Dixon Collegiate Institute

Among the first schools of "higher education" in Dixon was the Dixon Collegiate Institute. On January 30, 1855, a meeting was held in Exchange hall to consider a plan proposed by Rock Ricer Presbytery through their agents, the Revs. Harsha and Mason, to locate a Presbyterian college in Dixon. This school was opened May 17 of the same year, in the basement of the Lutheran church as "Dixon Collegiate Institute."

Reporting the opening of the Institute, The Telegraph said on May 23, 1855:

It has about 50 scholars. Teachers: Rev. W.W. Harsha, superintendent and professor of intellectual and moral philosophy and natural sciences; E.C. Smith, principal of male department and professor of Latin, Greek an German languages, and mathematics; Mrs. E.A. Smith, principal of female department and instructress in drawing and cryolithic painting; Mrs. C.L. Harsha, instructress in French and painting in water colors; and Miss Jennie L. Backus, instructress in instrumental music."

On July 4, 1855, the cornerstone of the Institute was laid in the presence of a large crowd of people. Benjamin F. Taylor, noted poet of the time, delivered the oration. The building was a large brick structure located in a commanding position on what is now Bluff Park. The school had an endowment of $25,000. Of this, Dixon citizens gave nearly half in grounds and equipment. The school was incorporated in 1857 by a special act of the legislature. It was instituted and continued under the care of the Presbytery until 1858, when the property passed into other hands and for a number of years, was the home of different private schools. The building was demolished in 1889 to give place to residences.

Transcribed by Karen Holt
Article from the Lee County Historical Society

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