• Sue Devick

The Unique History of Fullersburg and the Graue Mill Dam

Updated: Jul 19

The dam at Graue Mill is more than a structure in the Historic Fullersburg District; it is a link to the essence of the area's past. The Potawatomi Native Americans who lived on both sides of Salt Creek in this vicinity called the creek "Wewanippissee," or "The Pretty Little River." Visitors who flock to Graue Mill and Fullersburg Forest Preserve often photograph the dam and the scenic mill pond. An eagle and blue heron were recently spotted in this area, and the calls and songs of geese, ducks and other birds can be heard along with the rushing water falling over the dam.

Under normal circumstances, school children enjoy field outings to Graue Mill, and so do adult visitors. Educational presentations demonstrate the operation of the grist mill, allowing a glimpse into the importance of the mill to local nineteenth century settlers. The students' experience is enhanced by local master gardeners who voluntarily plant and tend a garden of native corn, barley, oats, millet and other grains close to the mill. A letter written in 1836 by Fullersburg settler Jean Torode tells of the good will between neighbors as they shared grain seed for farming. Corn meal is still sold at the Graue Mill Museum, which also offers hands-on learning opportunities including making corn-husk dolls and other activities. (See http://www.grauemill.org/.)

DuPage County historian Hugh Dugan also writes about the generosity of the early settlers. Ben Fuller (the founder of Fullersburg) taught the local Potawatomi how to shoe horses, and they presented Ben's son with a pony named Ninoldi. An early priority in the area was the formal education of the children. Ben platted the land around Fullersburg and set aside land for the construction of a school. Before it was built, Mary Fuller became the area's first teacher, traveling between the settlers' homes with two large dogs for protection against the wolves and other wildlife that were present during this era.

A unique quality of Graue Mill is that it was known to have been a stop on the Underground Railroad before the Civil War, as shown in exhibits at the museum. Frederick Graue, who is described in Great People of DuPage as a "staunch abolitionist," allowed escaped slaves to safely rest at his mill on their journey to freedom in Canada. Other Fullersburg residents also promoted the pursuit of liberty at this settlement, which was rumored to have a tunnel between a busy inn and the mill to facilitate the movement of those escaping slavery. To memorialize Graue Mill's historic role, a theatrical presentation about the Underground Railroad has provided insight into the struggles for freedom endured by slaves in our country. A reenactment of a Civil War Encampment at this site also offers a deeper understanding of Fullersburg's contributions to America, which is also apparent in the historic Fullersburg Cemetery, where numerous local Union veterans of the Civil War are buried and honored every Memorial Day.

Currently there is a plan being formulated for presentation to the DuPage County Forest Preserve District to remove the Graue Mill Dam. This large project would include a considerable narrowing of the stream channel and actually moving it to the northern part of its current location, farther away from the Mill. The officers and directors of Fullersburg Historic Foundation contend that the dam should remain in as it is, which is a draw to this historic area; the beauty of this structure also characterizes the unique qualities of Fullersburg's visionary leaders, including Ben Fuller and Frederick Graue. Don Fuller, the great, great grandson of Ben Fuller, states that if the dam and mill pond are removed, "the real life experience that people get when they walk around the area will be gone forever. We will never be able to really see how it was in pioneer days." Please contact the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County to voice your opinion on this important matter at



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