Frenchman's Frolic 2021 at Macktown Living History


Dan "Fluteman Dan" Nolan from Hanover, IL plays the hurdy-gurdy at Frenchman's Frolic at Macktown Living History on Oct. 16, 2021.

Frenchman's Frolic welcomed visitors and reenactors on October 16 & 17 at the Macktown Living History site. The annual event is a free opportunity to come and walk through and experience life in a pre-1850s rendezvous camp as Macktown founders Stephen Mack. Jr. and his wife Hononegah might have experienced it.

Canceled last year because of COVID-19, the weekend represented a relaxed end of the season for reenactors and a chance to "revel" when visitors are gone.  They wore pre-1850 apparel and were glad to explain the items they brought or made, without necessarily playing a 19th century character. Revolutionary War re-enactors joined with French revelers for the weekend.

Saturday included a silent auction of items, many of them donated by re-enactors. Mike Bost, a Macktown board member who has participating in historical events at Macktown for almost 30 years, says all the proceeds benefit Macktown Living History. 

For reenactors, tent set-up began Friday, Oct. 14. The camp fee was $35.00 per lodge for the weekend, more than it would have cost 200 years ago, but very reasonable for 2021. On the other hand, did pre-1850s French trappers have wood & water provided, ice available, even showers available? ("Ouf! Ice available? Oh, we had plenty of ice available... in the winter! Ça rend intéressant de voyager en canoë, n'est-ce pas?")

On Saturday, participants held a black powder shooting match near the old quarry. Sunday featured a Ladies Skillet Toss, organized by Mike Bost on the Old State Road which runs through Macktown. When that was completed, it was time for a Mens Skillet Toss, where men had to wear a bonnet and apron to compete.

Since Frenchman's Frolic represented a gathering of traders, trading as well as frolicking took place. Reenactors took the opportunity to add to their supplies of historic equipment or apparel. One participant sold tents. Two Master Gardeners, one from Illinois and one from Wisconsin, sold heirloom seeds and plants they had collected from the Heritage Gardem and the Medicinal Garden which they maintain at Macktown.

Blacksmith Chris Hubbard discussed the merits of coal vs. charcoal with another blacksmith. He said that one bag of metallurgical grade coal will last him several days. The other blacksmith agreed, but said that since he lives surrounded by trees, he can make his own charcoal.

Richard Hamilton, a glass and stone etcher from Harvard, loudly shot off his American cannon, which uses a 12-pound cannonball but would often have been loaded with grape-sized shot. He brought a British cannon too - his trailer wasn't big enough for all his other cannons. Hamilton also teaches Native American crafts such as cordage (using plant fibers) and flint knapping (using stone). He demonstrated the geology and physics behind making a stone axe out of flint or chert.

In his tri-cornered brown hat,  Dan "Fluteman Dan" Nolan from Hanover, south of Galena, cranked out a tune on a six-string hurdy-gurdy, a mechanical violin with up to 85 parts that was played in 12th century churches. He quips, "Those guys may not have bathed too often, but they knew a thing or two." Nolan started out playing the tin whistle but now owns several Native American flutes, including a double flute with a drone. 

The third weekend in April, The Gathering at the Two Rivers, formerly The Gathering at Macktown, will continue its almost-30 year tradition. Reenactors representing traders and voyageurs (French-speaking fur transporters) will make camp along the confluence of the Rock and Pecatonica rivers to demonstrate the lifestyle of the founding days of Macktown and to sell early-1800s crafts.


9:00 a.m. - Open to the public

9:00 - Opening ceremony: colonial militia at flagpoles

9:30 to 3:30 - Silent auction at marquee tent

10:00 - Seminar: The Black Plague with Dr. Hubbard at education center - all welcome

11:00 - Range opens

1:00 - Post shoot with Ray Swenson at the quarry

3:00 - Learn to play the dulcimer at Nancy Garrett's camp on the State Road

4:00 - Closed to public

All day:

Blacksmith class and demos with Chris Hubbard at blacksmith shop

Shoe making at Norm Walzer's camp on the State Road


9:00 a.m. - Open to the public

10:00 - Seminar: The French inhabitants at Macktown with Dr. Rochelle Lurie at Education Center

12:00 - Tomahawk throw, with Mike Bost at hawk block near Trading Post

1:00 - Ladies Skillet Toss with Mike Bost, Old State Road

Mens Skillet Toss immediately following (Note: men must wear bonnet and apron)

3:00 - Closing ceremony: colonial militia at flagpoles

All day:

Blacksmith class and demos with Chris Hubbard at blacksmith shop

Shoe making at Norm Walzer's camp on the State Road

Schedule is subject to change

View a image gallery below of the Frenchman's Frolic weekend.

Macktown walking tour map
Richard Hamilton from Harvard,IL demonstrated his cannons at Frenchman's Frolic in Rockton, IL on Oct. 16, 2021.
Black powder shooting competition at the old stone quarry at Macktown, on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021 at Frenchman's Frolic
The Sylvester Stevens Shop
The Mack House at Macktown Living History
The Whitman Store and Residence at Macktown
I'm interested
I disagree with this
This is not local
This is unverified