Historic Macktown gets even better–now a workshop!

Historic Macktown gets even better–now a workshop!


The Gathering Committee of Macktown is planning a “Historical Character Development Workshop” to be held from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, July 28 at Porter Park in Roscoe. This workshop will be open to all persons interested in becoming a Living History Re-enactor or a Volunteer for the Gathering at Macktown. At this workshop, people will learn how to study and develop a historical persona, learn how to dress according to the time period and how much fun it can be to learn and understand our history in the Rock River Valley.

The last weekend of April has been the established date for “The Gathering at Macktown” for the past three years. Hundreds of fifth graders from school districts around Winnebago, Boone and Rock counties have attended the School Day held on the Friday of the event. These students and the visiting public have learned about the history of Macktown and about the life skills needed to live here in the Rock River Valley from re-enactors portraying people who have lived from 1670 to 1850. These re-enactors help teach and explain how trappers, traders, farmers, hunters and other frontier people lived, worked and survived in the Rock River Valley of northern Illinois. Next year’s “Gathering at Macktown” promises to be even better and more educational than ever.

Local re-enactors and history enthusiasts have come together and formed “The Gathering Committee” to help get things organized. The chairman is John Alexander of Roscoe; the other members are Ron and Charmane Dick, Thomas Hastings, Barbara Beal, Donna Sears, Harvey and Shirley Prosice, Ray Swenson and John Updegraff. Each of these people will be in charge of different parts of this historic event. From inviting historical re-enactors, planning a “Frontier Battle,” inviting merchants and food vendors, and planning how School Days will function, is in the very capable hands of these people.

Macktown is the oldest historic site in Winnebago County and is slowly being restored back to its original condition and the way the settlement would have looked in the 1850s. Stephen Mack and his wife, Hononegah, built the first wood-framed and painted house in this part of the Rock River Valley in 1839. Stephen Mack was a fur trader and a land speculator from the 1820s until his death in 1850. Stephen Mack’s town, known as Pecatonica, was built at the mouth of the Pecatonica River, where it enters the Rock River in Rockton, Ill.

Today, the Winnebago Park District has started the process of restoration. This work includes repositioning the old State Road, restoring Stephen Mack’s House and Whitman’s Trading Post. Work also includes removing non-native trees and replanting native grasses to restore the oak prairie that was originally here in the 1830s. The Winnebago Park District, in conjunction with the Macktown Living History Education Center, have long-term plans of not only restoring the buildings that once made up Stephen Mack’s town, but also to build a Visitor’s Center and a museum, which may even include a Pottawatomi Longhouse and gardens, for today’s people to better understand and appreciate the history of Winnebago County’s oldest historical site.

Anyone who is interested in registering for the workshop should call Ray Swenson at (815) 623-7386.

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