A long time ago we were known as...
... the "Macktown Restoration Foundation." The organization has evolved through the years, but had its beginnings in 1952 when the historic home of early settler Stephen Mack Jr. and wife Ho-no-ne-gah was scheduled to be razed. It was saved by a petition of 700 signatures and a core group of 100 residents formed The Rockton Township Historical Society.
The Winnebago County Forest Preserve District continued to maintain the outside of the house and grounds, but the Historical Society assumed the responsibility of restoring the
inside of the house and opening it to the public. In 1976 the Macktown settlement site was designated as a National Historic District. Years later it was also designated "The Great Indian Warrior/Trading Path" by the National Society, Daughters of the American Colonists in recognition of earlier Native American presence on the site.
In 1981 the Historical Society began a campaign to raise funds to restore the original walnut flooring that had been destroyed by powder post beetles. In 1990, a group was formed to deal specifically with restoring the entire historic village, including the existing limestone Trading Post. It became the Macktown Restoration Foundation. The Forest Preserve District and this group worked together on plans to restore the historic settlement and alter the golf course to make room for these plans. In April of 1992 the Foundation sponsored a living history event called "Step Back in Time... a Macktown Living History Celebration." Years later this event became known as "The Gathering at Macktown."
Macktown Restoration changed its name in 1998 to Macktown, a Living History Education
Center. Plans were made to build an Education Center which would serve as a museum, visitors center, office, and base for college
students participating in summer archaeological digs. This was an ambitious but highly necessary project if the historic site was ever to grow. Funds were eventually raised and the Education Center was built just outside the entrance to the Historic District in 2004. The group decided to open the Center with a bang and applied for the "Between Fences" traveling Smithsonian exhibition. It was due to arrive, but there still were no chairs, tables, or display cases... New volunteers joined the ranks and helped things come together. The exhibition was a success. The historic road was completed the following year.
In 2012 a rare opportunity arose ... a building due to be demolished was offered to Macktown on the premise that it was an original settlement building that had been moved to Rockton (according to Forrest Beck who lived in the
house as a young boy, the building had been slid across the frozen Rock River.) A few volunteers stepped up to the challenge of dismantling the building. They did it in four months. As it lay on the ground in pieces, someone noticed a faint signature on one of the beams. It was Stephen Mack's!
The building had been rented to Sylvester Stevens, a young cabinetmaker. The upstairs served as Mack's granary and the first one-room school in the county. It was eventually reconstructed where it originally stood next to Mack's home. Building codes required new lumber, but one interior wall displays the original timbers. Now known as the "Stevens Shop," it awaits furnishings and tools to be a working part of the living history site.
In 2014 the Forest Preserve District received a grant to construct a barn near the Trading Post. Although this barn was not original to the settlement, it serves to screen the electric transformer and golf course well and provides storage for firewood used during encampments and provides a corral for animals.
Site development continues. Volunteers are currently working on an archaeological signage program for the site. Future plans include
building a working blacksmith shop, a French trapper's cabin, and the possible reconstruction of the residence and shoemaker's shop of original settler Henry Bates.
In 2018 Macktown, a Living History Education Center adopted the name which most of the community has come to know us by: Macktown Living History.