Edson Irving Carr.

The history of Rockton, Winnebago County, Illinois, 1820 to 1898 online

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Online LibraryEdson Irving CarrThe history of Rockton, Winnebago County, Illinois, 1820 to 1898 → online text (page 1 of 18)
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3 1833 01074 5401


OF I^OG}<TO^],


1S30 to l©OH.









To prevent as far as possible the history of Rockton from
being lost to coming generations, has been the chief motive
in writing this book. Aside from the information obtained
from various records, the author is greath' indebted to a num-
ber of old settlers, who have furnished very ma}' facts which
would have been lost to the next generation. To all such the
author would return very grateful thanks, especially so to
V William Halle3% W. F. Packard. Mrs. Jesse Blinn, Seely Perrj-,
Mrs. David Carpenter, Mr. and Mrs. W.F. Merrill, E. J. Chase,
T. M. Coons, Geo. Royden, E. W. Martin, N. B. Kincaid, Mrs.
S. Stevens, J. J. Clover, E. J. Veness, W. H. Farmer, D,
Newell, J. C. Truman, Leonard Thurston and many others.

To gather all this material from a great variety of sources,
has tak(Mi much time and some expense, but it has been un-
dertaken more as a labor of love, than from any pecuniary
benefit the author may derive from the sale of the book.

If the citizens of Rockton and those who have formerly
4ived here appreciate the effort to faithfully preserve the his-
^orj' of the town and its people, the autlior will l)e very thank-

Respectfull}' sul)niitt(-'d,

Edsox I. Cakk.



Rockton, one of the northern tiers of townships in Winneba-
go county, Illinois, is beautifully located in the famous Rock
river valley, and unsurpassed foritt fertiiit}" of soil and the in-
telligence and integrity of its inhabitants. Litile was known
of this desirable section of the country, prior to the Black
Hawk war of 1832. After the close of that war in 1833, the men
who had composed the army of some 3,000 soldiers, mainly
drawn from the southern part of the state, ver3^ readil}- ac-
quainted their neighbors of the rich and desirable lands of the
north part of the state, and quite an emigration thereto was
stimulated, and also from the eastern statt s.

Previous to this time this section had o ily been visited by
some enterprising Indian traders, who could See quite a busi-
ness speculation in trafficing with the natives for their rich
products of furs. The best known of these Indian traders in
this vicinit)' was Stephen Mack, who on the advent of the first
white settlers in 1835, lived with his Indian wife with a tribe
of Winnebago Indians in the grove about two miles down the
river, which was sul)se(piently known as Bird's grove, on lands
now owned by Caleb Bentley, Esq., of this town. The remains
of the old fire-places where this tribe was encamj)ed so man\'
j'^ears are still distinctly visible.


The following paragraph was kindly contributed by Corne-
lius Buckley, Esq., of Beloit, who has made the early history
of Rock river valley a study for years:

"There are excellent reasons for believing that what is now-
called Bird's grove, on the left bank of Rock river, was know^n
to, or at least was visited by white men very early in the 18th
century, and prior to 1720. K. W. Martin informed me that in
1875 he was present and took the dimensions of several old su-
gar maples, which had been felled in the grove, the largest of
which — 162 rings from the outer bark — bore evidence of having
been tapped for maple syrup. Several oi tiie trees showed ev-
idence of having been tapped when quite 3 ouiig. The tapping
was done with a chisel and gouge, leaving a cavity near the
heart of the tree which the natural outer growth had covered
and entirely concealed. This cavity was so concealed by an out-
er growth of 162 rings, demonstrating according to the usual
method of reckoning the age of trees, that the chisel and gouge
had been used 162 years prior to 1875, or as long ago as 1713.
Several trees bore similar evidence of age and tapping. Of
course no Indian in these parts as long ago as the first quarter
of last century, possessed such instruments. This could be
easil}^ demonstrated, when we pause to consider that Ft. St.
Louis, now Starved Rock, near Utica, on the Illinois river, v.'as
less than eighty miles distant, and it was occupied as a fortress
as late as 1718, and even later, we can at least intelligent!}^
comprehend how a band of roving Frenchmen may have made
maple sugar there before 1728."


Stephen Mack the Indian trader had the honor of being the
first w^hite man who settled in Rockton township, and proba-
bly in Rock river valley. He was born in Poultney, Vermont,
in the month of February, in the latter part of the past century.
He attended Dartmouth college, in New Hampshire, for a time,
but seemed to have left the college before he graduated. He
came west to Detroit with his father's family, soon after the
close of the war of 1812, where his father held some position
under the government, and might havehad some connection
with the fur trade business. Ambitious to start out in life for
liiinself, and prompted by his love of adventure, Stephen Mack
joined a government expedition, around the lakes from De-


troit to Green Bay. While there he came in contact with some
fur traders, and learning from them that the Rock river coun-
try would be a good place to establish a trading post, he ac-
cordingly struck across the country with an Indian pony, and
arrived on Rock river near the place where Janesville was af-
terwards located. He then followed down the river until he
came to an Indian settlement then known as the Turtle village
near the present Beloit junction. Here he learned of the Indi-
an camp at Bird's grove, and started out to lind it from such
directions as he could gather from the tribe, but taking the
wrong trail he went on down the river until he finally reached
a Pottawatomie village at Grand Detour. Here he located and
for two or three years traded with the Indians there, taking
their furs in exchange for his articles of traffic, and carrying
his merchandise to and from Chicago on the backs of Indian

Mack's relation with this tribe was not productive of the
best of feeling; and although he had taken the chief's daught-
er, Ho-no-ne-gah, for his wife, still his life was in danger, be-
cause he refused to sell firearms and liquor to the tribe. Du-
ring one of his trips to Chicago with three of his ponies, a plan
was fully matured to dispose of him on his return and take
possession of his effects. His Indian wife learning of their in-
tentions, was on the lookout for her husband's return, and
meeting him far out from camp, apprised him of his danger.
It was quick work for her to mount one of the ponies, and to-
gether they started out for the Winnebago tribe at Bird's grove,
virhere they were gladly w^elcomed and promised protection.
It became their fu4;ure home for a number of ^''ears.

His Indian wife was a very faithful and devoted w^oman. She
was largely absorbed in the care of her home and children,
save when sickness of the early settlers called for her kind
and skillful care and attention. Then with her supply of na-
ture's remedies which the Great Spirit had so kindly spread
out all around her, she would seek out the afflicted and bring
sunshine and relief to many a suffering one who fell a prey to
the ills of a new^ country. The high tribute of respect to Mack's
Indian wife was genuine and sincere, and although of a dusky
hue, she possessed a noble soul and did all she could to make
those around her comfortable and hapj)}'.

Not onlv in sickness were her many virtues shown in a mark-


ed degree, but the poor and destitute around her incident to
the struggles of many an early settler, shared of her provisions
in a generous manner. She delighted in doing good. Onl^^ once
\^as she knownto assume the garb of her pale-face sisters, and
then it was by great solicitation; but she felt so ill at ease, and
afraid to make herself conspicuous, she soon laid it aside and
for ever after "was content with the costume of her tribe. Mrs.
Jesse Blinn vsrho was a near neighbor, says of her: 'She was
very skillful in ornamenting her clothing. She made herself
for extra occasions an Indian dress of fine blue broadcloth,
•with a border five inches deep all around it, worked with vari-
ous colored ribbons; her taste in blending colors to have a pleas-
ing effect was very fine, and her needle work almost perfect.
Many articles about her home bore T\dtness of her skillful
handiwork. Being a Pottawatomie, she like her tribe, felt a-
bove the Winnebagoes in skill, and showed much ability in
fashioning many articles of merchandise."

Mrs. Mack's relatives from Grand Detour, often came to visit
her, and on such occasions she would array herself in her best
garments, visit their tents and for a brief time be a child of
nature again. She died in July, 1847, leaving a child about a
year old. She was the mother of eleven children, two of whom
died in infancy.

Mack Avas living in peace and quietude with the Indians
at the breaking out of the Black Hawk war. After the battle
of Stillman Valley, when that renowned chief visited this
tribe to induce them to follow him on his journey northward.
Mack used his influence against such a movement; and
although Black Hawk was very angrj^ with the wdiite trader,
the little tribe remained on their old camping ground, and
the great chief marched on without them.

It is said that the feeling was so strong against Mack during
the visit of Black Hawk, that the chief of the tribe advised him
to go aAvay for a time for personal safety. Accordingly he pri-
vatelj^ went to an island in the river, now known as Webber's
island, where he was supplied with food by his faithful wife
until it w^as safe for him to return. This may bean actual
fact or a romance, but it is given for what it is worth.

In accordance \vith a treaty made with Gen. Scott, in Kock
Island in the fall of 1832, the Indians were to be removed from
the state in 1833, which was officially done b}' the war depart-


ment at a cost to the government of $50,000. In speaking of
this outlay of government funds, Mack used to say that he
could have done the job for $10,000. Several roving bands of
Indians remained in the state for years afterwards, but they
had no fixed place of abode.

With the indications of a speedy settlement of Rock river
valley, Mack conceived the idea that the bluff at the mouth of
the Pecatonica river would be a good place to locate a town
in view of river navigation, and w^as in correspondence with a
Mr. Bradstreet, of Albany, N. Y., on the advent of the first
white settlers in 1835. It w^as then considered that the Peca-
tonica river was a .navigable stream for one hundred miles
from its mouth, and Rock river one hundred and fifty miles
up into the territorj^ of Wisconsin. With this large* prospect
in view, the mouth of the Pecatonica river was a very desira-
ble location for a town.

Accordingl}^ Mack took possession of this tract of land in
the fall of 1835, and permanently resided there until his death
in 1850. The place took the name of Macktown, which it still
retains, although the once flourishing settlement has entirely
disappeared, save the substantial farm house which he built
there in his lifetime.

Mack had his town platted as he owned all of section twen-
ty-three south of Pecatonica river and sold many lots. In the
height of his prosperit\^ he valued a corner lot near his store
at $1,000. When told that his land was too uneven for a town,
he said "it is far better than Milwaukee."

He established a ferry across Rock river about 1838, and it
was run for a time by William Hulin, who afterwards became
quite a prominent man in the county. This ferry w^as then
bought ])y Jesse Blitin and carried on bjMiim till the building of
the Mack bridge, and licensed under the regulations of the
countj^ commissioners' court, which allowed the ferryman to
charge for wagon and two horses, 621/2 cents; single wagoi/i and
one horse, 37I/2 cents; man and horse, 25 cents; and each foot-
man 6V4 cents. A ferryman w^ho exceeded these charges was
liable to have his license revoked for which he had paid $10.

About 1842-3 Mack built a bridge in the place of the ferr^-,
mostly at his own expense. This w^as the first bridge across
Rock river in the state. After going through various stages
of repairs from damages b}- ice and floods, it was entirely car-


ried away in the great freshet Sunday morning, June 1st, 1851,
and w^as never rebuilt, as another bridge had been previously
established a inile farther down the river which so changed
the course of travel and Macktow^n w^as left so far to one side
of the road to neighboring tovs^ns that its growth was greatly
retarded. As Rockton with its developed water power began
to grow, Macktown correspondingly began to decline in pros-
perit3^. Many buildings were taken down and moved across
the river to add to the general growth of Rockton.

Mack was a man who had received a good education, and
possessed a large share of executive abilit}^ He took an ac-
tive part in the formation of the new county and its develop-
ment. By Indian treaty stipulation with the government,
half-breed children had a certain amount of land or its equiva-
lent in money. By a settlement with a government cotnmis-
sioner Mack received about $5,000 on account of his chikiren
by an Indian mother. This amount of money at tliat earl}' day
enabled him to employ men and make a good deal of improve-
ment, and to possess himself of a large quantity of land. He
also loaned money to many an early settler to enter his land. At
the time of his death he owned besides his large Macktown
farm, land in section twenty-six, and all of section twentj^-eight
south of the Pecatonica river, amounting in all to about one
thousand acres. On the latter tract he built a house and es-
tablished a dairy farm which was in charge of a man by the
name of Stocker. A son of this man married Mack's daughter

Mack kept the first store and was patronized by the first set-
tlers as well as by the Indians, bringing his goods from Chi-
cago on Indian ponies before the advent of wagons. This traf-
fic must have been very remunerating in those earl}' times,
especially so with his Indian customers. In later j^ears he
associated his cousin, Merrill E. Mack, \vith him in his store.

Although Mack had taken his squaw wife under the Indian
form of marriage, but to j:)ut to rest any question of legality
on this point and make his children full heirs-in-law he and
his wife were remarried September 14, 1840, by William Hulin,
justice of the peace.

Mack was elected associate justice in 1819, and held the of-
fice as long as lie lived. He was a]:)pointed the first township
treasurer of the school fund, and at this time Wait Talcott,


Henr}' O. Brown and William Hallej^ were township trustees.
On the adoption of township orgaization in 1850, Mack was a
candidate for the first supervisor, and was only beaten bj^ a
few votes by his popular rival, Sylvester Talcott.

Some time after the death of his Indian w^ife Mack mar-
ried a Mrs. Daniels, of Harrison, for a second wife. The
marriage was performed in Beloit. He died very suddenly on
the 10th of April, 1850, and was buried on his own farm beside
his Indian wife who had been his faithful companion for so
many years.

Mack had eleven children b}^ his Indian wife, two of whom
died in infancy- The oldest living child was Rose, a mute,
who was sent to the deaf and dumb as3dum at Jacksonville,
She afterwards married a mute and became a teacher there.

Mar3'^ married Charles Stocker.

William married Julia Stocker, sister of Mary's husband, and
had two children before he left Macktown. He assisted in set-
tling up his father's estate and showed considerable business
talent. He carried on a brick 3'ard for a time in Macktown, in
connection with his brother-in-law Charles Stocker.

Louisa attended the Kockford Female Seminary for a time,
but confinement was too much for her free, untamed, nature.
Whenever she took a notion to come home, she would start off
without giving notice, and walk the whole distance. She mar-
ried L. L. Curtis. They now live at Glenn Flora. Chipawa Co.,

Thomas and Ed\vard are the names of two other bo3's. There
was one b3^ the name of Henr3% who died in 1847, about nine
3'ears of age.

Matilda and Caroline were the 3^oungest of the famil3\ Car-
oline was but a babe when her mother died, and about four
years of age at the death other father. Matilda had a part of
section twent3'-eight allotted to her on the settlement of her
father's estate. This tract was subsequently platted and is
now known on the assessment book as "Matilda Mack's sub-
division." Shorth' after the settlement-of their father's estate,
the children all left Macktown, some settling in Minnesota and
some in Wisconsin, where the3" now reside.

The remains of Mack and his Indian wife were buried on a
part of his farm and the lot surrounded with a fence. Thirty
vears after ^vhetl the graves were sadh' neglected, the3' were


removed to the Phillips cemetery, near Harrison by some of
Mack's old friends. The following extract from the Rockton
Herald, of May 21st, 1880, will explain this transaction:

"The remains of Mack and his Indian wife were removed on
Wednesday from where they were buried on the Mack farm
over thirty years ago, and interred in the Phillips cemetery
in district No. 3. The bones were in a good state of preserva-
tion, even the hair and comb of Mrs. Mack were little changed,
but the coffins were so badly decaj^ed as to easily' crumble to
pieces when disturbed. It is intended to ei^ect a suitable stone
to commemorate their remains. A glass bottle vt^as deposited
with the remains containing a printed paper as follows:

"If in the course of time this paper should meet the eye of
any person, be it known that the remains buried here are those
of Stephen Mack and his Indian wife, Ho-no-ne gah.

"Stephen Mack was born in Poultney, Vermont, Februar3^
1799,* and settled in this county about 1822 as an Indian trad-
er, and continued as a resident until his death in 1850. Mrs.
Mack having previously died.

"At the time of Mack's death he owned all of section twen-
ty-three in this township south of the Pecatonica river, and
resided thereon at the time of his death. He was buried not
far from where he lived by the side of his wife on his own
land. Soon after his death, his children sold the land and
went to Minnesota with their mother's friends, and at this
time there are no relatives of Mack here.

"The place where he was first buried being in a large field,
and the land under cultivation over his remains, the under-
signed friends of Mack and his wife in their lifetime, have
moved the remains to this place, and placed a tombstone over
the same. This is done out of respect and friendship for our
departed friends.

"Stephen Mack was the first permanent white inhabitant of
Rock river valley. He was a good citizen, a generous friend,
a gentleman in deportment and an honest man.

J. R. Jewktt,
William Halley,
Rockton, May 19th, 1880. R. H. Comstock."

Henry Lovesee, now of Roscoe, tells when working for Mack

*Soinc think this is not correct, for he must have been from ton to fii'teen years older when
he died than this date would nialie him.


in the fall of 1837, of taking a load of corn with an ox team to
lake Koshkonong to Thiebeau, an Indian trader, and returning
with a load of furs. There was only one settler on the entire
route. On his return the weather became extremelj^ cold, and
his onl}^ provision some corn bread was frozen so hard that he
had to break it up with a hatchet into small bits and thaw it
<:ut in his moutli. Tired, cold and hungry he arrived at Mack's
late at night.

Here we close the brief life sketch of Stephen Mack. In
man^^ respects he was a remarkable man. Born of sturdj^
New Kngland parentage, cradled among the green hills of the
old Green Mountain state, his youthful spirit struggled for a
larger scope than the narrow environments of his humble
home. What could have prompted a man of his abilit}^ to hide
away so many years from civilization may never be known.
One has it that death had robbed him of the idol of his man-
hood's cherished affections, and he sought for solace away
from the scenes which had brought him so much sorrow.
Others say an insidious appetite ^vas creeping in upon him,
when he arroused himself and fled from the haunts of civiliza-
tion, choosing rather the home of the children of nature. And
again through a keen foresight he may have caught a glimpse
of the wonderful development of the w^est. and Avanted to be
first to see the rising sun of civilization and prosperity spread
all over the great prairies. How far his great aspirations
w^ere realized cannot be told, ^et he succeeded in being a man
of prominence in his time, and his name will be handed down
in the annals of Rockton as a man of man^^ virtues, of strict
integrity and of unquestionable honesty of purpose.


Know all men b3" these presents, that I, Stephen Mack, of
Pecatonic, Winnebago county, and state of Illinois, being of
sound health in body and' mind at this time, but knowing the
uncertainty as to a continution of these blessings, and believ-
ing it the l)ounden dut}' of ever3' man of family so to settle and
arrange his worldl3' affairs as to render needless all litigation
and contention about his estate after his decease, as well as
a supreme lawof God antl Nature, that the father shall provide
to the l)est of his abiHty for his offsprings.


Therefore be it known, that I do hereby revoke all former
wills and that I do now and forever will and decree, that when-
ever it shall please the Almighty God to recall my spirit from
its earthly tenement, my funeral charges shall be paid, that
all just debts be paid, and that all property of which I may die
possessed, and that shall remain after the above-mentioned
payments are made, shall be equally and equitablj^ divided a-
mong my wife and children, ^vhose names are as follow^s, viz:
My wife Ho-no-ne-gah, my children Rose, Mary, Willi-am, Lou-
isa, Thomas H. and Henry C. Mack, to each and everj^of them
an equal share, or one-seventh of the whole, and that should
any one or more of them die before attaining to maturit}^ his
or her share shall be equally divided among the survivors.

I do furthermore will and decree, that my administrators, if
not appointed by me before my decease, shall be appointed by
the proper court of probate, and they shall be appointed with
a view of their acting as guardians to my children during their
minorit3^ or until some one of them shall be competent to act
for him or herself, at which time the administrators and guard-
ians shall account with him or her for all the property they
may havereceived from my estate, reserving to themselves a
fair remuneration for their services as guardians and admin-
istrators, and that the child, be it he or she, first attaining to
competency and receiving the property from the administra-
tors as above designated, shall froin that, time become the sole
guardian for the others, and shall apportion to each and ever}^
of the others, brothers and sisters, their equal and just share
as fast as they become competent to manage for themselves.

It shall be the option of my wife at anytime to withdraw her
share from the rest and conduct for herself or to leave it in the
hands of the guardians with the children. It is furthermore
iny will that my children be well educated and that their
guardians pay particular attention to this subject, also that
they have all reasonable support and allowance during their

From a probabilit}^ of many changes in my propert}^ from
sales and purchases, &c., I refrain from designating any por-
tion of it at this time, but a reference to my deeds and to the
records will show in part of what mj^ propert3' consists, the bal-
ance is known to my wife.

I hereby ajipoint the Rev. William Adams and Merrill E.


Mack, both of this place, my executors and administrators, and
sfuardians of my children; and I require of them a true and

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Online LibraryEdson Irving CarrThe history of Rockton, Winnebago County, Illinois, 1820 to 1898 → online text (page 1 of 18)