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The Fulkerson Mansion & Farm Museum
Jerseyville, Illinois

The Hazel Dell Farm

In 1831, Joseph Russell of Tennessee filed one of the largest land entries ever filed in Jersey County. Russell was an entrepreneur who invested early in Illinois property and had amassed a considerable fortune. In 1866, Russell’s daughter Cornelia Russell Fulkerson and her husband Colonel William H. Fulkerson relocated from Tennessee to the Jerseyville area and took possession of 320 acres of land owned by Russell and deeded to Cornelia. The Fulkersons built a 14-room brick mansion, a carriage house, and other farm buildings on the property. Many of the freed slaves that had been owned by the Colonel before the war chose to remain with him and accompanied the Fulkersons to Jerseyville. They remained with the family as faithful servants throughout the rest of their lives, and when they died the Colonel buried them in the front yard. The farmstead was named “Hazel Dell” because of the hazel trees that once grew along the banks of D’Arcy’s Branch, a small stream that runs through the farm. An additional 320 acres was later added to the farm.

Hazel Dell soon became famous around the country for its Short-Horn cattle and farmers came to the farm to be wined and dined before a sale was made. The farm originally had sectioned areas separated by board fences used for pasture by the horses and cattle. A picket fence used to encircle the house and yard in its entirety but only  a replica of the front portion remains today. In addition to the Short-Horns, the farm also had a good supply of pigs, chickens, and at one time the Colonel had over 200 horses. Original farm buildings included a hog barn, cattle barn, scale house, chicken house, and a privy, all of which are no longer in existence. 39 acres of Hazel Dell still produce wheat, corn, and beans just as they had when the Colonel and his family lived there. An orchard north of the house is still in existence with apple, pear, and apricot trees. The present farm looks like the grounds of the Colonel’s time with the exception of the trees by D’Arcy’s Branch, which were cut down through the years to provide fuel for the many fireplaces in the Fulkerson home.

The property remained in the ownership of Cornelia Russell Fulkerson until her death in 1909. Over the years the acreage has gotten smaller with 58.26 acres being the current size of the property. The current owner of Hazel Dell is Historical Steam and Living History, Inc., a Not For Profit Illinois Corporation run by Brenda K. and Joseph F. (Fred) Nolan. Prior to moving to Jerseyville, the Nolans lived in Arcola, IL where for 16 years they held the Douglas County Historical Steam Festival. By 1993 the festival had gotten too big for their 10-acre property and on the advice of a festival participant they became interested in Hazel Dell because of its historical significance and its larger acreage. The Nolans purchased Hazel Dell in 1995 and through their efforts the Hazel Dell property was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998. The Nolans are continuously improving the mansion, the other buildings, and the grounds. The Jersey County Victorian Festival, first held in 1996 grows, in size and significance every year.

Civil War Artifact Collection

(Artifact picture here) The mansion is furnished with antiques and artifacts of the period with a special display of the Colonel’s personal Civil War items, Lafayette Baker’s Civil War artifacts and the Thomas Lincoln Anvil. Lafayette Baker was head of the bureau of the Secret Service during the Civil War. After the assassination of President Lincoln, Baker organized the pursuit and was present at the capture and death of the assassin John Wilkes Booth. (Information on the Lincoln anvil here: also brief listings of the artifacts that can be seen.)

 


 
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