Dixon, John

Born: 1784-10-09 Rye, New York

Died: 1876-07-06 Dixon, Illinois


Dixon spent his formative years in Rye, New York. At the age of twenty one, he moved to New York City and opened a clothing and tailoring business. While living and working in New York City, he became active in the temperance movement, and he also involved himself in the distribution of Bibles and other religious materials. In 1820, he sold his business and moved his family west for health reasons. He settled at Fancy Creek in what would become Sangamon County, Illinois, nine miles north of what would become Springfield. In 1821, Dixon was foreman of the first grand jury in newly-formed Sangamon County. In 1825, he moved to Fort Clark in Peoria County, Illinois, to take the position of clerk of the circuit court. He also served as recorder of deeds, justice of the peace, and contractor for postal service between Peoria and Galena. In 1829, he moved to Bureau County, Illinois. A year later, he arrived at Ogee's Ferry, site of a ferry across the Rock River in Ogle County, Illinois. Dixon purchased the ferry, and the area became known as Dixon's Ferry. He purchased land around the ferry and laid out the town of Dixon. In 1838, the Illinois General Assembly elected him a commissioner of the Board of Public Works for the Sixth Judicial Circuit. When the Illinois General Assembly created Lee County in 1839, he advocated for Dixon as the county seat, and in 1840, he succeeded in getting the land office moved from Galena to Dixon. Dixon played host to a number of prominent figures, including Abraham Lincoln. An early adherent of the Republican Party and supporter of Lincoln, Dixon represented Lee County at the Republican State Convention in 1856. A Baptist in religious orientation, Dixon was a charter member of the Baptist Church of Dixon. In 1808, he married Rebecca Sherwood, a union that produced twelve children.

Obituary, Dixon Telegraph, 13 July 1876, 1:3-5; Newton Bateman and Paul Selby, ed., Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Lee County (Chicago: Munsell, 1904), 706; Portrait and Biographical Record of Lee County, Illinois (Chicago: Biographical 1892), 831-32; Newton Bateman and Paul Selby, ed., Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois (Chicago: Munsell, 1901), 134.