In his daily travels, Campton Hills resident Thomas Bihun began noticing a small building along Route 64 at Hidden Oaks Road that seemed to be in disrepair, with the land surrounding it overgrown and unkempt. A closer look revealed the building was a mausoleum.
“It bothered me that no one was taking care of it,” Bihun said.
Bihun approached a few people he thought might be able to lend a hand, including Campton Hills Village President Mike Tyrell.
“Tom came to me and said, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to find out who owns it and volunteer to clean it up?’ ” Tyrell said.
With a bit of research, Bihun found the owner of the property was Gary Norton Bullinger, who lived in Warrenville.
When he connected with Bullinger, Bihun found Bullinger had been ill for a time and recently had been finding it hard to get out to the property. Bullinger was appreciative of Bihun’s offer and agreed to come out and meet him at the property.
Village Trustee Wendy White Eagle and Campton Hills resident and Kane County Board representative Barb Wojnicki joined others at the cleanup, tuck-pointing, washing and painting the exterior of the building, along with clearing weeds, brush, debris and a few of the smaller trees.
White Eagle and her husband, Anthony Beyer, helped pay for a tree service to cut down trees they thought might threaten the structural integrity of the building.
Jason Snow used his front-loader to remove about 4 inches of dirt from the short road leading to the mausoleum from Route 64.
“Everyone did a bit of everything,” Tyrell said.
Bullinger worked alongside the others, clearing the land and resealing the roof of the building with blacktop.
White Eagle said doing the work to get the mausoleum and the surrounding property in better shape meant a lot to her and the others.
She said a lot of people passing by stopped to talk to them about the structure. Many said they hadn’t known it was there because of all the vegetation surrounding it.
“It was an opportunity for people to touch the past,” White Eagle said. “It’s part of our history of the area and it’s a recognition to the people there.”
She and the others were happy that Bullinger allowed them to clean up the property.
Bullinger was pretty happy, too.
“There are no words,” he said. “There’s no way I could have done this myself.”
While they worked, Bullinger told them some of the history of his ancestors and their lives in Campton Hills. He said the first of his ancestors was “the original” Garret Norton, who was born in 1802 and arrived in Illinois from New York in 1838. Norton tried his hand at farming in DuPage County for 10 years before moving west to Campton Township.
Norton purchased almost 700 acres of farmland in Campton Township, where he grew grain and raised dairy cows. He lived to be one of the oldest people in the area at the time, outliving two of his eight children when he died in 1890.
Bullinger, who was born in 1951, said 11 of his family members are interred in the mausoleum, the first being Garrett Norton’s son, George F. Norton, who died in 1912. More information is available about one of George F. Norton’s sons, Garrett Amos Norton, Bullinger’s great-great grandfather, who was born in 1859.
Garrett Amos Norton graduated from Rush Medical College in Chicago in 1884 and became a physician. He had medical practices in Aurora and St. Charles and was well known throughout the area.
Norton and his wife, Cora Florence Norton, had two daughters, Edith and Florence. Edith died in 1911 of tuberculosis at 21 years old, 17 years before penicillin was discovered in 1928. Bullinger said Dr. Norton opened a TB clinic in Aurora in his daughter’s honor.
Norton played a pump organ in front of the mausoleum for his mother, Frances Caroline, after she died in 1924 and was interred inside. The organ was placed inside the mausoleum, Bullinger said.
Two infants are interred in the mausoleum. One is Bullinger’s brother, Garrett Norton Bullinger, who was born and died on the same day in 1947. The other is Bullinger’s niece, his sister Cindy’s daughter, Lauri Bullinger, who was born and died shortly after her birth in 1967.
Bullinger said he is going to look into obtaining perpetual care for the mausoleum and the surrounding lot.
Bihun said it’s a historical landmark and makes a good impression welcoming people to Campton Hills.