Devoted Volunteers: the Heart of Macktown

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Don and Linda Sonneson received the 2020 Illinois Association for the Advancement of Archaeology (IAAA) Lifetime Volunteer Award. Because of the pandemic they did not receive their award until October of 2021 at a dinner in their honor. Don and Linda were nominated for the award by the Board of Macktown Living History (MLH) for their over 20-year dedication to gathering information about the founding of the Macktown (known in the 1840s as Pecatonic) and about those pioneer settlers who lived there. Don and Linda have constructed a computer file containing all the information they have collected and are sharing their knowledge with MLH members and with the Rockton Historical Society.

In the introduction to that computer file, Don explains how their interest in Macktown began:
As a retired Illinois Land Surveyor, I became interested in old Winnebago County history. After retirement in 2000, my wife and I began researching a few of this county’s residents. Naturally, this brought us to the life of Stephen and Ho-No-Ne-Gah Mack. As we chanced upon bits of information and documents, we would add them to our collection of tidbits. Our searches have included Government Survey field notes, Stephen Mack’s letters, Talcott letters, the narratives of 1835 Winnebago County Settlers, Oakland County Historical Society in Pontiac, Michigan, Burlington, Iowa court house records and Genealogy Bank newspaper articles, government depositions in the book “Neither White Man nor Indians” by Linda Waggoner.

The computer file, arranged chronologically, is a time line for the history of Macktown. More information can be added as it becomes available. Uncovering the complex history of Macktown is ongoing and every bit of information adds to its story.

In addition, Don has recreated the lost original 1836 plat of Macktown using land deeds he and Linda have found. The plat has helped archaeologists locate old roads and structures, and clarify or question the ownership of particular blocks and lots. And while making these contributions to history, both have participated in educational programs for the public and have been active on various committees. In particular, Linda has been MLH’s liaison to the Rockton Historical Society helping to place Macktown in its historical and geographical context.

All of us who have worked with the Sonnesons are honored to know them as colleagues and friends.

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