Lee County Illinois
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Accounts from the books of John Dixon

Ogee had built a log cabin near the ferry landing, and Mr. Dixon after his arrival added to the building. The ferry landing as operated by both Ogee and Dixon was at what is now the foot of Peoria avenue in the city of Dixon. The log house stood about three hundred feet south of the river bank near the present intersection of Peoria avenue and First Street and upon what is now lots 5 and 6 in block 7 of the original town of Dixon.

The log cabin was in two parts, a one-story structure erected by Ogee and a two-story portion built by Mr. Dixon. Between the two houses and forming a part of the one-story building was a ten or twelve-foot hallway with a door at either end, facing the north and south. Entering the hall from the south, on the west was the family sitting room and on the east the travelers' and hired helps' rooms, each about eighteen feet square. The furniture of the west room consisted of two beds, a number of chairs and a table extending nearly across the room. The east room contained four beds, one in each comer. Father Dixon lived here until 1836 or 1837 when he moved to a house which stood a few rods southeast of the present location of the Chicago & Northwestern railway station. The original log cabin stood until 1845, when it was destroyed.

The store room in which he traded with the Indians was in the east part of the cabin, in the two-story portion, and there he sold powder, lead, shot, tobacco, pipes, cloth, blankets, guns, beads, traps, etc., or exchanged them for furs and deer skins, which he would ship to St. Louis, Peoria or Galena.

When John Dixon reached the Rock River and established his house at Ogee's ferry he was forty-six years of age, strong, hearty, vigorous and thoroughly acquainted with the frontier. He had had ten years experience in the West. He had traveled the then new State of Illinois from one end to the other on horseback and on foot. He had met and lived with and among the Indians, had be-come their friend, and was recognized by them as such. Though in the prime of life and in the best of health his hair was white and was worn long, giving him the appearance of age. The Winnebago Indians, with whom he was always on terms of friendship, called him, "Nada-chu-ra-sah," or "Head-hair-white,'' which term in common speech was soon contracted to "Nachusa." The early white settlers not long after Mr. Dixon's arrival at the Bock River began to call him "Father" Dixon and from thence on he was so termed and in speaking of him since his death it is usual to so characterize him. An old friend and early settler, John K. Robison said: "His personal appearance was almost unchanged from 1827 to 1876, his hair being white during all those years; age dealt kindly with him."

In addition to operating the ferry Mr. Dixon carried on the business of an Indian trader, exchanging blankets, knives, guns, powder, traps, cloth and other necessaries for furs and selling or trading such articles to the white settlers as well. He also conducted a tavern in his cabin and kept overnight the travelers to and from the Galena lead mines.

In 1827 or 1828 Charles S. Boyd and his family moved from Springfield to Boyd's Grove in the present county of Bureau and about the same time O. W. Kellogg and family settled first at Kellogg's Grove in Stephenson County; later at Buffalo Grove, in order to be near the Dixons. Buffalo Grove is now a part of the town of Polo, Ogle County and twelve miles from Dixon. The Dixon, Boyd and Kellogg families were the first permanent white settlers in the territory between Peoria and Galena. After that settlers became more numerous, a few locating in the neighborhood of the ferry and others at eligible spots in the neighboring country.

Ogee's settlement was first known as Ogee's Ferry and a post-office by that name established, a man by the name of Gay being the first postmaster. Mr. Dixon was appointed postmaster of Ogee's Ferry by commission dated Sept. 29, 1830. Afterwards in 1834 the name was changed to Dixon's Ferry and he was appointed postmaster of that place and served as postmaster until 1837.

The log cabin of his son James P. Dixon, which stood on the south side of First street between Galena avenue and Ottawa avenue and which was built in 1834 was for many years, in part used as a post office. It had a room built on the side as a "lean-to" about 10x10 feet, where the post office was kept. Before that time the post office was at the John Dixon cabin.

Reference is several times made in this sketch to John Dixon's account book. Two books were kept by him and are still in existence. One is an account of sales and other transactions with the Indians and whites and begins very soon after he settled on the Rock River. The entries in the other book are principally during and immediately after the Black Hawk war period.

The first entry in the older of the two books is as follows:

Wm. Kirkpatrick, Dr.
April 29, Self and horse one night and ferriage N 1.25
May 10, Same S 1.25
Oct. 21, Self and father in-law and horses, one night and ferriage 2.50
Led horse ferriage and keeping and 2 buck-skins 2.75

The name of Joseph Ogee appears frequently in this book the first entry under date of April 29, 1830, with many others on pages 27-28, 47 and 48, and the aggregate charges against him for goods sold and money advanced being in excess of $500. Ogee evidently had a family as is evidenced by a charge of for "2½ yds. lining for children clothes 50c," "2 caps for sons $2.50," "2 pr. shoes for sons $2," "2 pr. socks for sons 75c," "2 pr. mittens for sons 75c," "cash to Margaret to go to Fort $2."

It appears that in those days muskrat skins were of considerable value as on June 28, 1830 (Book p. 16) , Mr. Dixon sold forty skins at 20 cents each to H. B. Stillman and on Aug. 22, 1830, sold eighty-five more to the same person at 15 cents each and on Sept. 20, 300 more for $60.

The usual charge for ferrying of a man and horse, as shown by frequent entries on the book was 25 cents, for each meal 25 cents and for a night 's lodging the same amount.

By this book it seems (p. 24) that on Sept. 10, 1830, he loaned to J. M. Strode, who was a character of some note in those days the sum of $5 and afterwards on Oct. 20, made a charge against him of 62½ cents for dinner, horse feed and ferriage. There are no credits of payment of this account and indeed a large number of the accounts seem to be still due and unpaid.

On page 45 is found a record of a sale of furs to P. Menard, Jr., under date of May 30; 1831, as follows: 3 "rats" 4 "auter, " 5 "coon, " 6 "mink" and "bunch rabit. "

There are a large number of entries of this character. July 10, 1831, Edward Hall Dr. Ferriage of wagon, four yoke of oxen and one hors $2.75. Or. By cash $1.00.''

Many travelers were apparently ferried across the river and paid but a part of the bill as money was scarce and he took the chances of being paid the remainder some other day.

The last half of this book is made up of charges against the Indians for goods sold to them, among the names of those with whom he dealt are:

Indian Charges

Patchunka Chief Crane
Old Quaker
Old Blue Socks son
Old Grey Headed Pottawatomie
Old Gray Heads fat son.
Tall rawboned Pottawatomie who came with the gambler
Old White Head Pottawatomie's son
Tall Pottawatomie
Plump Face
American Woman
Chief Jarro
Great Dancer
Man That Has A Sick Squaw
Crane 's son
Daddy Walker
Mother Flat Face
One-eye Old Man that come with Crane
A Young Yellow Man
Chief Crane's brother
Raw Boned Black Face Stayed A Long Time
Jarro 's oldest son
Old Blue Coat Man Came With Teabon
Young Part White Squaw
Yellow That Came With The Blind Man
Sour Eads Ox
Squirrel Cheeks
Good Singer
Yellow Lad
Blinky 's brother
Jarro 's second son
Long Sober Man
Daddy Walker

The name of Chief Jarro is found the most of any and from the account it would seem that the chief has credit for having paid for what he purchased.

The following extracts are typical of the entries of the purchases made by the Indians.

W. Lock old man (Ogee says he is good)

1 Spear $ 6
1 Steel 1
Com 1
2 shirts 6
Beads 2
2 knives 2
Com 2
1 gun 50
Mending ax 2
Com 2

"Fat squaw many beads
Due on shirt $ 2

Patchunka Chief Crane
Blue cloth $20
Red clo 25
2 shirts 6
Beads 2
Tobacco 1
Powder 8
2 combs 2
2 spears 10
Paint 2

The other account book begins in 1832 and covers a period of three or four years.

One of the names found most frequently in this book, as well as occasionally in the other one, is that of Col. William S. Hamilton, the son of Alexander Hamilton. Colonel Hamilton's account begins with July, 1832, extends to as late as May, 1835, at which date he apparently owed Mr. Dixon $339.55 and which, at least as far as the book shows, yet remains unpaid. This bill embraces charges for cash loaned, for ferriage and for com, pork, tin buckets, tents, flour, postage, bacon, buckskins, and other items.

H. Gratiot has also an extensive account, among other things in 1832, purchasing 853 "rats'' at 25 cents each. Mr. Dixon also makes a charge against him as follows (p. 31):

"To sending to the Illinois River for two stray horses and bridles, etc. and sending them home $10."

On May 10 and 15, 1832. Col. Zachary Taylor incurred a bill amounting to $11.50, of which only one item is stated, namely: 4 shirt patterns $5. The shirt patterns charge is marked out, as was Mr. Dixon's custom in giving credit, but the remainder of the bill is footed up at $6.50 and marked "settled by note.''

A great many entries are found of goods furnished to the army during the Black Hawk war, for instance, among the charges on May 20, 1832, being the following:

"Col. Johnson for U. S. Gen. Atkinson Qr. M.
43 blankets at 4 dollars $172.00
2 do. at 3.50 14.00
12 do. green at 6.50 78.00
2 guns at $8 16.00
1 rifle at 20 20.00
11 blankets at 3 33.00
7 do. at 2.50 17.50
5 do. at 2 10.00

John Dixon, Lee County, Illinois
Children of John and Elizabeth Dixon

Lee County History

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