The Gathering at Macktown April 26-27 in Rockton

Staff Report

ROCKTON, Ill. — The 2014 Gathering at Macktown once again brings to life the days of the early Illinois frontier. This year, the annual event takes place the weekend of April 26-27. Hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday, April 26, and 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Sunday, April 27.

This historical re-enactment recreates the settlement founded by Stephen Mack in 1829, which was originally called “Pecatonic.” Located at the confluence of the Pecatonica and Rock rivers, it was a thriving community of about 300 people, with numerous buildings, including Mack’s home, a school, the Whitman Trading Post, Blinn’s Ferry, a tavern, furniture and shoemaker shops, trappers’ cabins and more.

Macktown is now a National Historic Site. Its history encompasses 10,000 years from early Native American occupations to now. Archaeological specimens are on display in the Education Center. You can talk with voyageurs, trappers, Native Americans, militiamen, settlers and craftsmen who have gathered to trade news and goods. There will be black powder shooting, archery, canoe landings, skirmishes, demonstrations of old-time crafts and lifeways — and more. Bagpipes will be played, and the Janesville Drum and Fife Corps will lead the way to a special flag-raising ceremony honoring the 200th anniversary of the Star-Spangled Banner, written in 1814.

A Gathering was a special time on the early frontier when once a year trappers, traders, settlers and Native Americans came together to trade, share news, have sporting contests and ofttimes even marry, often by “jumping the broom.” More civilized than an early Rendezvous, since it now included settler families, it was a greatly anticipated event that could last for several days.

In this living history event, visitors can feel themselves transported to a different time. Whether tasting homemade root beer or period foods, visiting the Native American village and experiencing a woodlands lifestyle, learning the proper way to throw a tomahawk, or strolling through a historic site seemingly untouched by time, they will experience the 1650-1850 eras of exploration, trade and early settlement.

On their stroll through time, visitors may meet Stephen Mack, Jr., his Native American wife, Ho-no-ne-gah, and children at the historic Mack Home. Mack was the first white settler in Winnebago County. This year, a “new” building is nearing completion – the furniture shop which also housed Mack’s granary and first schoolroom.

Both days at The Gathering will include a voyageur landing and opening ceremony at 10 a.m. and frontier skirmish features Rogers Rangers at 2 p.m. Period foods and crafts will be available for purchase. Admission is $7 adults, $5 students, free for ages 6 and younger. Free parking is on site at the Macktown Forest Preserve, 2221 Freeport Road (Hwy. 75), Rockton (north of the golf course).

From the April 23-29, 2014 issue

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