The City of Dixon
Contributed by Elsie Harmon
Written by Sarah Margaret Fuller 1920
Photos provided by Karen Holt

The City of Dixon is situated in Lee County, Illinois, ninty-eight miles west of Chicago, in one of the most graceful curves of Rock River. The country in which it is set, while not rugged, is picturesque, uniting in rare proportions the useful with the beautiful rich undulating prairies indented by a valley whose stretches of lovely scenery entitle it to be called "the Hudson of the West." Horace Greeley wrote much in praise of our prairies, which since his time have been laid out into park-like farms and Margaret Fuller, in her delightful book of sketches, "At Home and Abroad," told as only a poet can tell of the charm of Rock River, the living green of its rustling woods, the fantastic architecture of its cliffs, and the dreamy beauty of its winding waters.

The history of Dixon reads like a romance, its story beginning in the days of the log-cabin, the grist-mill, and the slow stage-coach, when it was a ferry station on the old Kellogg Trail leading from Peoria to the Galena mines in 1826. Here, many a notable party of traders, explorers, military officials and miners rendezvoused in the olden time. By 1830, John Dixon, the founder of the city, had built his cabin, and the ferry had henceforth a place in history. Here Abraham Lincoln was sworn into service in a scouting corps and had his first and only experience as a soldier, as he once related in a speech. Here Jefferson Davis, afterwards President of the Southern Confederacy, Robert Anderson, who defended Fort Sumter, Albert Sidney Johnson, who fell at Shiloh, and Zachary Taylor, met, were comrades in camp, under blunt General Atkinson, in the old Fort which stood just north of the bridge, in the days of the Black Hawk War. Such a meeting was one of the co-incidents of our national history, and it marks this spot as historic.

Once a frontier ferry, Dixon has grown to be a city of beauty, progress and enterprise. Artistic homes on either side of spacious avenues, paved streets, miles of cement sidewalks, city and interurban car lines, two railways for travel and traffic, hard roads running in almost every direction, tell of a community that is alert, alive and advancing.

Its public school system is one of the best, to which is added a Military Academy, a Business College and a Normal College. Its churches represent many faiths and almost every design of architecture, and its Y. M. C. A. building is one of the most perfect in the land. A Public Library, the gift of one its citizens, is a model of taste, beauty and convenience. "Lowell Park," a gift to the city from the estate of the late Charles Russell Owell, is a woodland retreat for rest and amusement the like of which few cities can boast, while the Rock River Chautauqua Assembly has none to surpass it for beauty of location and high ideals of culture.

Perhaps no city of its size outranks Dixon in the number of its large manufacturing concerns. The local plant of the Borden Condensed Milk Company is the largest of its kind in America, and the Sandusky Portland Cement Works one mile to the east is a city in itself, employing an army of men. The Watson-Plummer Shoe Factory, the Grand de Tour Plow Works, the Gossard Corset Company, the Clipper Lawn Mower Factory, the Reynolds Wire Company, the Rodesch Piano-Player Company, besides other smaller enterprises, make the city attractive alike to labor and capital. The opening of the feeder to the Hennepin Canal gives Dixon a water way to the Gulf, which unlocks a new vista of opportunity and expectation.

Thus Dixon has every reason to be proud of its history and hopeful of a future full of promise. It offers an ideal spot for those who wish a home where the comforts of a city are blended with the quiet charm of natural beauty and the unrhymed poetry of simple life. The Dixon Club, the Elk's Club, the Phidian Art Club, the Woman's Club, Masonic and Odd-Fellows Temples and various societies for culture and pleasure, invite those who love the graces and amenities of refined society. All summer long, steamboats and fleets of launches ply the bright waters bearing happy parties to shady nooks and grass carpeted islands up the river, for outings. Everything that makes life gracious and winsome may be found in this city, and the longer one lives in it the more one loves it.

Fullers Cave and Fullers Milk House

History of Fullers Cave

Sarah Margaret Fuller (Author of "At Home and Abroad")-
Author, conversationalist, feminist, and Transcendentalist, Margaret Fuller (1810-1850) was America's first woman correspondent and reported to Americans on the Italian revolution of 1848-49. Her sympathies lay with the republicans, and she used her writing to enlist the sympathy and aid of Americans in the cause of Italian independence and unification. Sarah Margaret Fuller was born in Cambridgeport, Massachusetts on May 1810, the oldest of eight children born to Timothy and Margaret Crane Fuller. Her father, a Harvard-educated lawyer and stern New England Puritan, believed women were the intellectual equals of men and educated his first-born accordingly. Supervised by her father--even when he was serving in congress-- Margaret Fuller followed a rigorous regimen of classical studies, learning Latin (in which she was fluent by age six) and Greek as well as German, French, and Italian. As an adult, Margaret Fuller gravitated to the northeastern intellectual establishment dominated by such men as Emerson, Channing, Thoreau, Holmes, Hawthorne, Alcott, and Longfellow. With her brothers educated and her sisters married by 1840, Margaret, who had supported her family by teaching following her father's death in 1835, accepted the editorship of The Dial, the journal of the Transcendentalists. In 1844, Horace Greeley invited Margaret Fuller to write for the Herald Tribune as the first female reporter in America. A year later, Greeley published Fuller's Woman in the Nineteenth Century, the first women's liberation book in the United States and her best-known work. Commissioned by Greeley to write articles on the political scene in Europe, Fuller set out for the continent in 1846. During visits to London and Paris, she met Thomas and Jane Carlyle, who introduced her to the Italian exile Giuseppe Mazzini; the Polish poet Adam Mickiewicz; and George Sand. It was in Italy, however, that Margaret found her European home. She arrived in time to witness the 1848-49 upheaval in Italian politics, on which she reported extensively for the Tribune. As a friend and follower of Mazzini, who devoted his life to the ideal of the unification of Italy as a republic, Margaret Fuller ardently supported the republicans and their short-lived Roman Republic in the Papal States. However, the republican experiment in Rome ended in July 1849 when French forces restored the Pope to power. During the struggle for Rome, Fuller was put in charge of the hospital of the Fate Bene Fra telli by Princess Belgiojoso, director of all the hospitals in Rome. During this time, Garibaldi's heroic efforts on behalf of the republic won the admiration of Fuller, who had earlier shared the popularly held opinion that he was little more than a brigand.

Meanwhile, Margaret Fuller had met the Italian nobleman, the Marchese Giovanni Angelo Ossoli, whom she later married. Unlike his family, who were high ranking functionaries in the Papal government, Angelo Ossoli supported a re publican Italy and, as a member of the Guardia Nazionale, served under Garibaldi during the siege of Rome (1849). On September 5, 1848, Fuller gave birth to Ossoli's son, but she and Ossoli kept the child's birth a secret until their marriage in late 1849-early 1850. Following the fall of the Roman Republic, Fuller and Ossoli retreated to Florence, but persistent political pressures and poverty constrained Fuller to return to the United States with her new family in 1850 to s eek a publisher for her history of the Italian revolution of 1848-49 which she had written following the fall of Rome. On July 19, within sight of the New Jersey shore, her ship struck ground on Fire Island and broke apart. The Ossoli family perished in the disaster. No collected works of Margaret Fuller have been published and, since the majority of her literary efforts appeared in the journals for which she wrote, her major works are not easily accessible even though recent renewed interest in her had resulted in publication of some of her writings. Her published works, besides Woman, include Conversations with Goethe (1839), Gunderode (1842), Summer on the Lakes (1843), and Papers on Literature and Art (1846). Fuller's history of the Italian revolution was lost with her at sea. (By Joan B. Huffman)