became a meeting place. This building is
still in existence today but called the York Tavern, and a section of its original timber frame construction is on display. Ben purchased The Castle Inn, but did not manage this business. He also built the Fullersburg Tavern, which later became the Grand Pacific Hotel, where travelers could keep their cattle in a pen. Underground tunnels beneath this tavern were part of the Underground Railroad, offering assistance to fugitive slaves seeking freedom before the Civil War. (Nearby Graue Mill, which was converted into a grist mill by Frederick Graue around 1850, also served as a "stop" in the railroad.)
The members of the large Fuller family married and settled in the immediate area, which contributed to the village's growth. A realization surfaced within the community that someone was either a Fuller or married to one. Also by 1851, the old Native American trail to Chicago had been stabilized by adding wood planks over the uneven ground, which improved transportation through the town. That same year, Brush Hill was renamed Fullersburg in recognition of Ben, the founder of the village.
The people of Fullersburg valued education, as is documented in the journal of the Brush Hill Debate Club, which has entries from 1857-59. Not only was Ben an active member of the club, he showed his progressiveness by inviting the ladies to participate in a social group that was organized by local men. (See "Journal" section of this site.) In 1862, Ben
and his wife set aside land in Fullersburg for a school and a cemetery; copies of the deeds appear in the Fullersburg Chronicles.
In 1862, Ben was instrumental in persuading the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad to consider Fullersburg as a stop in its anticipated rail route from Chicago to Aurora. The engineers decided on an alternate route about a mile south, however. Fullersburg had been considered the most prosperous village in DuPage County; the route chosen by the railroad was not favorable, as the center of commerce shifted south to Hinsdale.
Fullersburg remained a highly desirable place to live, and it was the final resting spot of Benjamin Fuller, who passed away in his home in 1868 at the age of 58. He was a family man, pioneer, inventor, builder, entrepreneur, farmer, benefactor, and civic leader. He forged a friendship with the local Potawatomi and strove for self improvement by participating in the local debate club. Ben's final resting place is at the Historic Fullersburg Cemetery, where he and other Fuller family members, veterans, and leaders of Fullersburg are also buried. On Memorial Day, the lives of these citizens are celebrated, including Ben Fuller, the extraordinary founder of Fullersburg.
The Fullersburg Historic Foundation's mission is to preserve and promote the heritage sites of Historic Fullersburg, including the Ben Fuller Farmhouse. The officers and directors of the foundation hope that this historic home can be restored and converted to an educational center to teach future generations about the local Potawatomi and the early settlers of this unique area.
Sue Devick, Fullersburg Historic Foundation