Dixon, Illinois

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Coordinates: 41°50′46″N 89°29′6″W / 41.84611°N 89.48500°W / 41.84611; -89.48500
The Neon Arch on Galena Avenue in Dixon, IL.jpg
The Dixon Memorial Arch.
Nickname: Petunia City
Country United States
State Illinois
County Lee
Elevation 712 ft (217 m)
Coordinates 41°50′46″N 89°29′6″W / 41.84611°N 89.48500°W / 41.84611; -89.48500
Area 7.86 sq mi (20 km2)
 - land 7.43 sq mi (19 km2)
 - water 0.43 sq mi (1 km2)
Population 15,733 (2010)
Density 2,519.8 / sq mi (973 / km2)
Timezone CST (UTC-6)
 - summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
Postal code 61021
Area code 815
FIPS code 17-20162
GNIS ID 2394537
Location of Dixon within Illinois
Location of Dixon within Illinois
Wikimedia Commons: Dixon, Illinois
Website: www.discoverdixon.org

Dixon is a city and county seat of Lee County, Illinois, United States.[1] The population was 15,733 as of the 2010 census, down from 15,941 at the 2000 census. The city is named after its founder John Dixon, who operated a rope ferry service across Rock River, which runs through the city of Dixon.[2]

Dixon was the boyhood home of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan. The city is also the site of the Lincoln Monument State Memorial, marking the spot where Abraham Lincoln joined the Illinois militia at Fort Dixon in 1832 during the Black Hawk War. The memorial is located on the west side of Dixon's main north-south street, Galena Avenue, (U.S. Highway 52 also Illinois Route 26), north of the Rock River.[3]


Around 1828, Joseph Ogee, a man of mixed French and Native American descent, established a ferry and a cabin along the banks of the Rock River. In 1829, an employee of Ogee was named postmaster at the newly constructed post office. John Dixon, the eponymous founder, bought Ogee's Ferry in the spring of 1830. Dixon brought his family to his new establishment on April 11 of the same year. Shortly after, the name of the post office was changed to Dixon's Ferry as well.[2]

On May 4, 1873, the Truesdell Bridge collapsed resulting in the deaths of 45 people. A large number of people were on the bridge in order to watch a baptism ceremony in the river below.[4]

Located on the Rock River, Dixon was the boyhood home of the 40th president of the USA, Ronald Reagan. In his teen years, Reagan lifeguarded along the banks of the Rock River. His family house is preserved at 816 South Hennepin Avenue, and authorized by Congress to become Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home National Historic Site. (Reagan was born in nearby Tampico, Illinois and moved to Dixon when he was 9 years old.)[5]

Running by Interstate 88 is a road named Bloody Gulch Road.[6] The road is named after a murder and body disposal. In the 1800s two men were playing in a pick-up game of baseball, one a farm hand and the other a traveling salesman. After the game the farm hand told the salesman of a place he could see his Bibles and proceeded to take him to the farm where he worked. As the two men passed a gulch the farmhand struck and killed the salesman with a bat used at the game. He then buried the body by an underpass. The body was later discovered when cattle refused to use the underpass en route to a milking barn. An overnight rain had washed away some of the dirt exposing a limb. When the sheriff arrived to question the farm hand, since he was seen leaving the game with the deceased, he pretended to get a drink while throwing a ring taken from the salesman in the bushes. The evidence was found and the farm hand was eventually put in jail for life, while the road over the underpass began to be called Bloody Gulch Road.[7]

In April 2012, Dixon Municipal Comptroller Rita Crundwell was indicted by a Federal Grand Jury for embezzlement (she had used the embezzled funds to pay for her lavish lifestyle and what became one of the nation's most well-known quarter horse-breeding programs, among other things). The extreme theft impacted Dixon's finances severely. Federal prosecutors placed the estimate of the embezzlement at $53 million, since 1990.[8] In February 2013, Crundwell was sentenced to 235 months (somewhat more than 19 1/2 years) in prison.[9]


Dixon is located at 41°50′46″N 89°29′6″W / 41.84611°N 89.48500°W / 41.84611; -89.48500 (41.846130, -89.485115).[10] According to the 2010 census, the city has a total area of 7.86 square miles (20.4 km2), of which 7.43 square miles (19.2 km2) (or 94.53%) is land and 0.43 square miles (1.1 km2) (or 5.47%) is water.[11]


As of the census[12] of 2000, there were 15,941 people, 5,681 households, and 3,488 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,519.8 people per square mile (972.3/km²). There were 6,138 housing units at an average density of 970.3 per square mile (374.4/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 86.33% White, 10.48% African American, 0.14% Native American, 0.82% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 1.10% from other races, and 1.09% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 4.30% of the population.

There were 5,681 households out of which 29.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.7% were married couples living together, 11.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 38.6% were non-families. 32.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.32 and the average family size was 2.94.

In the city, the population was spread out with 20.9% under the age of 18, 8.9% from 18 to 24, 34.6% from 25 to 44, 20.7% from 45 to 64, and 14.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 110.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 112.6 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $35,720, and the median income for a family was $45,088. Males had a median income of $32,511 versus $21,777 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,630. About 5.7% of families and 10.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 10.7% of those under age 18 and 12.0% of those age 65 or over.

Arts and culture[edit]

Every summer Dixon holds the annual Petunia Festival, featuring a parade, carnival (Farrow shows), country concert, fireworks show, and a 5k (approximately 3.1 miles) race—the Reagan Run.[13] The parade features a multitude of floats from surrounding businesses, politicians, and other area groups. A carnival is also held in Dixon during this time, and the festival ends with the Fourth of July fireworks.

The Petunia Festival was conceived after Dutch Elm Disease and highway expansion wiped out the trees along the major roads in the late 1950s. In response to the dramatic change the streetscape underwent, the Dixon Mens Garden Club first planting petunias along Galena Avenue to regain some sort of streetscape identity once again in the early 1960s. Before the festival, volunteers plant thousands of pink petunias all along the main streets. The flowers are watered and maintained by the combined efforts of city workers and volunteers.[14]

Abraham Lincoln Monument, located in Dixon's President's Park[15]

The city has an arch along Galena Ave., just south of the Rock River, that has the word "Dixon" in neon glasswork. Though commonly referred to as the Dixon Arch, the proper name for the structure is the War Memorial Arch.[16][17] The Northwest Territory Historic Center is a History Research and Learning Center housed in President Ronald Reagan’s boyhood South Central School. Restored with the dedicated support of the townspeople and Reagan colleagues, the Center is proudly affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution.

The Center houses the Veterans History Project Regional Center, auditorium, research library, historical exhibits, art gallery, surround-sound theater and museum store.

Parks and recreation[edit]

Veteran's Memorial Park[edit]

The City of Dixon's Veteran’s Memorial Park Commission was established to bring into reality the vision of a Memorial Park, which would be dedicated to all Veterans of Military Service. The words, “All Veterans,” the commission defines as all men or women from any state or territory belonging to the United States who was in the military at any time at either peace or war, and honorably discharged from the service.

No fee will be levied to enter this Memorial Park. It will be free to the public. Any man, woman or child, regardless of race, religion, color or nationality will be welcome to enjoy this Park at anytime day or night. For individuals that are handicapped, there will be a Handicap Friendly Ramp, a curbside loading and unloading access area, and benches for resting.

The second objective of the Memorial Park Commission is to secure a park where future generations can visit and gain knowledge of the sacrifice that has been made by millions of Veterans over the years. Artifacts from previous wars will be on display as a representation of the sacrifices that were made by the men and women who fought for their country.

On our entrance and exit arbor, as you visit the park, you will see the words “Lest We Forget.” These words are a gentle reminder to show appreciation for the sacrifice men and women in uniform have made to country. Their courage and valor must never be forgotten. It is the parks symbolism, built in their honor that this gratitude is kept alive.[18]

The Park District owns over 1,100 acres (450 ha) of land including 2 historic parks that were platted in 1842. All 30-plus sites are open for our community and visitors to enjoy. From Lowell Park's 200 acres (81 ha) which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, to rural Meadows Park which encompasses 567 acres (229 ha) of recreational opportunities with natural areas and farm land, to the neighborhood parks located throughout the city.[19]

Notable people[edit]

  • Tim Bivins: Illinois State Representative
  • Rita Crundwell: Noted breeder of quarterhorses, embezzled $53 million while Dixon Comptroller.
  • John Dement :19th century politician and military commander.
  • John Devine (cyclist): Professional bicycle racer.
  • Sherwood Dixon: Politician, 36th Lieutenant Governor of Illinois
  • Samuel Cook Edsall: Episcopal Bishop of Minnesota.
  • Daniel G. Garnsey: United States Congressman.
  • Jerry Hey: Five-time Grammy winner
  • Stan Hack:"Smiling Stan," third baseman and manager in Major League Baseball who played his entire career for the Chicago Cubs and was the National League's top third baseman in the late 1930s and early 1940s.
  • Jeanie Linders: Writer and producer of “Menopause: The Musical”
  • William H. McMaster: South Dakota State Representative, State Senator, Lt. Governor, Governor, US Senator, later banker in Dixon.
  • Ward T. Miller: Professional baseball player in early 1900s. Teams included Pittsburgh Pirates, Cincinnati Reds, Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Terriers (FL) and the St. Louis Browns
  • Ronald Reagan (boyhood home):40th President of the US, 33rd Governor of California, noted actor.
  • Rondi Reed: Tony Award-winning actress Actress and singer.
  • Charles Walgreen: Founder of drugstore chain. He grew up in Dixon and began his career as a pharmacist in Dixon.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]