Lee County

In 1858, a high school department was established in the old Methodist church building on Second street , opposite the court house and next the present Baptist church. Of this high school A. H. Fitch was made principal.

In 1859, James Gow was made principal of the high school, and A. M. Gow was made superintendent of schools, then consisting of five departments. These gentlemen worked together until the year 1862, when Eli C. Smith was elected to fill both of these offices. For a while rooms were rented, then the little frame building just north of the Union school, and in the same lot, was built (in 1860) and used as a primary room. It was taught for years by Miss Swinburn. The grammar school was installed in the basement, under the high school, and one of its first teachers was Miss Sephie Gardner, later Mrs. E. C. Smith.

About 1866, it became necessary to make more room for the increasing numbers of pupils and the old Lutheran church was rented and three departments were installed there.
Photo and information contributed by Karen Holt from The History of Lee County by Frank E Stevens on page 190 in his History of Lee County Volume 1

In the winter of 1868-9, the people of District No. 5 (north side), "erected a fine school building of magnificent appearance, standing on an elevation near the grove that skirts the northern part of our town, and overlooking every portion of the city, the river, its islands, and rough romantic scenery, and the rolling prairie beyond." The building was constructed o f brick to the third story, with a Mansard roof, crowned iwth a belfry. The ground plan was 54 by 63 feet, and including the basement, the building had four stories. The first and second stories, each 13 feet high, had two school rooms with a "recitation room." One historian recorded that "the halls are commodious and give easy access to each room." On January 15, 1869, the newspaper carried an account of the dedication ceremonies: dedication of North Side school house, cost $16, 933.54. Opened on Jan. 11, 208 pupils attending. Prayer: Rev. E.C. Sickels; address, Richard Edwards, pres. of State Normal Univ. Audience served a repast of 'genuine mush and milk' with cakes, chickens, relishes, etc. John V. Thomas, principal."

This public school building, in District No. 1, was erected in the summer of 1869 at a cost of $32,000 and was said to be "a handsome brick structure of even more imposing appearance than its predecessor on the north side." The building was situated on high ground in the southern part of the city near the depots. "It is," said one historian, "the most prominent object that meets the gaze of strangers visiting our city." Describing the new school, the History of Lee County published by H.H. Hill and Company, said: "the building, which is 91 by 75 feet, four stories high, including the basement, is admirably arranged, each rom being large and well adapted to the purpose for which it is used, while the furniture consists of modern and most approved patterns. The seats provided will accomodate 516 pupils with comfort and convenience. The building contains eight schoolrooms, with all the necessary recitation rooms, closets, etc., thus arranged; One primary and two intermediate rooms on the first floor, two intermediate and one grammar room on the second floor and the first grammar and high school-rooms on the the third floor."

By the kindness of Judge Crabtree we obtain the following facts concerning the school on the South Side. The directors are John D. Crabtree, Jas. A. Hawley, John H. Cropsey, B.F. Burr, Ellis I. Williams, and Charles Murray. Amount of present indebtedness $25,000, the original indebtedness being $30,000. The janitor receives about $400 a year. Names and salaries of the teachers as follows:

E.C. Smith $1400.00
Miss J.I. Merriam $600.00
Miss V.A. Brown $450.00
Miss A. Pinckney $405.00
Miss E. Burnham $405.00
Miss A. McComsey $405.00
Miss Anna Baker $405.00
Miss J.O. Spaulding $405.00
Mrs. M.A. Johnson $405.00
Mrs. L.L. Woodworth $405.00
Total $5690.00

Estimated expenses for the year $1300.00 out of which may be deducted.
Principal of Debt falling due $2,000.00
Interest $2,000.00
Due on Furnaces $900.00
Total = $5,400.00

Which leaves for actual expenses of coming year $7,600.00

The directors of the school in North Dixon have allowed us a perusal of their books. We are under special obligations of Esq. Finley McMartin for kindness shown in this matter. For the year 1873-74 it will be necessary to raise the sum of $7,000. This will cancel $2,000 indebtedness of principal and interest on the school debt. This debt was originally $19,00 but is now $12,000.00 During the past year the directors have built an additional outhouse, procured new furniture and purchased a large number of maps and charts for school use.

The teachers employed and salaries are:

Miss Burkett $550.00
Miss Chapman $430.00
Miss Raymond $405.00
Miss Hullinger $430.00
Mr. Thomas $1200.00
Total $3015.00

Add to this the sum of $1300.00 for interest to become due, $2000.00 for principal to be paid and $285 for janitor and $500 for insurance. Making the sum of $5700.00 leaving a remainder of $300 for coal and incidental expenses.

Dixon High Schools (North Side on the Left - South Side on the Right)
** The South Side school is the one that President Ronald Reagan attended, also known as South Central

Dixon's new $70,000 South Side High School (on the right) was dedicated Mach 11, 1909 in ceremonies at which Francis G. Blair, state superintendent of public instruction, was principal speaker. Construction of the school had begun in 1908 after the destruction of the old south side (white brick) high school by fire in 1907 had split up the classes into several schools all over the city. Taking part in the ceremonies were Vernon G. Mays, superintendent of schools; E.J. Countryman, president of the board of education; Nelson S. Spencer of Champaign, architect; and C.C. Gwinn, contractor. The next day the doors of the school were thrown open for visitors and hundreds of citizens inspected a building which the Telegraph declared to be unsurpassed by any school in the state in cities the size of Dixon. The walls were of oriental brick, trimmed with Bedford sandstone, and the building was three stories, with the main entrance on Fifth street and antoehr on Hennepin avenue. The building houses 27 rooms, including the assembly room with a seating capacity of 225.
Taken from the 1951 Dixon Evening Telegraph - Centennial Issue

Old South Side High School Postcard about 1900 is contributed by Mark Miller

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