DIXON – Historian Duane Paulsen plans to take visitors back to the 1840s and ’50s during tonight’s sixth annual Founders Day celebration.
“I’m going to use my poetic license,” Paulsen said. “We’re going to comment on what people were seeing back then.”
Tonight’s lineup will include a presentation on the 100th anniversary of the Lincoln Highway, a program on the Devine family roots in Dixon, and the presentations of the Langan Award for Excellence in Local History and the McAlpine Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation.
The event, organized by Dixon Main Street, begins at 5 p.m. at the Dixon Historic Center, 205 W. Fifth St., with a $7 chicken strip dinner. Presentations follow at 6:30 p.m. Admission to the program only is free.
“I’m going to talk briefly about a couple of cross-country automobile trips that took place in 1903 and 1908,” Paulsen said. “A man named Horatio Nelson made a $20 bet that he could drive across the United States. Mind you, this was before gas stations or anything were common. ... He came through Dixon.”
Historian Greg Langan will talk about the Devine family, centered around John P. Devine, a state politician born in Dixon in 1878. He was elected to the General Assembly in 1912 and served for 24 years. He was the minority leader of the Illinois House of Representatives and also spent 2 years as Speaker of the House in the 1930s.
“He was one of the most powerful Democrats in the state,” Langan said.
Devine had 10 siblings who passed on a rich heritage in the Dixon area. A descendant, Marine Lance Cpl. Adam Devine, was wounded Dec. 28, 2011, in Afghanistan by an improvised explosive device; he lost both legs above the knees.
The Founders Day committee chose to feature Devine’s history because it will be his 100th anniversary of being elected this year.