Fullersburg Archeology: A Mystery

by Carl Strang

 

It’s time to conclude my series on Fullersburg Forest Preserve history and archeology. Time to put on the pith helmet one last time and check out a mystery. And if you can cast light on it, I will appreciate the assist.

 

If you take the informal dirt trail clockwise around the edge of Butler Woods from Rainbow Bridge, it will take you to the Hairpin Turn.

 

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Shortly after you go around that turn you will see a branch of the trail heading right (east) and up the hill. At the top of the hill is a trench, dug no doubt for some agricultural purpose. It’s not a glacial feature.

 

Just below that trench is a trio of concrete structures whose function at present remains a mystery. These include a 25-foot-long, arc-shaped low wall built of 2’x2’ concrete blocks, one of which is being shifted as a large white oak grows in behind it.

 

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This arc’s concave side faces south, and in the focus of that arc 30 feet further south there is a bunker-like structure 8’ wide, 7’ deep, and 3’ tall, open on the south side with some dolomite flagstones stacked in the bottom, an old decaying piece of lumber on the ground, a few red bricks scattered on top, and an iron ring set in the center of the roof piece on its south edge.

 

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This bunker is dug into the side of the hill. Brookfield Zoo educator Jim Ritt has made the interesting suggestion that the structure was designed for dynamite storage. Its orientation away from farm clearings and buildings to the north that show on the 1939 aerial photo is consistent with this hypothesis. Back, now, to the trail. On the north side of that trail, roughly in line with the center of the arc and the bunker and 10 feet north of the wall, the third structure is a 3’ circular piece of concrete with a rectangular slot through its top that is about the length and depth of one of the wall’s elements.

 

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The axis of that slot is in line with the bunker. These objects are within a string of older trees that are visible in the 1939 photo. Incidentally, piled in a refuse heap a short distance north of there, just south of the swamp and east of the Hairpin Turn, is a rusting tank of the sort used for heating oil in a home furnace, along with two rusted crushed objects which may be identical tanks, and a wheel still bearing its tire.

 

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So that’s where I’ll end this topic, at least for Fullersburg. There are some other archeological features on that preserve I haven’t mentioned, but I’ll leave them, along with the ones I never found, for your own discovery.

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Waterfall Glen Mystery Structures

by Carl Strang

 

Earlier I explained why I think it’s important to include inquiries of human history when studying the natural history of the local landscape, and I have illustrated that idea with several examples. Today I want to focus on one of my favorite spots in the forest preserves of DuPage County: the eastern bluffs at Waterfall Glen. To reach this area, park at the Environmental Education Camp parking lot. The driveway entrance to this lot is on Bluff Road, just east of the right-angle turn that marks the south end of Cass Avenue. Pick up a map, or download it from here, then walk a short distance back up the entrance drive to where an unsurfaced trail leads off right. That trail will take you to the bluffs area. As you wander around you should find an old road farther east, still used by Forest Preserve District vehicles, leading down the side of the bluff alongside a ravine.

 

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That road is shown on the preserve map, and its north end connects with Bluff Road.

 

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High up in the ravine that runs along the east side of that road is a place where a now-abandoned side trail crossed over the stream. Shaped stacked stones and a culvert give it an interesting look.

 

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I don’t know the history of these roads. I don’t see the side one, at least, on the 1939 aerial photos but it could be obscure. On the lip of the hill above the west side of the main road (the one still in use) is a curious concrete structure.

 

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It is a 6 by 6-foot square concrete platform. There is a 3 by 14-inch slot on the ravine side that reaches nearly to the center of the square, where there is an inset metal pipe, flush with the surface, around 6 inches in diameter. I have not yet figured out what this structure was. Suggestions are welcome.

 

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If you go down the road to the bottom of the bluff and turn west along the service road it joins, you will pass some large lumps of concrete on the side of the bluff. Their original purpose likewise is a mystery, at least to me.

 

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You can continue west to connect to the regional trail or turn north at the next service drive intersection (the map will help, here), to return to the parking lot.

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