Lee County Illinois
Part of American History and Genealogy Project

John Dixon of Lee County, Illinois

John Dixon was born at Rye, Westchester County, New York, Oct. 9, 1784. His father, likewise named John Dixon, was a native of Newcastle on Tyne, England, and came to America during the War of the Revolution as an officer in the British Army. He married an American woman named Elizabeth Purdy, and did not return to England after the war but remained in Westchester County, New York, until his death. It is said that the wife of the first John Dixon was disinherited by her parents because of her marriage to the British officer. Of this marriage ten children were born, viz.: Thomas Dixon, James Dixon, Phoebe Dixon Minuse, John Dixon, Elizabeth Dixon Boyd, Margaret L. Dixon, Catherine Dixon Fisher and three others whose names are now unknown.

The birth place of the first American John Dixon was at his parent's residence, then on the North Street road, a few rods back from the Boston post road, and afterwards known as the "Corning'' property, in the Village of Rye. It is said that the first house from the post road, on the northeast side, which was still standing as late as 1886 is the identical house in which he was born, but there is no certainty as to this. It is certain, however, that it was upon this same property the house of his birth stood, and the house in question is either the Corning cottage or a house remembered by old residents of Rye which stood in the hollow behind the bluff on which the Coming house stands and which was taken down years ago.

John Dixon married Rebecca Sherwood of Peekskill, N. Y., at New York City in 1808. He had removed from Rye to New York City in 1805 and engaged in the business of clothing merchant and merchant tailor, his place of business being on Chatham Street He was one of the founders of the Young Men's Bible Society of New York, which was organized Feb. 16, 1809. There is still in existence a paper in the hand writing of John Dixon, giving the names of the first officers of this Society which reads as follows:

"Members of the Young Men's Bible Society of N. Y.: Cha. C. Andrews, president; Griffith P. Griffiths, vice president; Henry Johnson, secretary; William Colgate, treasurer; Board of Directors, Francis Hall, Edward Gilbert, Jr., John Dixon, Benjamin G. Barker, Joseph George, Jr., Charles Mais, Asa Whitney, David McClure, Instituted Feb. 16, 1809. Mr. Samuel Colgate, No. 55 John Street, N. Y."

During his residence in New York Mr. Dixon became well acquainted with Robert Fulton and was one of the party who took passage on the Clermont on the occasion of its first trial trip, at which time he paid Fulton one dollar for his fare and which payment was without doubt the first money paid by anyone for transportation as a passenger on a steam driven vessel.

In 1820 Mr. Dixon sold his business and departed for the West. He was accompanied by Mrs. Dixon and their children, James P., John W., and Elijah, by his sister Elizabeth Boyd and her husband Charles S. Boyd. The party left New York with a single covered wagon drawn by a team, whether of oxen or horses is now unknown, although it is a matter of family history that an ox team was the motive power, and passing through the States of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, in due time reached Pittsburg. The household goods of the two families were not taken overland, but were shipped by vessel to New Orleans and thence up the Mississippi river to Illinois.

At Pittsburg a flat boat was purchased for the sum of $30. They partitioned off a part of the boat for living quarters and stored their wagon, oxen or horses and other goods in the other part and floated off downstream. When they reached Cincinnati they stopped for a short time to rest and purchase provisions, among other things getting a barrel of flour at the cost of two dollars and sixty-two and one-half cents, as some documents now in the possession of the family show. At Cincinnati they engaged a pilot to take the boat through the Ohio River rapids, which were passed in safety, and Shawneetown, in the State of Illinois, was finally reached. The time occupied in the journey from New York City to Shawneetown was seventy days. The boat used on the Ohio River trip was sold for $5 and the party went overland to Madison County where they stopped for a time at the place known as the "Marine Settlement," so called because it was first settled by retired sea captains and mates.

The Marine Settlement was located between the east and west forks of Silver creek, in Madison County, about twelve miles east of Edwardsville. Here they made inquiry concerning the country and soon went on to a point on Fancy creek in what is now Sangamon County about eight miles north of the present city of Springfield and near the present village of Sherman.

John Dixon and his family remained at this place until 1824. Until 1823 the nearest post office was Edwardsville, about eighty miles distant and the mail for the settlers in that neighborhood was carried by Mr. Dixon from Edwardsville in a hack which he would send down there whenever he could secure a load of passengers.

Sangamon County was established by an act of the General Assembly passed Jan. 30, 1821, and three county commissioners were elected who qualified as such on April 3, 1821. On April 10, 1821, a county commissioner's court was held at the house of John Kelly, on the waters of Spring creek, at the present site of the city of Springfield. Mr. Dixon was the foreman of the first grand jury impaneled in this county after its organization, at the court held at the Kelly house.

Soon thereafter Peoria County was organized embracing all of the territory in the northern part of the state. Judge Sawyer in the year 1825 requested Mr. Dixon to take the appointment of circuit clerk of that county, which he did and became the first incumbent of that office. About the same time he was appointed by Governor Coles as recorder of deeds of that county and he removed to what was then called Fort Clark, now Peoria. While living there he was elected justice of the peace of Peoria County and duly commissioned by Gov. Ninian Edwards, his commission as such, which is still in existence, being dated Sept. 6, 1827.

While living at Peoria, Mr. Dixon became a rather extensive contractor for the carrying of the mails and there is still in existence a copy of a settlement made by him with Col. E. B. Clemson for services rendered in such matters which reads as follows:

''Lebanon, Jan. 23, 1830.
"E. B. Clemson, to John Dixon, Dr.

"For carrying the mail on Route 529, from Springfield to Peoria, for the quarter ending Sept. 30, 1829, at $500 per annum $125 .00
For ditto on Route 530, from Peoria to Galena, for the quarter ending Sept. 30, at $900 per annum 225.00
For ditto on Route 142, from Danville to Fort Clark, for the quarter ending Sept. 30, at $300 per annum 75.00
$425.00

Cr.
"By payments made up to this date $192 . 32
"By land script to be remitted to said Dixon at Springfield, say on or before the 31st instant 160.00
$352.32
''Balance due $ 72.68

"To my order on Governor Edwards at sight in full of said account $ 72.68

''Settled Jan. 23, 1830,
"E. B. Clemson.''

During the period covered by his mail contracts Mr. Dixon sometimes did the carrying himself, but the greater part of the driving was done by men hired by him for that purpose and by his sons, particularly his son, James P. Dixon.

The only river of any importance between Peoria and Galena was the Rock River. This offered a great obstacle to the carrying of the mail and in order to afford safe passage it was desirable that a ferry be maintained. In the year 1827 a man by the name of J. L. Bogardus of Peoria, established a ferry across this stream at the present site of the city of Dixon, but he remained only a short time, when he was driven away by the Indians.

There was even at that early date a considerable travel from Fort Clark to the lead mines at Galena and the Indians resented the intrusion of the white man who would take away from them the ferry monopoly that they then had. Bogardus had built a log hut said to have been about 8x10 feet in dimension and two work-men employed by him had the ferry boat nearly completed when the Indians attacked them and burned their boat, the workmen leaving the country without any delay.

In 1828 a French Indian half-breed named Joseph Ogee erected a cabin on the bank of the river at the present site of Dixon and operated a ferry there until 1830. Ogee's wife was a half-breed Pottawatomie woman by the name of Madeline. She was the daughter of a Frenchman named LaSallier, who was probably the first white man to make his home on the banks of the Rock River. LaSallier built a trading post on the south side of what is now known as the Franklin creek, about thirty or thirty-five rods from the Rock River. This point is in Lee County and across the river from the present village of Grand Detour and about five miles northeast of the city of Dixon. The ruins of this cabin were visible as late as 1835, when they were observed by Joseph Crawford, one of the early settlers of Dixon. LaSallier was one of the agents of the American Fur Company.

Joseph Ogee, the son-in-law of LaSallier is known to have been in Illinois as early as in 1823, on June 4 of which year he obtained a license from Fulton County to operate a tavern. He lived in Peoria in March, 1825, and owned the house in which the county commissioners of that county held their first meeting. He was on the first panel of petit jurors of that county and is believed to have been the representative of the American Fur Company, at its trading house at what is now Wesley City.

In the spring of 1828 Ogee came to the Rock River. His wife being of Indian blood he was permitted to establish and operate his ferry without being molested or driven away as Bogardus and his employees had been.

Ogee continued to operate the ferry alone until Nov. 21, 1829, when he sold a half interest therein to George Schellenger, who is described as a resident of Jo Daviess County, for which Schellenger paid $700, and they became partners in the enterprise and remained such for a few weeks. On Jan. 29, 1830, the partnership was dissolved and Ogee bound himself to pay to Schellenger $1,060 for his half interest in the establishment, to be paid $100 in thirty days, $60 on or before the first of the next September, $400 in twelve months and $500 in two years, and gave to the latter his chattel mortgage on the ferry premises, which mortgage was filed in the office of the recorder of Jo Daviess County at Galena on Feb. 18, 1830, and recorded in Book A, pages 71, 72 and 73.

Endorsed on the back of the mortgage was an assignment by Schellenger to Laurent Rolette for an expressed consideration of $900. There also appears on the same instrument an undated receipt, signed by Laurent Rolette and Joseph Rolette, by J. P. Nash, their attorney in fact, acknowledging receipt from John Dixon of the sum of $400 by note at ninety days "in full satisfaction and liquidation of the within mortgage."

In 1828 Mr. Dixon with his family left Peoria and located at what was called Boyd's Grove in what is now Bureau County, where they made their home near the family of his brother-in-law, Charles S. Boyd, until their removal to the present site of the city of Dixon.

In March, 1830, Mr. Dixon made a lease of the ferry from Ogee with its rights, privileges and appurtenances and soon thereafter moved to Ogee's Ferry, as it was then called, with his wife and family, reaching there April 11, 1830. He continued to operate the ferry under this lease until Jan. 27, 1832, when he purchased it for the sum of $550, giving to Ogee two notes, one for $150 and one for $400, both due in four months after date and assuming the lien of the Schellenger mortgage. The deed conveying the ferry property was filed for record in the office of the recorder of Jo Daviess County and recorded in Book A, pages 163 and 164, on March 1, 1832.

Ogee at about the time he purchased the Schellenger interest in the ferry was evidently being pressed by his creditors for there is still in existence another chattel mortgage given by him. This mortgage is dated Feb. 10, 1830, and conveys to Laurent Rolette to secure a debt of the firm of Ogee & Schellenger amounting to the sum of $258.02 and the individual debt of Ogee to Rolette of $84.35, the following property belonging to Ogee, to-wit: "The equal and undivided half of a team of five horses, wagon and harness of the value of $250 (the other half of said team, wagon and harness being held by a cimelar artical to this by the firm of Henry Gratiot and company) and also four feather beds and bedding complete, to wit, one pair of sheets, one pair of pillows and slips, one blanket, one quilt and stand of curtains to each bed and each bed of the value of eighteen dollars and fifty nine cents, one whipsaw of the value of twelve dollars and one cross cut saw of the value of six dollars."

Ogee remained in the neighborhood of the Rock River for a few years after selling the ferry as is evidenced by charges against him for goods purchased of John Dixon and noted in his account book which is in the writer's possession, under date of May 13 and June 3, 1832. Later than the last date his history and future where abouts are now unknown.

Account books of John Dixon
Children of John and Elizabeth Dixon

Lee County History


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