Dixon, Illinois

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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; -89.48500Coordinates: 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)
Mayor Liandro Arellano Jr
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 in 2000. The city is named after founder John Dixon, who operated a rope ferry service across Rock River, which runs through the city.[2] The Illinois General Assembly designated Dixon as "Petunia Capital of Illinois" in 1999 and "The Catfish Capital of Illinois" in 2009.

Dixon is a regional employment hub and is part of two fast growing distribution and warehousing and food processing districts: one is I-88 West and the other, the I-39 Logistics Corridor. The biggest industries are healthcare and government. Healthcare employs over 1,700, while government jobs approach 1,500. The Dixon Correctional Center employs over 600 workers, as does the Department of Transportation. KSB Hospital has nearly 1,000 employees. Dixon has many industries employing thousands of the region's residents. The largest are Raynor Garage Doors, Donaldson Inc., Borg Warner, and Spectrum Brands. Fifteen miles away in Ashton, Crest Foods employees over 600.

Dixon is a regional center for healthcare. The community has KSB Hospital which is a medical student teaching facility, 4 adult clinics, a children's clinic, 2 dialysis centers, 2 urgent care clinics, and is home to Sinnissippi Mental Health Center and the Northern Illinois Cancer Center. There is also a hospital, an infirmary, and a clinic for the mentally il at the Dixon Correctional Center. The Mabley State Mental Health complex is also located in Dixon.

Dixon is 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]



Circa 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 that year. Shortly after, the name of the post office was changed to Dixon's Ferry.[2]

Ronald Reagan[edit]

Dixon is the boyhood home of the 40th president of the United States, Ronald Reagan. Reagan was born in nearby Tampico and moved to Dixon, aged nine. In his teen years, he lifeguarded along the banks of the Rock River. His family house is preserved at 816 South Hennepin Avenue, and authorized by Congress to become the Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home National Historic Site.[4] In 1984, during his first term as president, Reagan returned to Dixon to celebrate his 73rd birthday. He toured his boyhood residence and the city held a parade in his honor.[5]

Rita Crundwell[edit]

Main article: Rita Crundwell

In April 2012, Dixon Municipal Comptroller Rita Crundwell was indicted by a Federal Grand Jury for embezzlement. She used the embezzled funds to pay for her lavish lifestyle and what became one of the nation's best-known quarter horse-breeding programs, among other things. Crundwell's crime, thought to be the most substantial municipal theft in U.S. history,[6][7] impacted Dixon's finances severely. Federal prosecutors estimated the amount embezzled at $53 million since 1990.[8] The city sued the auditors who had failed to detect the embezzlement and the bank at which Crundwell maintained a secret account, and received $40 million in settlements.[9] In February 2013, Crundwell was sentenced to almost 20 years in prison.[7][10]

Other notable historical events[edit]

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.[11]

Running by Interstate 88 is a road named Bloody Gulch Road.[12] 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.[13]


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).[14] According to the 2010 census, Dixon has a total area of 7.862 square miles (20.36 km2), of which 7.43 square miles (19.24 km2) (or 94.51%) is land and 0.432 square miles (1.12 km2) (or 5.49%) is water.[15]


Historical population
Census Pop.
1860 2,218
1870 4,055 82.8%
1880 3,658 −9.8%
1890 5,161 41.1%
1900 7,917 53.4%
1910 7,216 −8.9%
1920 8,191 13.5%
1930 9,908 21.0%
1940 10,671 7.7%
1950 11,523 8.0%
1960 19,565 69.8%
1970 18,147 −7.2%
1980 15,710 −13.4%
1990 15,144 −3.6%
2000 15,941 5.3%
2010 15,733 −1.3%
Est. 2015 15,319 [16] −2.6%
U.S. Decennial Census[17]

As of the census[18] of 2000, 15,941 people, 5,681 households, and 3,488 families resided in the city. The population density was 2,519.8 people per square mile (972.3/km²). The city consisted of 6,138 housing units at an average density of 970.3 per square mile (374.4/km²). The city's racial makeup included 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 comprised 4.30% of the population.

Of 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]

The city of Dixon has numerous art venues including: a downtown art gallery, 2 galleries held in museums, and several private business galleries. Dixon also has a performing arts theatre called Dixon Stage Left, and a musician and visual arts co-op called Rosbrook Studio. The city has numerous festivals throughout the year including: Gardenstock Arts & Music Fest, Venitian Night on the Riverfront, a downtown wine festival, Blues-Brews-and BBQ, Reagan Trail Days, and the fall Scarecrow Festival.

Every summer Dixon holds the annual Petunia Festival featuring a parade, carnival (Farrow shows), country concert, fireworks show, and a 5K race—the Reagan Run.[19] 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 Downtown district has become a National Historic District. The Rock River which runs through the center of Dixon has been designated a National Waterway by the Federal Government.

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 Men's Garden Club planted petunias along Galena Avenue to regain some sort of streetscape identity once again in the early 1960s. Before this annual festival, volunteers plant thousands of pink petunias along the main streets. The flowers are watered and maintained by the combined efforts of city workers and volunteers.[20]

Abraham Lincoln Monument, located in Dixon's President's Park[21]

An iconic arch along Galena Avenue, just south of the Rock River, features 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.[22][23] 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]

The Dixon Park District owns more than 1,100 acres (450 ha) of land including two historic parks platted in 1842. The parks range from Lowell Park's 200 acres (81 ha) which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places; rural Meadows Park which encompasses 567 acres (229 ha) of recreational opportunities with natural areas and farm land; to neighborhood parks located throughout the city.[24] Lee County, of which Dixon is the County Seat, offers many recreational areas and campgrounds; over 7,000 campsites are located within 17 miles of the city. Chicagoland residents take advantage of Lee County's recreational opportunities, particularly during summer weekends, adding approximately 20,000 people to the area's population.

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Archived from the original on 2011-05-31. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  2. ^ a b "History of Dixon". Dixonil.com. Retrieved 2015-07-28. 
  3. ^ "Google Maps". Maps.google.com. Retrieved 2015-07-28. 
  4. ^ "The Ronald Reagan Trail: Welcome to Dixon". Archived from the original on 6 December 2013. 
  5. ^ "Reagan celebrating 73rd year with visit to his boyhood home". Spokane Chronicle. Associated Press. 6 February 1984. p. 6. 
  6. ^ McDermott, Kevin (November 2012). "Big theft, little city: Dixon's former comptroller is accused of stealing $53 million from Ronald Reagan's hometown". University of Illinois Springfield. Illinois Issues. Retrieved 5 June 2014. 
  7. ^ a b Jenco, Melissa (15 February 2013). "Ex-Dixon comptroller gets nearly 20 years for theft". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 5 June 2014. 
  8. ^ "Feds: Illinois city official actually stole $53M". CBS news. 2 May 2012. Archived from the original on 4 May 2012. 
  9. ^ "$54M Dixon theft now subject of college courses". Chicago Tribune. April 18, 2015. 
  10. ^ Babwin, Don (2013-02-14). "Former Dixon bookkeeper who stole $53M gets nearly 20 years - News - Journal Star - Peoria, IL". Pjstar.com. Retrieved 2015-07-28. 
  11. ^ [1][dead link]
  12. ^ "Bloody Gulch Rd, Dixon, IL 61021". Google Maps. Retrieved 2012-09-06. 
  13. ^ "Bloody Gulch Road and Early Justice". Lee County Historical Society. Retrieved 2012-09-06. 
  14. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  15. ^ "G001 - Geographic Identifiers - 2010 Census Summary File 1". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2015-12-27. 
  16. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2015". Retrieved July 2, 2016. 
  17. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Census.gov. Archived from the original on May 11, 2015. Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  18. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on 2013-09-11. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  19. ^ "Dixon Petunia Festival - Official Website". Petuniafestival.org. 2015-07-05. Retrieved 2015-07-28. 
  20. ^ "History". Dixon Petunia Festival. Archived from the original on 26 November 2013. 
  21. ^ "Lincoln Monument". Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. Retrieved 9 October 2012. 
  22. ^ "Things To See". Dixon, Illinois. Archived from the original on 17 August 2012. 
  23. ^ "John Deere Historic Site - City of Dixon Illinois Official Website". Discoverdixon.org. Retrieved 2015-07-28. 
  24. ^ "Dixon History | General | About Us". Discoverdixon.org. Retrieved 2015-07-28. 

External links[edit]