Stephen Mack, Jr. is accredited as being
the first permanent white settler in this region.
Born in Turnbridge, Vermont in 1798, he quit school in 1818 and joined his father in Detroit, Michigan to become a licensed fur trapper for the American Fur Company. His trade led him to Grand Detour where he met and eventually married a young Winnebago/Potawatomi girl by the name of Ho-no-ne-gah. In 1835 Stephen claimed 1,000 acres on the south side of the confluence of the Rock and Pecatonica Rivers where he started a settlement called Pecatonic. A federal census in 1840 lists the population of Pecatonic as 281 persons living in 50 households. In 1845 Stephen, his
brother and David Jewett built the first bridge across the Rock River to help the settlement grow. Stephen Mack and Ho-no-ne-gah, also known as Mary Hononegah, were the parents of 11 children, 2 of which died in infancy. Stephen placed a great emphasis on education and set up a one-room school in a building he owned next to his own. He paid the teacher's wages out of his own pocket. Eventually, a school/meeting house was built in the settlement.
Hononegah died in 1847. Many mourned her passing, for her kindness to those in need and skillful care of the sick were well known. Stephen passed away in 1850. The children were separated and most were assigned guardians in Michigan or Wisconsin. Mack's bridge washed away in 1851. It was never rebuilt. Residents eventually moved away, many to the north side of the river (Rockton) where a mill race provided waterpower for industry. Pecatonic is now known as Macktown. The settlement site has been designated a national historic site in the Macktown Forest Preserve. Stephen Mack's home and the limestone Whitman's Trading Post still stand, as well as the building that once housed the one-room school. It has been rebuilt on its original site and is known as the Stevens Shop since Sylvester Stevens, the young cabinet maker who lived and worked there. Many in the Stateline area recognize the name Stephen Mack Middle School, Hononegah Community High School, Hononegah Forest Preserve, Whitman Post Elementary, and the Macktown Forest Preserve. The legacies of these early settlers live on not only as names but in remembering what they hoped, dreamed and accomplished.
The destiny of man is - They come, they suffer, they go and are forgotten. But we shall leave no memorial to future generations of our existence. Shall we not add our mite to the general stock of knowledge, Morality, and Religion. Shall we not strive to make our descendants more happy, more virtuous than our ancestors. If so, we shall not have lived in vain, but shall have added a link to the progressive chain of perfection and future generations will honor us, not as individuals, but as part of a community who have employed their energies and wisdom for the amelioration and elevation of the human family. -Stephen Mack, 1848