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  • Sue Devick

The Historic Fellowship of Old Fullersburg

Updated: Dec 13, 2021

The pioneers of Brush Hill (which became Fullersburg) demonstrated good will toward their neighbors as well as their fellow man, creating a legacy that still stands today. The early settlers showed respect to the Native Americans who had lived on the land purchased by the government through the controversial Treaty of Chicago. Benjamin Fuller (newly arrived from Broome County, New York) built a cabin in the Mays Lake area next to a Potawatomi village, and he taught the Potawatomis how to shoe their ponies. They showed their appreciation by giving Ben's young son a pony named Ninoldi. Potawatomi children played with the settlers' children, including the Fuller children; the Native Americans also were often seen in their canoes on "Wewanippissee," as they called Salt Creek, also used by the settlers. Mrs. William Graue recalled how Potawatomi living in huts on the east side of present York Road visited the Graue's homesite when the syrup was boiled down, and how the Graue family always gave them syrup on corn cakes. (See Village on the County Line by H. Dugan in "Suggested Reading" and Treaty of Chicago in "For You" on this site.)

The early settlers also showed good will toward other pioneers, who often had different cultural and ethnic backgrounds. The Torode family established a homestead just north of the Fullers' known as "Frenchman's Woods," as their family emigrated from the English Channel island of Guernsey, where "Guernsey French" and English are spoken. Brothers Nicholas and J.J. Torode wrote bilingual letters to their relatives in Ohio in the 1830's which reflected friendship and kindness between neighbors. On 1/18/1836, Nicholas related that the Talmadge family's son helped to free his wagon when it was stuck in Salt Creek on a cold winter night. In another letter, J.J. wrote that the Talmadge family (their nearest neighbor) had furnished them with blueberry seeds, as was their custom. J.J. Torode also was generous; in a letter dated 5/21/1836, he wrote about going to Chicago "where we had the luck of getting some very small hymn books about 30 hymns in each price 3 cts each... we have not got enough for all the children to have each one... ." Although the Torodes wrote about their financial strain, J.J. bought hymn books for the children in the area. (Torode letters courtesy of DuPage County Historical Museum.)

The village of Brush Hill became a travel rest stop as it grew, and kindness was shown to travelers, even under very unusual circumstances. H. Dugan cites an article that appeared in a Chicago newspaper on 8/13/1847, "'A man died at Brush Hill, in DuPage Co., on Saturday night last. He had left Chicago that day, arrived at Brush Hill in the evening and put up at a tavern for the night. Being unwell he got some medicine of a doctor that lived there, and died during the night. On Sunday he was boxed up and buried in a pasture. The people there do not know his name, or where he belonged.'" The townspeople gave a proper burial to a deceased stranger, and then attempted to learn the identity of the deceased person they had not known.

Frederick Graue, of German descent, arrived in the area and purchased a saw mill from the Torode family around 1849. This was converted into the grist mill now known as Graue Mill. Dugan writes that Mrs. William Graue had a clear recollection of Abraham Lincoln's visit to the mill when he was an Illinois state legislator. In 1850, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was enacted, which ordered that fugitive slaves from Confederate states had to be returned when discovered, even if they were found in a free state. Frederick was an abolitionist, and the cellar of his newly converted mill soon became a rest stop for escaped slaves as part of the Underground Railroad. His neighbor, blacksmith John Coe (married to Harriet Fuller), was also a "conductor" on the secret system used to transport those from Confederate states seeking freedom. An underground tunnel between the Fuller Inn and the Fullersburg Tavern also sheltered fugitives. Fullersburg residents showed a great deal of sympathy toward African American slaves, as also shown in the Brush Hill Debate Club journal entry dated 2/18/1857. (See "Debate Journal" on this site.)

Among the local Civil War Union soldiers who subsequently fought in the Civil War, thirteen veterans are buried at Historic Fullersburg Cemetery in Hinsdale. One lone Confederate soldier is also buried at this site; in 2016, Corp. John A. Andre received a new engraved headstone, continuing the legacy of fellowship in this unique area. Andre was honored along with other veterans at the traditional Memorial Day ceremony at the cemetery, which is led by Don Fuller, president of Fullersburg Historic Foundation. (See "Events" on this site.)

Sue Devick, M.A.

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