Gathering at Macktown: A Living History Festival

The Winnebago County Forest Preserve District and the Macktown Living History Education Center will sponsor “A Gathering at Macktown” on Saturday and Sunday, April 24 and 25, at the Macktown historic site in Macktown Forest Preserve, Rockton. The Gathering is an annual living history event at the Macktown historical site celebrating frontier and Native American culture.

More than 200 encampments will participate in this year’s festival designed to bring Midwestern history to life. Macktown is the site of Winnebago County’s oldest settlement. Music, tours, crafts, demonstrations and authentically dressed re-enactors create a rich tapestry of tastes, sights and sounds that will take you back in time. Tickets are $5, children under 6 are admitted free. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Parking and free shuttle service are provided from the Hononegah High School parking lot.

This year’s event has an expanded historical scope including re-enactments from as far back as the mid-1600s. Numerous shows and demonstrations will be scheduled throughout the weekend including spinning wool, candle making, rope making, battle re-enactments and sword fights.

Visitors will be able to observe firsthand how our forefathers met their daily needs by spinning and weaving cloth, gardening, dipping candles, crafting weapons and other tools. Knowledgeable re-enactors from all over the country will also be demonstrating tomahawk and knife throwing and black powder rifle firing. Visitors will also enjoy old-fashioned leisure activities such as early American and Celtic music, refreshments and children’s games.

Part of what makes Macktown so unique is that it has historical significance for both frontier settlers and Native Americans. In the 1800s, when Stephen Mack married the Potawatomie chief’s daughter, Hononegah, both cultures coexisted in the area of the settlement at the Rock and Pecatonica River confluence.

This area’s Native American heritage will be an integral part of the Gathering. Local and visiting Native American scholars and demonstrators will provide basketry, beading, hide tanning and cooking.

The activities will center around the two oldest buildings in Winnebago County remaining from the village founded by Stephen Mack on the banks of the Rock River in 1833.

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