Statue of Hononegah dedicated and unveiled in special ceremony


Community supporters were on hand at Hononegah Community High School on Sunday, Oct. 23 for a special dedication and unveiling of a bronze statue of Hononegah, the namesake of the school. Hononegah and her husband Stephen Mack Jr. founded the first permanent settlement in Winnebago County, located at what is now Macktown Living History in Rockton.

Judith Crane Truman, president of Rockton Remembers, talked about 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, Charlotte Porter Cannell Larrison, and Bonnie Gundry, treasurer for Rockton Remembers.

Sculptor Kate May Fitch and Art Casting of Illinois created a lasting tribute to the young woman. 

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

The ceremony

Hononegah senior Audrey Pigott sang 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.'"

“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.

The unveiling

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, Potawatomi, 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 Rock ton Remembers unveiled the display. Gene Truman, the 1956 HCHS graduate known as the "engine" behind the project, uncovered the history/bio plaque. Bonnie Gundry, class of 1973, revealed the “Letter to the Sister” plaque. Judith Crane Truman, another class of 1956 graduate and the "fire” behind the project, 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 dedicated their 60th class reunion to Hononegah, the woman.

About Hononegah

Hononegah was a young Ho Chunk/Potawatomi 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, WI. 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, WI, and Grand Detour, IL, where she first met Stephen Mack.

The Mack house was often opened up to those needing help, traveling through the area, or 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. Stephen Mack, their children were sent to live with family and friends in various parts of the country.

After her death, her husband was asked if Hononegah had been a Christian. He wrote back, "If I know what a Christian is, she was one. She not only died a Christian but she had lived one. Not by profession but by her every act."

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 project at the monthly meeting of the Rockton Township Historical Society on Jan. 24, 2022.

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

The sculptor Kate May Fitch shared about her work at Jill Rae Finally Art in Rockton on July 23, 2022.
Using software, Rockton-Roscoe News took two family photos of Hononegah's daughters, mixed in two more photos of Ho Chunk and Potawatomi women, and sent our version to the sculptor.
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