Rockton Township votes to donate to three historical organizations


Bushnell Wheeler Home, South Beloit, IL

Rockton Township is showing strong support of Macktown Living History, Rockton Township Historical Society, and South Beloit Historical Society through generous donations to each.

Per a resolution drafted by Rockton Township attorney Doug Henry, the Township authorized up to $10,000 from the township's general fund to be donated to a non-profit museum or historical society, to be equally divided between the three non-profit corporations. Any funds paid to a non-profit museum or historical society must be used solely for the maintenance and operation of the society or museum.

Before the donations can be made, the township board must determine that the general fund contains funds not derived from a township tax levy, and that those funds aren't needed for township purposes during the remainder of the current fiscal year, and the township Board of Trustees has determined that the general fund has accrued interest; and that interest also isn't needed for township purposes during the fiscal year.

Through these contributions it will allow a greater promotion and preservation of history in communities.

Rockton Township Historical Society (RTHS) was formed in 1952 as a result of community interest in saving the Stephen Mack house in the Macktown Forest Preserve from demolition. This effort was spearheaded by the women of the Rockton Woman’s Club. After successfully meeting this goal, the society maintained a museum in that building for over fifty years.

There were 100 charter members in 1952. In 2002, a special 50th anniversary program was held to honor several of those charter members of the group, one of whom (Pat Hopkins) is still living in Rockton.

In 2022 Rockton Township Historical Society celebrated their 75th Anniversary while also commemorating the 125th anniversary of the Rockton Woman's Club.

The Macktown Museum contained historic items donated by area families including items from the Mack family.

In 1993 the society purchased the Fassett/Ellingson home on Green Street in Rockton for additional space. Two additions to that site, one in 1999 and one in 2003, have allowed them to bring their complete collection into one area.

Since the formation of the Historical Society, these museums have been open to the public one weekend day throughout the summer months. Currently the museum is open on Saturdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., April through September, and by appointment for tours. In addition they hold educational programs, usually the evening of the fourth Monday of most months, as well as other special events and fundraisers. Last month the featured program was on Fairbanks Morse History and USS Beloit.

On April 23 at 1 p.m, the public is welcome to once again relive the days of the Wagon Wheel Resort. A Wagon Wheel historian will lead everyone on this journey into the past.

Rockton Township Historical Society is an all volunteer organization and relies on donations and fundraisers for necessary expenses.

In addition to the original circa 1865 “grout house” furnished in period style, their other areas feature a farm room, old settlers bedroom and kitchen, Mack family and Native American displays, military items and uniforms including displays about Civil War Brigadier General Elon Farnsworth.

A large area is devoted to items from Walt Williamson’s Wagon Wheel Resort, early settlers, and local business and industry.

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 Hononegah.

In its original time Macktown was known as Pekatonic.

On the premises still sits the Mack’s two story home and the Whitman Store building. Past buildings 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 school room, a shoemaker's 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. But across the river, the northern settlement prospered and became known as Rockton in around 1846 or 1847.

Frenchman's Frolic, The Gathering and Second Sunday events draw those who love Rockton history to learn more about where Rockton began and how early Settlers lived. More information can be found about events on the MLH Facebook page, or call 815-624-4200.

South Beloit Historical Society owns and operates the Bushnell-Wheeler Home. Its history dates back to 1850 when Professor Jackson Bushnell of Beloit College began investing in real estate after admiring the view of the bluff south of Turtle Creek and purchasing the land. In 1856, Reverend Alexander Montgomery, the agent for the American Board of Foreign Missions, purchased five acres of which the house stands to build a retirement home for missionaries. The house was completed and he lived there three years before dying in 1860.

Various events happen year round at the society such as an ice cream social in the month of June, Christmas events. The property is open for tours upon request, and for weddings, both indoor and outdoor.

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