By Marianne Mueller

Macktown Living History Terry Sorshy showed young visitors games that were played on a game board. Chess, Checkers and other unique games were played as a way to stay warm in the winter during the November Second Sunday event.

Macktown Living History is a hub of knowledge about Rockton’s past. Set in Macktown Forest Preserve Macktown overlooks the Rock and Pecatonica rivers in Rockton and are the remnants of Winnebago County’s first settlement. It was founded by Stephen Andrew Mack Jr. and his wife Mary Hononegah. In its original time Macktown was known as Pekatonic.

On the premises still sits the Mack’s two story home and store, and the Whitman Store. Past places on the property also included fur trappers’ cabins, a trading post and other homes belonging to the population of 200-300, a furniture store, a schoolroom, a shoemakers shop, a tavern. A ferry bridge traversed the Rock River. Following Stephen Mack’s death in 1850 and the destruction of the bridge in 1851 the Macktown settlement failed to thrive. The northern part was prosperous and that area became known as Rockton in around 1846 or 1847.

Passing on this information in an interesting way to families and individuals is one of the main reasons behind the forming of “Second Sunday” events.  On the second Sunday of each month volunteers, guest presenter’s reenactors and Macktown volunteers open doors to learning history in a creative and interactive fashion.

The goal of these events is to expand knowledge of the history of the area to the public.

Since the beginning of this series in 2018 a variety of topics have been brought to life. Archaeology, native culture, and gardening, farming, and fiber arts just tap the surface of subjects presented. Another focused on how to raise chickens in your backyard.

 Time frames for topics run from pre-historic times through 1850.

October’s event revolved around a fall favorite; apple cider.  Attendees learned about its history, and were given an explanation of how to make the cider, and the best types of apples to use. Apple varieties that are used depend on how sweet or acidic cider is being made.

All had an opportunity to take part in a tasting cider.

In November of 2021 guests had the opportunity to experience hands on fun while reliving how settlers prepared to get ready for the winter. In cool winter temperatures, willing volunteers were guided by Macktown Living History volunteers Connie Gleasman and Mike Bost. Gleasman advised on the best way to split timber into useful firewood. Both volunteers showed the proper technique to those giving it a try. Volunteers used a heavy axe and a large saw to accomplish this mission.

Gleasman explained which type of wood is best to use to start a fire and how it is dried and stored.

Inside the Whitman Trading Post volunteer Terry Sorshy showed young visitors a game board with basics such as chess and checkers. Other unique games were also featured.

In December, Christmas was celebrated honorary an old time Christmas classic.  The historic Mack House was the home of the reading of the well-known poem of ‘Twas the Night before Christmas.’ Also shared was background of this tale.

The story behind this popular Christmas staple began on Dec. 23, 1823 when the poem, “A Visit from Saint Nicholas” was published anonymously in the “Sentinel,” the local newspaper of Troy, New York.

Originally this piece offered a different take on Santa Claus, a figure who was, until that time traditionally depicted as a thinner, less jolly horse-riding disciplinarian; a combination of mythologies about the British Father Christmas, the Dutch Sinterklaas, and the fourth-century bishop Saint Nicholas of Myra.

The poem in the newspaper painted a different picture. It gave Santa eight reindeer, and even named them; it described a Santa who could magically sneak in and out of homes down chimneys; and it created the cheerful, chubby icon that is known today.

‘Twas the Night before Christmas is what this poem had been renamed, often a tradition carried on in many homes still today.

Thirteen years after it was first published Clement Clark Moore took credit for its authorship; though his claim to the poem is now in question. Many believe that it was actually penned by New York writer Henry Livingston.

Bring your family and friends to the site on Jan. 9 for the next even of this series to learn different ways of getting around in the winter.

In addition to Second Sunday events Macktown Living History holds other events year-round such as the Frenchman’s Frolic, education days where local students or youth are welcomed, and Saturday workshops. MLH has partnered with the Rockton Township Historical Society on different events. Earlier this year both organizations met at to enjoy time together at an ice cream social.

Information on all upcoming events can be found on a Facebook page and the organizations website.

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