Hunger and Bitter Cold in Settlement Era Fullersburg
Updated: Dec 13, 2021
The early settlers of Brush Hill (which became Fullersburg) faced hunger and bitter cold while attempting to survive and thrive in this area. Letters written by Nicholas Torode to his family members in Ohio reveal the difficult circumstances he encountered while trying to obtain food in unbearably cold conditions. On 1/18/1836, Nicholas wrote about his miserable trip from Brush Hill to the Naper Settlement (now Naperville), where there was a grist mill for grinding grain. He writes:
(Photo of Graue Mill Dam by Bruce Nudd)
...I have seen trying times with the Cold wather I went as I had proposed in a few days
after our arival to hunt for grain and pork I almost froze stiff with one great coat and two
Comforts around me and a parcel of hay in the wagon beside warming my self every
Chance I could get it was imposible for me to face the wind I was obliged to go or starve
our naighbours around us had some frozen corn they pounded in a hommany block to
eat the miller would put them off six weeks for thare grinding I prayed the Almighty that I
might have some grinding done the miller was taken with pitty and grown my grist at the
Nicholas faced miserable conditions while he waited for his corn to be ground at the mill. He
writes, "I had to wait 2 Days for to get corn ground the horses almost perished with the cold while at the mill I had to keep them covered with my two quilts or I would have lost them I had to do with 6 hours sleep for 3 nights... ." Then, on his way home, his wagon got stuck in "salt crick in the night at 10 o'clock Mr. Tamage son was my pilot from thare old house it took us 4 hours to get out off the Crick this was my first trip to dupage mill and Naper Settlement... ." His letter continues to describe the unkind treatment he received while there, facing false accusations of "claim jumping"
and taunting about the quality of the pork he brought to sell.
The challenges that Nicholas faced demonstrate the need for a grist mill in the Fullersburg area. The Torode family had constructed a saw mill for cutting lumber at the site that eventually became the Graue Mill and Dam. In 1850, Frederick Graue purchased this site and constructed the mill as it stands today, which was of great benefit to the neighboring settlers and farmers in this area, who no longer had to face bitterly cold conditions in order to have their corn and other grain ground.
(Nicholas Torode letter courtesy of DuPage County History Museum.)
Sue Devick, M.A.