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Dixon, Illinois

The Dixon Memorial Arch.
Nickname: Petunia City
Country United States
State Illinois
County Lee
Elevation 712 ft (217 m)
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
Wikimedia Commons:
Website: .org.discoverdixonwww

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.[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. Dixon is part of two fast growing distribution and warehousing and food processing districts. One is I-88 WEST and the other is the I-39 Logistics Corridor. The biggest industries are healthcare and government. Healthcare employs over 1,700, while government jobs approach 1,500. The Spectrum Brands. Fifteen miles away in Ashton, Crest Foods employees over 600.

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]


  • History 1
    • Founding 1.1
    • Ronald Reagan 1.2
    • Other notable historical events 1.3
  • Geography 2
  • Demographics 3
  • Arts and culture 4
  • Parks and recreation 5
  • Notable people 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9



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.[2]

Ronald Reagan

Dixon is the boyhood home of the 40th president of the USA, Ronald Reagan. Reagan was born in nearby Tampico, Illinois and moved to Dixon when he was 9 years old. 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]

Other notable historical events

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.[6]

Running by Interstate 88 is a road named Bloody Gulch Road.[7] 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.[8]

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 most well-known quarter horse-breeding programs, among other things. Crundwell's crime, thought to be the most substantial municipal theft in U.S. history,[9][10] impacted Dixon's finances severely. Federal prosecutors placed the estimate of the embezzlement at $53 million since 1990.[11] In February 2013, Crundwell was sentenced to 235 months (somewhat more than 19 1/2 years) in prison.[12]


Dixon is located at (41.846130, -89.485115).[13] 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.[14]


As of the census[17] 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

The city of Dixon has numerous art venue's including: a downtown art gallery, 2 galleries held in museums, and several private business galleries. Also, a performing arts theatre called "Dixon Stage Left", and a musician and visual arts co-op called "Rosbrook Studio."The city has numerous festival's 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 (approximately 3.1 miles) race—the Reagan Run.[18] 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 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.[19]

Abraham Lincoln Monument, located in Dixon's President's Park[20]

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.[21][22] 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

The Park District owns more than 1,100 acres (450 ha) of land including two historic parks that were platted in 1842. The parks range 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.[23] Lee County, which Dixon is the County Seat, is full of recreational areas and campgrounds. Within 17 miles of the city there are over 7,000 campsites. Chicagoland residents come in droves in summer weekends adding 20,000 people to the population.

Notable people

See also


  1. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  2. ^ a b "History of Dixon". Retrieved 2015-07-28. 
  3. ^ "Google Maps". Retrieved 2015-07-28. 
  4. ^ [6] Archived December 6, 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "Reagan celebrating 73rd year with visit to his boyhood home". Spokane Chronicle. 6 February 1984. Retrieved 5 June 2014. 
  6. ^ [7]
  7. ^ "Bloody Gulch Rd, Dixon, IL 61021".  
  8. ^ "Bloody Gulch Road and Early Justice". Lee County Historical Society. Retrieved 2012-09-06. 
  9. ^ 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. 
  10. ^ Jenco, Melissa (15 February 2013). "Ex-Dixon comptroller gets nearly 20 years for theft". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 5 June 2014. 
  11. ^ [8] Archived May 4, 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ Don Babwin (2013-02-14). "Former Dixon bookkeeper who stole $53M gets nearly 20 years - News - Journal Star - Peoria, IL". Retrieved 2015-07-28. 
  13. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990".  
  14. ^ "Places: Illinois". 2010 Census Gazetteer Files.  
  15. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  16. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  17. ^ "American FactFinder".  
  18. ^ "Dixon Petunia Festival - Official Website". 2015-07-05. Retrieved 2015-07-28. 
  19. ^ [9] Archived November 26, 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ "Lincoln Monument". Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. Retrieved 9 October 2012. 
  21. ^ [10] Archived August 17, 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ "John Deere Historic Site - City of Dixon Illinois Official Website". Retrieved 2015-07-28. 
  23. ^ "Dixon History | General | About Us". Retrieved 2015-07-28. 

External links

  • Official website
  • Dixon Public School District 170
  • Lee County Genealogical Society
  • Welcome to Dixon, Illinois
  • Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home
  • Galena Trail and Coach Road
  • Dixon Chamber of Commerce
  • Ronald Reagan Trail
  • Rock River Trail One of only fourteen National Water Trail Systems in the United States
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