by Carl Strang
Fullersburg Woods Forest Preserve was the site of Civilian Conservation Corps camp #V-1668 in the 1930’s. In 1933, in response to the economic calamity of the Great Depression, Franklin Delano Roosevelt started the CCC in the first two months of his presidency. By the end of that year, two camps had been established on forest preserves in DuPage County, at McDowell and Fullersburg. Young (late teens to early twenties) single men moved into the camps, enrolled for 6 months at a time and could extend to 2 years. The camps were run by the army, but the work was directed by foresters and other specialists. At Fullersburg the camp was located at the present Hilltop Prairie. In 1937, the year before the Fullersburg camp closed, a map was prepared that shows a number of structures that had been built or were under construction.
The CCC built the Visitor Center and other buildings I will highlight in some future posting. Today I want to focus on a series of structures, labeled “Trail Shelters” on the 1937 map and represented there by little black rectangles, that no longer stand.
They are not entirely gone, however. Guided by the map, I went to these locations to see if any traces of the shelters remained. In a couple cases I found lines of dolomite blocks in Salt Creek along its edge, right where the shelters are marked on the map. Apparently the dolomite pieces, a common construction material used by the CCC, were the floors of the small shelters and have collapsed into the creek.
In one case more remains. This one, across from the northeast corner of Willow Island, still is well represented by its relatively intact dolomite stream bank foundation, and a concrete post support at one end. You have to pick your way through the woods off trail to find it.
These rocks, quarried at Lemont, transported to Fullersburg, forming part of structures for a time and now scattered, remain to speak to us of the preserve’s history. They also add structure and chemistry to the microenvironments where they now sit, serving as shelter or obstacles to small animals. From the standpoint of the stones their present locations still are fresh and new compared to the hundreds of millions of years of their existence.