Skip Navigation

University of Nebraska–Lincoln

  • Virtual Nebraska Logo

Virtual Nebraska

Nebraska...Our Towns


Dixon County

One good thing about the old livery stable...there was always something to do. Spreading it with this "modern" piece of machinery meant a fellow only had to load it. ca. 1990. [Nebraska State Historical Society]
An early newspaper print shop, 1890s. [Schilousky, Cedar Rapids]

The town of Dixon was platted by an engineer for the railroad in 1890. It is said that he was homesick for his home in Dixon, Illinois, so he chose that name for the new community. Three years later, the town was well established and incorporated with a population of 250.

Dixon seemed to be a gathering of people of Irish descent. Names of early citizens included McCaw, McGowen, Shell, O'Flaherty, McEklaney, Kramer, Kavanaugh, McCloud, and Garvin. The town of Concord, just over two miles south, was a settlement of Swedes, and a bit of rivalry existed between the two.

The land around Dixon was pretty well settled by the time the town was platted. People gathered to talk about organizing a Sunday School for their children in a one-room school about a mile east of town. The suggestion was made to move the schoolhouse into the new town, but the landowner objected to the idea. After a heated discussion the meeting adjourned. However, a few nights later, a group of men quietly hooked their teams of horses to the building, and before dawn, it had been moved into town. (The building is still in use as a residence.)

On August 15, 1890, a picnic dinner was held by the Catholic parishioners after Mass. In the afternoon ball games were played, and the whole community joined in the festivities. The tradition stuck. It is claimed to be the oldest harvest festival in Nebraska. As the event developed, more events such as horse racing, political speeches, carnival rides, sack races, and dancing were added, and for many years a special train would run from Sioux City, Iowa, to accommodate the crowd. The event is still held annually and enjoyed by all.

A large grain elevator, holding 30,000 bushels of grain, was constructed in 1891. By 1895 a flour mill was in operation and also a large creamery. These were the largest businesses in the budding new trading center. By 1893 there was a bank, hotel, opera house, and a host of businesses in the bustling community.

A school was built in 1894, but within a few months it caught fire and burned. The people immediately rallied together and gathered the materials and funds to complete another schoolhouse. In 1931 a sturdy brick building was constructed for K-12. In 1958 K-8 students were taught locally, with secondary students attending another high school in the area. In 1984 the Dixon school closed and students are bussed to either Laurel or Allen.

Many things have come and gone over the years. A weekly newspaper was printed from 1895 until 1948 when it ceased. The livery stables gave way to auto shops, and harness makers and shoe shops disappeared from our streets. At one time there was a large bakery, and of course a ladies' hat shop.

Dixon had a farmer-owned telephone system for many years. The telephone company was updated from the old crank-type phone to a direct-dial unit in the 1950s. The old party-line became a thing of the past, and people now enjoy a trouble-free system, protected from the weather by underground cable.

As better transportation and super highways developed, Dixon saw many of its young people move to larger cities in search of employment. Our town, though small, centers its activities around the churches that have been active since its founding.

Memories of earlier times are fondly recalled. The Irish settlers loved to square dance. During the 1930s there was a square dance club, where Anthony and Lucille McGowen helped the younger people learn the traditional dances.

Dixon also had a "bachelors club" which met and "monitored" the dances, roller skating rinks, etc. The members included Rollen Dunn, Sterling Borg, Don and Lowell Sanders, Darrell Erwin, Bill Garvin, Bob Murray, and John Young. They published their meetings in the local paper in the fashion of other social clubs giving the name of "who poured." (They didn't say what they poured, however.)

Today the citizens of Dixon, with a population of about 120, enjoy the less-hurried life of small-town living, as well as the advantages of a good central water and sewer system, asphalt streets, and once-a-week garbage collection. St.Anne's Altar Society and the Methodist Women's Missionary Society continue to serve their churches, the community, and fellow Dixionites.


By John Young, Mayor, Box 36, Dixon, NE 68832 from material researched by Mrs. Bill Garvin. Pictures supplied by Mrs. Clarence Nelson, Mrs. Cliff Strivens, Mrs. Lawrence Lux, Mrs. Joe Gredys, Mary McGuirk, John Young, and Jack Phelan.