By Marianne Mueller

A stunning bronze statue of Hononegah was dedicated and unveiled on Sunday, Oct. 23 at Hononegah High Community High School. The project started as a dream and came to life thanks to many generous community donations.

Community supporters were on hand for a special dedication and unveiling on Sunday, Oct. 23 at Hononegah Community High School (HCHS).

Judith Crane Truman, President of Rockton Remembers presented the Hononegah statue project at the Board of Education meeting on Oct. 19. Truman recognized members who worked alongside her from the organization and where each stepped in to bring this dream to fruition.

That evening she was joined by Gene Truman, Bonnie Gundry – Treasurer – Rockton Remembers, and Charlotte Porter Cannell Larrison.

Kate May Fitch and Art Casting of Illinois created a lasting tribute to the young woman Hononegah who helped settle Rockton and the northern area of Winnebago County.

A stunning bronze statue of Hononegah sits at six feet with a wrought iron fence; sitting by the field house. Limestone bases were used along with four plaques. The project was funded solely from generous community donations.

The ceremony opened with senior Ms. Audrey Pigott singing our National Anthem to perfection. All recited the Pledge of Allegiance.

HCHS Superintendent Mike Dugan recognized members of the Board of Education and expressed gratitude for their support of this project. Dugan gave special recognition to the Building and Grounds Department; especially Director Dave Berg. The construction trades class under the instruction of Jason Glodowski helped in making the frames for the signs in the donation drive.

Ringland Johnson Construction partnered on this project. The project manager Brett Palmer is an alumni of HCHS who took great pride when the statue came off the lift in the crane to put her in place.

Dave Kurlinkus honored Hononegah’s memory. “As a school board we always look forward but today it is appropriate to look backward into our past. It is important to look at the history of who Hononegh was. This is not something that is made up; a historical figure that may or may not have existed. She was a real human being,” Kurlinkus said.

“She lived here. She raised her family here. The most striking thing is that Hononegah was born 200 years ago. She died in 1847, some 75 years after that they saw fit to name the high school after her. Her name is on a road and on years of graduating classes diplomas; each is spelled out as hyphenated- Ho-No-Ne-gah.”

“Hononegah is celebrating 100 years this year. It is appropriate and fitting that we dedicate this statue.”

“When part of this building was dedicated, Hononegah’s daughter and grandchildren were in attendance. It is amazing how we are tied to the past,” Kurlinkus added.

“After she died the postmaster said, ‘The best woman in Winnebago County died last night.’”

Some of her neighbors were in attendance at her funeral.

“We hope this statue impacts people just like her namesake school impacts students.”

Kurlinkus spoke of two murals of Hononegah, one that sits in the lobby of the Performing Arts Center lobby and another in the field house.

Judith Crane Truman recognized all who made the statue coming to fruition possible through a variety of donations.

“I gained much knowledge from the Ho Chunk, Pottawatomie and Winnebago nations. I hope that with the statue more education will be added into the curriculum on our heritage in the grade school and high schools,” Truman said.

Dignitaries from Rockton Remembers unveiled the display. Gene Truman, known as Engine behind the project, and a 1956 HCHS graduate uncovered the history/bio plaque. Bonnie Gundry; Class of 1973 revealed the “Letter to the Sister” plaque. Judith Crane Truman; “The Fire” and Class of 1956 graduate showed the appreciation plaque. Artist-Sculptor Kate May Fitch and 1959 graduate Charlotte Larrison – “The Dreamer” behind the project unveiled the stunning masterpiece.

Larrison expressed gratitude to everyone who made this dream come true.

In September of 2021 Charlotte Larrison proposed the idea of having a statue of Hononegah built. Larrison researched different sturdy materials that could be used to create a stunning piece.

The Class of 1959 had their 60th class reunion and dedicated it to Hononegah. The woman.

Hononegah was a young Ho Chunk Pottawatomie girl who married Stephen Mack Jr. in 1829. Stephen Mack and Hononegah helped settle this northern area of Winnebago County. She lived successfully in two cultures while raising nine children.

She was born in 1814 in the Four Lake Region; now known as Madison. She was named by her parents, “ Hinu Nik Wiga.”

She was orphaned by the age of seven and raised by uncles in Prairie Du Chien, Wis., and Grand Detour, Ill., where she first met Stephen Mack.

Hononegah was said to have been a Christian, dedicated to all she loved.

The Mack House was often opened up to whoever needed help, those traveling through the area or who were just visiting. Everyone from Indians, fur traders, local residents, friends or family were well fed and allowed to stay as long as they needed to.

Hononegah had plenty of healing herbs and plants around to aid local residents when they became ill. She became well known for her talents.

She died in 1847 at the age of 33 from liver complications. After the death of Stephen Mack, their children were sent to live with family and friends in various parts of the country.

Prior to working on the statue Fitch made a composite of two of Hononegah and Stephen Mack’s daughters.

Fitch was a guest speaker at Jill Rae Finally Art where she shared future plans for the project with the public who had a chance to “Meet the Artist.” One of the Rockton-Roscoe Rotary lunch and learn programs featured Fitch.

Larrison presented the idea at the Rockton Township Historical Society.

What was once a dream is now a beautiful remembrance proudly standing on the grounds of the high school bearing Hononegah’s name.

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