Macktown schoolhouse gets ready for move

Rob Baxter

Once it’s reassembled at its original site at the Macktown Forest Preserve, the home-turned-schoolhouse of Rockton founder Stephen Mack could feature a window that would allow visitors to see firsthand how things were built in the 1800s.

But first there’s the small issue of raising about $200,000 to restore and build the structure, which is in its final stages of being taken apart this week.

Now local preservationists want to move it back, where it will become a key component in their continuing efforts to restore the Macktown settlement to what it was like during its heyday from 1830 to 1846. But first, they must raise tens of thousands of dollars.

“We are looking to store it in a safe, inside storage facility for up to two years depending on how our fundraising goes for reconstruction” at its original site, said Ray Ferguson, president of Macktown Living History group.

Volunteers began disassembling the structure in May. This week, all that remains is a large pile of wood and the hand-hewed timbers, posts, beams and joists that formed the frame of the historic structure.

Linda and Don Sonneson, group volunteers, said any doubts that the structure belonged to Mack and once was his home and a schoolhouse have been erased after charred timbers from a known 1840s-era fire were discovered. In letters to his family, Mack detailed the school and a fire caused by a stove. Evidence of the fire was found as the structure was disassembled, Linda Sonneson said.

Don Sonneson said Mulligan Restoration is spearheading the project, which involves numbering each piece so it can be put back together correctly, cleaning and removing of nails in the timbers and preserving the timbers.

The group is talking about storing the timbers in the basement of the Trading Post, part of the Macktown Settlement, but members are unsure if the longest piece — a 32-foot beam that runs across the second floor of the home — will fit inside.

Local historian George Thomas said the group would prefer storing the pieces in one spot.

“It should be dismantled by the end of September,” said Ferguson. “We can probably store it in the basement of the Trading Post. But we might have a problem with that one piece.”

Staff writer Rob Baxter can be reached at 815-987-1369 or rbaxter@rrstar.com.