Dixon has a great history, particularly concerning the settlement of northern Illinois. When John Dixon established his postal route from Peoria to Galena, little did he know that at the time he purchased Ogee’s Ferry, he would establish a city that would play a significant part in Illinois history.
The location of Dixon on the Rock River provided a gateway for hundreds of miners moving north to Galena to find their fortune in lead mining, which actually preceded the California gold rush. Dixon, unlike many other Rock River Valley area traders, treated the local Indians with respect and tried to provide the best quality goods he could find for trade.
As the kernel of the developing area, Dixon’s Ferry, established in 1828, would play a significant role in the Black Hawk War and the construction of Fort Dixon on the north bank of the Rock River. It would play an important role for military strategies and protection for the nearby settlers.
Fort Dixon was in a good location, halfway between Fort Armstrong near present day Rock Island, Fort Clark near present day Peoria, and Fort Dearborn on the Chicago River. Gen. Henry Atkinson, who arrived in the Rock River Valley after the first armed confrontation during the Black Hawk War at Stillman’s Run, made Fort Dixon his base of operations.
Also, keep in mind that three future presidents and other future political leaders would spend time at Fort Dixon.
Illinois militia Capt. Abraham Lincoln from Sangamon County, U.S. Col. Zachary Taylor, and his future son-in-law, Lieut. Jefferson Davis, served tours of duty at Fort Dixon. Col. Winfield Scott, who led an army from the Port of Chicago along Army Trail Road, arrived at Fort Dixon near the end of the war.
The well-known statue of Capt. Lincoln, perhaps the only one to show him wearing a militia uniform, was erected in 1930 in Dixon.
A great addition to this town’s historical attractions would be the rebuilding of Fort Dixon near the exact location where the original once stood.
Not only would this be a good addition for Dixon, but it would add greatly to Lee County history, Illinois history, and general U.S. history.
The Reagan home and riverfront dedication to President Ronald Reagan is a tribute specifically to the people of Dixon, but think of how the rebuilding of Fort Dixon would not only enhance the city’s history but would stand as a monument, in general, to all the early settlers who attempted to defend themselves from what many historians have referred to as “the unnecessary Black Hawk War.”
Take a look at other rebuilt forts in Illinois, such as Fort Apple, Fort Massac, Fort Creve Coeur, and Fort Mathieson near Starved Rock State Park.
The Petunia Festival is a very popular event in northern Illinois, and a Fort Dixon annual celebration might someday be an added annual event for Dixonites to celebrate. It would provide education for the coming generations of not only Dixonites, but for everyone in the state.
Note to readers – Heinz-Dietrich Suppan, a former instructor at Sauk Valley Community College, is an adjunct professor at Joliet Junior College and a German and history instructor at Marquette Academy, Ottawa.