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Community - History


Like California itself, the city of Dixon began its rise to prominence during the Gold Rush, and continues to grow and evolve today. The upscale new homes that now dot the Dixon landscape belie the city's dusty, hardscrabble beginnings as a way station on the wagon route from Benicia to Sacramento. The city of Dixon's past is littered with interesting characters whose stories bestow upon Dixon a uniquely rich historical heritage. Read the following sections to learn more about the people and events that helped make the city of Dixon the gem it is today.

The Early Years

The settlement that would ultimately become the city of Dixon began as a hotel and stock corral founded by Elijah S. Silvey, who named the settlement Silveyville. Located near today's Silveyville Road, Silveyville grew to early prominence as an important resting point for travelers making their way from San Francisco to the gold mines of the Sierra. In the early days the trail was not well defined, so weary travelers who failed to make it to Silveyville were likely to wander around all night in the tall grass of the surrounding plains. Ever industrious, Elijah Silvey would hoist a red lantern high in the air each night to guide wandering travelers to the safety of his hotel. Over time, Silveyville grew in both size and importance and offered residents and travelers many "modern" conveniences such as a blacksmith shop, general store and even a newspaper.

Historical Photos

B street looking toward depot, photo circa 1915 Street scene looking toward the depot from B street and First. First National Bank, built in 1911, and the Opera house on the left with Oscar C. Schulze's previously Eppinger's on the right.

Historical Photos

Bank Of Dixon; Built 1911 On The Site Of The Epstein Building, Originally Blum & Sons, Location Southeast Corner Of First And B St.

J.D. Johnson's Hardware.J.D. Johnsons hardware, built originally by Wm. Ferguson at the foundling of Dixon in 1868 and rebuilt after the '83 fire. J.D. pictured far right purchased the business after Ferguson's death in 1898. Joe Dawson bought the building 1943 and it has been Dawson's ever since.

West Side of North First Street, circa 1946 -  Dawsons, Gerlach's ice cream parlor, acme club bar and Waynick's fountain.

View of corner of North First and West B street circa 1946 Purity store, Dixon meat market, Beauty parlor, Gem pharmacy, and G.E.M. saloon, gardners appliance store and first national bank.

Dixon Fire Dept. and Jail, photo circa 1921 - Firehouse built in 1891. The jail built in 1898

The Great Fire of Nov. 1883 - These curious folks are standing on the Jackson St. in front of the present site of the Fire Station The view is of the Fire Station. This view is of the east side of first st. from B st. to A st. Epstein's is far left, Palace hotel is far right, John Casey's in center.

Eppinger's Store. Photo circa 1895 - Eppinger's was purchased by their manager O.C. Schulze in 1899. Often referred to as the largest General Merchandise store in the area. Eppingers store is where Cinnamon's Jewelers is now located.

The New Improved Fire Department - Circa 1928; The La France Is The Second From The Left In Line

First Permanent Post Office - the first permanent post office was built by O.C. Schulze in 1908 on a property he purchased to clean up the barbary coast. Corner of B st. and First, the library would be built east of it in 1911. Note the tin building, far left; ,many a basketball game, dance or other social function was held here until the high school gym was built in 1925. Currently this building houses Don Miller and Associates and KT's HotDogs.

Old Post Office - Currently Miller & Associates

Downtown Dixon in 1946 - View of Bank of America - Quick Lunch Café , Doctor's office, Weiglels Garage, B and first street, east side.

East of North Street between B and A street., circa 1946. View of garage, G.E. Schulze building, built in 1892 following a fire to John Casey's Blacksmith shop. After Schulze's death in 1963, it was used for offices and a hotel. The Dixon Theatre was built in 1926 by Gerlach

Historical Photos

Street Scene On First St. (Often Vcalled Main) Looking South, The Capitol Hotel On The Left With The Cupalo. The Dixon Pharmacy And G.E. Schulze Jeweler On The Right Puts This Photo Circa 1895. Gus Schulze Was In That Location From 1892 To 1913 When He Built Across The Street On The Casey Lot.

The capitol hotel, circa 1918 - The original hotel on this site was the city hotel built in 1876, owned by the Frahm Bros., in 1895. Mrs. Morrix bought the building and removed it to build the Vendome i.e. capitol hotel. Mrs. Morris met and married a San Francisco man, but on going to live with him in S.F. discovered he was a bigamist. The capitol eventually ended up in the hands of the Dawson bros. Who owned it at the time it burned to the ground in 1920.

 I.O.O.F. building in 1884 following the fire - The corner café(now Bud's) was started by Tom Wong in 1944 - to the left is Dixon Home Bakery, Seifert family proprietors - later the Cross family. Far left is the Dixon tribune office, Fred Dunnicliff, editor

Early Fire Company In Front Of Fire House. The Branch Jail, Built In 1889 - The Fire House Built In 1891.

That Dickson Really Gets Around!

Thomas Dickson and his family traveled a long way before settling in northern Solano County - founding what would later become the city of Dixon. Born in 1800 in Pennsylvania, Dickson was a minister and farmer. He married Jane Parker Hood in Philadelphia in 1830, got into a covered wagon and pioneered his way to Illinois. When land opened up in Iowa, the Dickson family again packed and moved, settling in a place near Monticello, Iowa known as "Bowen's Prairie". There the Dickson's had four children -- a daughter and three sons. The family left Iowa in 1853, arriving in Hangtown, California in October of that year. After a short time they moved to Silveyville. Impressed with the wild oats that grew as high as a pony's back on the land that is now the city of Dixon, Mr. Dickson told his neighbors that he was moving to that place to take up land. And the rest is Dixon history!

Slower Houses to the Right!

In 1868, the California Pacific Railroad planned a rail line through the land that happened to be owned by one Thomas Dickson. The rail line narrowly bypassed the original town of Silveyville, which was located approximately 2 ½ miles to the north. The rail line passed directly through a small settlement known as "Dicksonville," which had been set up by Thomas Dickson. Mr. Dickson generously donated an acre of land for a rail station. In return, the railroad superintendent in San Francisco ordered that the new station be called "Dickson". As construction of the railroad proceeded, buildings were constructed near the station site in anticipation of the expected commerce generated by the new rail line. This development gave rise to the township of Dickson. Though they had been narrowly bypassed by the railroad, the hardscrabble residents of Silveyville did not despair; they just did what any pioneer would do in a similar situation - they moved their town closer to the rail station! Between 1883 and 1885, most of the buildings making up the town of Silveyville were moved closer to the Dicksonville rail station. Much of this work was done by one Peter Timm, who accomplished the task using teams of horses and huge wooden rollers under the structures.

What's In a Name?

There are conflicting accounts of the exact origin of the city of Dixon's name, but everyone agrees that the current spelling is the result of a 19th Century typo. Out of gratitude for Mr. Thomas Dickson's generous donation of the land for the train station, the California Pacific Railroad named the station, "Dickson's Station." However, when the first consignment of literature and timetables for the new station arrived, the name of the town was spelled "Dixon." Rather than create a fuss and demand a reprint of the materials, Mr. Dickson good-naturedly permitted the name to remain as it was. Since the spelling of the new name was simpler, it was soon adopted by all.

The Short Life and Untimely Death of Dixon's First Newspaper

The first newspaper in Dixon, and indeed in all of northern Solano County, was the "Banner of Liberty," proudly published by one William J. Pierce. Founded in 1863, the type for the Banner was set and forms made in Silveyville, but were sent to Sacramento to be printed. Mr. Pierce was a fierce political partisan who was active in the Democratic Party. The political activism of Mr. Pierce would result in a very short run for the Banner. After just a few publications, the editor got into an argument over politics with a Dr. J.C. Ogburn, a strong union man. The struggle between the two political pugilists escalated to the point where Mr. Pierce shot the Doctor! Pierce was subsequently forced to leave the country, so the Banner too died an untimely death.

Dixon Helps Out San Francisco After Disastrous Quake of 1906

Relatively untouched following the catastrophic 1906 earthquake that devastated San Francisco, the city of Dixon went all out to help victims of the disaster. Several tons of food supplies were sent to San Francisco, including 500 loaves of bread daily from the Dixon Bakery and one thousand dozen hard-boiled eggs. Through the efforts of the Women's Improvement Club, arrangements were made to house and care for the infant department of a San Francisco orphanage that had been totally demolished. Thirty-three tots and four nurses were transported to Dixon. Facilities including local hotels and other businesses were graciously donated in order to create a safe indoor living and play environment for Dixon's little guests.

1925 DUHS

Game Club Dinner 1961 - In The Kitchen Ltor, Denton Barker, Billie Peterson, Jack Lawrence, Ed Eggert, Herb Pearson, Tige Thomsen, Pres … Karl Muller, At Counter Ltor - ___, Otto Sievers, Bill Bertsch, Elmer Schroeder

Easter Star, Golden Rod Chapter, Monthly Cancer Wrap - Meeting. Ltor, Roberta Barker, Bernice Brown, Elda Rohwer, Sadye Peterson, Margaret Duncan, Olive Wiggins, Circa 1960

Mayday Parade Circa 1911 - Reviewing Stand … Baptist Church(Community Church) In Background L2r - Helane Fountain,  Bernice Marshall, Gretchen Higgins, Skip - Grace King

Historical Photos

Historical Photos

Historical Photos

Historical Photos

Nancy geary - brought to Batavia from Missouri as a slave by the Duke family. She was a midwife, nurse, and made ice cream in her little store which was located in the old corner building prior to 1910. Old timers have fond recollections of this jolly, hardworking lady.

Nancy geary - brought to Batavia from Missouri as a slave by the Duke family. She was a midwife, nurse, and made ice cream in her little store which was located in the old corner building prior to 1910. Old timers have fond recollections of this jolly, hardworking lady.

Pigeon Hunt Circa 1900

Historical Photos

Historical Photos

Van Sants Grocery Store First Street Below The Masonic Hall

Cagle, Du Pratt, Russel

May 1973 Gas Shortage

Sievers Bros - First Holt Tractor To Pull Harvester Circa 1920

Historical Photos

Historical Photos

Historical Photos

No Wal-Mart, But Just About Everything Else

By 1885, downtown Dixon was host to a wider variety of businesses than exist in the same area today. Strolling around near the intersection of First Street and "A" Street, a visitor would have seen the following businesses:

W. R. Ferguson’s Hardware Goodman & Co. General Store Millinery
Cohn and Graaf Barbers E.J. McBride Drug Store Saloon
Office of Dr. A. Trafton, M.D. California Drug Dry Goods
Masonic Hall Meat Market VanSant’s Grocery
Dixon Tribune Office Dixon Soda Works King Hotel and Saloon
Restaurant and Bakery Restaurant and Oyster House Dressmaker
M. Carpenter, Blacksmith Dixon Brewery Chinese Store
Chinese Washing Saloon and Lodging Empire Hotel
Saddler Lumber Dealers Tailor
Post Office Palace Hotel Justice Court
Shaw’s Shoemaker City Hotel A. Manning, Attorney
Dr. M.O. Wyatt, Dentist Bank of Dixon Paint Shop
Carpet Sewing Furniture Store Bowling Alley
I.O.O.F. Building Cigar Factory Arcade Livery

Now THAT'S Entertainment!

On the present-day site of First Northern Bank's Dixon Branch once stood Dixon's contribution to the high culture of the 19th Century Central Valley: Dixon's own opera house. Many of the programs were minstrel shows that were conceived and played locally. The facility hosted a wide variety of musical and comedy acts, but perhaps none was so unusual as the performance of a two-headed woman who reportedly sang soprano with one head and alto with the other. But the opera house wasn't the only entertainment venue in town. Near the opera house, across from the present-day library, there was a bandstand where Saturday concerts were a tradition. Finally, no description of entertainment in Dixon would be complete without mention of the Dixon May Fair and parade, which began well before 1900 as a harness racing event and continues to this day as the oldest annual parade in California.

Hip Deep In Sheep

Sheep raising has existed in Solano County for over a hundred years. By the 1920's Dixon was known nationally in agricultural circles for the number and quality of its sheep. From the 1920's to the 1950's, Dixon corrals were full of lambs from mid-April to mid-May. At one time Dixon was home to two of the three lamb slaugterhouses west of Denver, Colorado. The lambs would be weighed and shipped east by rail for further feeding or slaughter. Bob Collier was the largest lamb buyer in Dixon for years. He became an institution, famous for his gray LaSalle coupe that he never washed, and which featured a reddish-brown stain behind the driver's side window. (Though never proven conclusively, it was widely thought that the distinctive reddish stain on his car was related in some way to Mr. Collier's tobacco chewing.) By the 1950's and 1960's, there were 150,000 to 200,000 lambs on pasture at one time in the Dixon area. Following construction of the Monticello Dam, however, more irrigation was available and irrigated row crops began to replace dry farming, and the sheep raising industry in Dixon slowly declined.

Law and Order

As with modern-day cities, maintaining law and order in pioneer towns like Dixon fell on the able shoulders of dedicated and brave law enforcement professionals. The constables, marshals, deputies, sheriffs and police of the early years faced at least as wide an array of enforcement challenges as today's police do. The challenges of the early years are evidenced by the following Dixon ordinances circa 1880-1890:

  • Ordinance #22 -- Unlawful to keep a place where opium smoked; amended to include all smokers of opium. (Passed May 3, 1881)
  • Ordinance #36 -- Indecent Exposure of Animals Used for Propagation Purposes. Any stallion or jack used to service any mare...must be in an enclosed barn, the openings and seams between the boards of said barn must be perfectly closed and secure from the public gaze. (Passed May 6, 1884)
  • Ordinance #42-- Declaring Public Wash-Houses and Sink Holes, etc. a Nuisance (Passed August 5, 1884)

Historical Slideshow

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