Mapping the Native American Village of Sauganakka (Fullersburg)
Updated: Dec 13, 2021
A well known map of over twenty Native American villages around pre-Settlement Chicago was created by Albert F. Scharf and Karl Dilg in the 1890's, and it is entitled "Indian Trails and Villages of Chicago and of Cook, DuPage and Will Counties, Ills. (1804)." The Scharf Map, as it is commonly known, is useful for establishing the locations of trails, villages, camps, ceremonial mounds, signal stations, chipping stations, and other important elements of indigenous life in and around Chicago. An index explains the meaning of symbols: larger Indian villages are marked by a tepee; minor villages by a smaller tepee; camps as triangles; chipping stations (where tools were made) as upside down triangles; trails as lines; signal stations as plus signs; and Indian mounds by a dotted circle surrounding a point. Mounds were ceremonial in nature, and tribal chiefs were known to have been buried in some of these structures. Other less common features such as portage routes and fresh water springs are also represented in the map's index, as well.
The cartographers' research manuscripts are at the Chicago History Museum, and they reveal significant attention to detail. These documents include descriptive locations of indigenous villages according to Township and Section numbers as well as to geographical features and roads. Artifacts such as a sentry's battle ax recovered at the La Frambois Reservation (Village No. 7) and other physical evidence are included, which lend integrity to the map's historical information; also listed are the names of individuals who provided direct knowledge of relevant events or situations. Background narrative is found in the manuscripts, as well, such as Potawatomi Chief Alexander Robinson's statement that Chief Waubonsee had a "voice like a lion," adding dimension.
Fullersburg is identified on the Scharf Map as Village No. 21, which was the largest Native American village in DuPage County. This settlement was located along Salt Creek, and it was occupied from the late 1600's to the mid 1830's by the Potawatomi, who called their village Sauganakka. Salt Creek was known as Wewanippissee (pretty little river), and this body of water turns sharply east from its north-south course near the historic Graue Mill Dam. The map pinpoints a major Indian village on the west of Salt Creek and Indian camps on both sides of the creek north of the village. Another camp is marked east and south of the main village, where the creek makes its eastward turn. Two chipping stations, where weapons and tools were made, are noted in close proximity to the main village. A signal station is shown east of the boundaries of the village, in Proviso Township; a rectangular tract of land on the southeast corner of the village's boundary is also in this township and part of Cook County.
An interesting feature of the Scharf map's illustration of Fullersburg is its documentation of an Indian mound to the west of Salt Creek, below the village. The cartographers' manuscript refers to four individuals that had personal knowledge about this mound. Edwin Fuller, the son of the founder of Fullersburg, related to the cartographers that his father spoke about a mound to the west of the creek. Carl Engle lived in the farmhouse south of this area, and he stated that his house had been built by a pioneer named Silvester Davis who discovered that the house was on a mound when digging a cellar. Davis allowed relic hunters to plow several acres of his land for the sum of $100; he spoke about a '"great number of stone weapons and implements found upon the grounds'" of his home, which suggests a former location of a chipping station.
An examination of other Fullersburg historical primary sources can serve to check the accuracy of the Scharf Map and its manuscripts. For example, the map references the location of an Indian mound in Fullersburg, but other sources indicate that there were multiple mounds. George Ruchty, another descendant of the village's founder (Benjamin Fuller, and not David, as stated in the manuscript) writes in The Fullers of Fullersburg that area residents were "particularly fascinated by the two circular mounds about eight feet high and fifteen feet in diameter which were said to mark the burial site of tribal chiefs. The area, known as the 'wiccibottom,' is now the forest preserve parking lot." Ruchty states that the Civilian Conservation Corps leveled the mounds in 1933, "obliterating the last major visible remnants of the days when the Indians roamed freely in the Fullersburg area." Another primary source known to the Fullersburg Historic Foundation, the George Kolzow Memoir, states, "The Indian mounds are still there. We could have picked up bushels of Indian arrowheads at this place and all around it." (Both of the above mentioned publications are available in the "Sources" section of Fullersburg Historic Foundation's website at fullersburg.org.)
While errors about the number of mounds in Fullersburg and the first name of the founder of the settlement appear in the Scharf Map's manuscripts, these minor deficiencies cannot diminish the work of cartographers Albert F. Scharf and Karl Dilg, who should be commended for their significant accomplishment in the 1890's of documenting Chicago's extensive Native American history without the advantage of modern technology. As observed by Chicago historian Ann Durkin Keating (author of Rising Up From Indian Country), "We erase this history, which is unfortunate because it offers a fuller, richer understanding of our past." Fullersburg Historic Foundation agrees with Dr. Keating's observation and recognizes the significant contribution of local Native American people to Chicago's heritage.
Note: The Scharf Map, below, is no longer subject to copyright. The blue rectangle around Fullersburg was added electronically by this blog's author.
Sue Devick, M.A.