Sometimes, knowing about a town or city and it's history has helped me in my search of those lost ancestors. I hope the below will be helpful for those distant impaired folks.
~ Dixon Hometown History ~
Gold Rush Days
Dixon was first settled in 1852 by Elijah S. Silvey, whose search for gold landed him in these parts during the California gold rush. Silvey realized an easier way to make his fortune than digging and panning was to open an Inn and saloon. This â€œhalf-way houseâ€ was located along a well-traveled stage coach route to the gold fields of Sacramento, which became famous among area miners. By 1865 the community of Silveyville boasted a general store, post office, a blacksmith and had a population of 150 people.
Town Moves to Railroad Tracks
The Vaca Valley railroad was about to inaugurate its new line in Solano County in 1870. However, the residents of Silveyville were not happy when they found out that the tracks would not cross into their town. The tracks did cross the land of Thomas Dickson. Dickson was a local minister, school teacher and a farmer. In order to grow, the residents of Silveyville would have to move closer to the tracks. With Dickson in charge of the re-location, pioneers started what is now known as the Downtown Dixon area. Peter Timm, a cabinetmaker who had recently arrived from Schleswig-Holstein, Denmark, moved the buildings on large flat cars and steel rails to the railroad tracks. Peter Timm is the great-grandfather of Dr. Peter Timm, who serves today as a local Dixon veterinarian.
One of the buildings that still stands in Dixon from the 1871 move is the Dixon Methodist Church located at 209 N. Jefferson Street.
Dixon was to be Dicksonville
The California Pacific Railroad tracks were almost finished and a train station was needed. At this time Dickson donated 10 acres of his land for the depot and a city to be named after himself; Dicksonville. The first rail shipment of merchandise arrived in 1872 mistakenly addressed to â€œDixonâ€ and that spelling stuck.
In 1874, after nearly a two-year push to have the town named Dicksonville, needless to say the County Recorder filed with the name Dixon on the new maps stating it was â€œsimplerâ€.
A Suburban Community
Also, in 1874 was the opening of Dixonâ€™s first bank, The Bank of Dixon, and the Dixon Tribune newspaper. By 1877 Dixon had become a thriving community with a population of 1,200.
The downtown area included the newspaper office, seven hotels, eight saloons, two livery stables, four general stores, two jewelry stores, two millinery stores, two butcher shops, three blacksmith shops, one manufacturer, one cabinet makerâ€™s shop, one lumber yard, and four grain warehouses. On March 30, 1878 the State of California allowed Dixon to set up local government.
Fire Tragedy Claims Town
On November 19, 1883 a horrible fire started in the kitchen of the Centennial Hotel, where the Moose Lodge is today, which almost completely destroyed the town. Gusty winds between 50 and 60 miles per hour fanned the fire quickly engulfing homes and businesses. Many residents suffered loss, most businesses including the towns saloons and six churches were all in destroyed in just a few hours. After the fire the building material of choice became brick or tin, as part of a new city ordinance. The first firehouse was built 1891 on Jackson Street, as well as the very first Jailhouse alongside the new firehouse.
Horseracing and Baseball
In 1885 a great deal of interest was being generated in horse harness racing. A group of gentlemen formed the Dixon Driving Park Association. The group purchased, from Peter N. Peters, a tract of 20 acres. They proceeded to construct a horse racing track and pavilion, which in 1886 became the site of the May Day celebrations in Dixon from then on. The May Day celebration was usually a two-day event held on the first day of May.
In the early Dixon days, next to horse racing baseball was the favorite sport. In fact baseball would run 8 months out of the year. Baseball in those days ran in families. By the late 1880â€™s and early 1900â€™s it was the Rohwer and the Van Sant families who brought fame to Dixon. There were five Rohwer boys, and three Van Sant boys, who played local and League baseball, playing on dirt fields and traveling by horse drawn vehicles to games.
The Dixon Chamber of Commerce organized in 1909, and at that time encouraged the May Day celebration to be held on the weekend closest to the First of May.
Earthquake Shook Dixon
Disaster struck again on April 22, 1892 in the form of a major earthquake. Many of the brick buildings were damaged in the downtown area. Two fires broke out on First Street, but the new fire hydrants helped firemen to quickly put out the blaze.
1899 the Capitol Hotel opened on the corner of First and A Streets. By 1908 the owners of Dawsonâ€™s Cigar Store were the first to serve beer in Dixon.
University of California â€“ Dixon?
At the turn of the century the California University System, the finest educational institution in the world, was looking for a farm to acquire for research related to the stateâ€™s booming agricultural. It was to establish a University Farm as part of the College of Agriculture. The Dudley tact, 960 acres was seriously considered. In the end Dixon was not selected, but an equally small community just a few miles east was chosen in Davisville. Davisville eventually became Davis and the University of California Davis is now known worldwide not just research in agriculture but also for achievements in medicine, law, and environmental sciences.
Solano County Fair was Originally in Dixon
In 1916 Dixon became the site of the Solano County Fair, indicating what a popular event horse racing had become. Even with Dixon maintaining one of the best horse race tracks around, the event was still called Dixon May Day. In 1933 the State of California legalized race horse betting. The May Day manager, Watson Kilkenny, organized with California Horse Racing Board so that Dixon received a share of the pari-mutuel wagering money. By 1936 the Dixon Fair became the 36th District Fair Association.
This type of horse racing began in Dixon by 1937 and races were held for two days each year with over $41,000 handled in pari-mutuel betting.
In fact, even when the State Racing Board closed and blacked-out most other race tracks after Pearl Harbor and World War II began, the races here in Dixon continued. By 1942 the horse races in Dixon were a major California event with people coming from all over.
Small Farm Town â€œthe Dairy Cityâ€
Dixon was also known in the early 1900â€™s as â€œThe Dairy Cityâ€ after hydraulic pumps became available to farmers. During this period farming emphasized growing alfalfa for cows and milk, because the prime essentials to successful dairying were good feed, pure water, temperate climate and clean surroundings. The dairy that also put Dixon on the map was the Timm Certified Dairy â€“ originally known as the â€œWorldâ€™s Largest Certified Dairyâ€ operating with over 300 cows. Milk was provided to San Francisco, Oakland, Bay Area cities, Sacramento, and also supplied to the Southern Pacific diners. By 1920 Dixon had some thirty dairy farmers who included the Timm, Gill, Nunes, George, Bello, Rowe, Brazil, Perreira, Azevedo, Bulkley, and Dutra families.
Karl A. Hess originated Dixon â€œMilk Farmâ€ in 1919, which relocated his ranch and cabin rentals for travelers near Currey Road to its current location in 1939. During the depression Karl offered pony rides, â€œall-you-can-drinkâ€ milk for 10 cents, and inexpensive Chicken dinners. In 1940 Milk Farm was featured in the Saturday Evening Post-when the name official stuck. In its heyday the Milk Farm would have many travelers stopping at the restaurant and service station. It was also a popular place for local teenagers to go. An on-going contest was to keep score of who could drink the most milk. People from all around would make themselves sick trying to break the record and get their names on the board. Established at the Milk Farm was the Gill Dairy with 500 cows, but it eventually ceased the dairy operation after World War II.
Historical Documents provided by
Dixon District Chamber of Commerce
110 E. Mayes St.
Dixon, CA 95620
(707) 678-3654 (fax)