• Sue Devick

Hunger and Bitter Cold in Settlement Era Fullersburg

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 detail the hardships facing the pioneers. The Torodes built a cabin and began farming in an area just north of Brush Hill that became known as "Frenchman's Woods" because the family came from the island of Guernsey in the English Channel, where Guernsiase was spoken (similar to French).

On 1/18/36, Nicholas wrote about his miserable trip from Brush Hill to the Naper Settlement (in present day Naperville), where there was a grist mill for grinding grain. He writes:

...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

time... .

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.)

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