HathiTrust has an incomplete collection of school catalogs 1891-1912. Rockford newspapers—including the Daily Register-Gazette and Morning Star—covered some school activities. Genealogytrails.com has a chronology of school history in Dixon. The three images are from the catalogs.
Professors John C. Flint and Jesse B. Dill opened Northern Illinois Normal School in 1881. It was successor to four collegiate institutes and seminaries that had provided high school education for the Dixon area from 1857.
The Normal Illinois Normal School had a goal of placing “a classical education within the reach of all”—especially targeting “the sons and daughters of farmers and mechanics” and teachers in “common schools” who had been unable to complete their training for financial reasons. The 1891 catalog shows that the school had grown far beyond its original scope. The normal school now included a college of music, a college of shorthand, a college of telegraphy, and a college of art. NINS had been joined by Dixon Business School, which itself included a school of law, a school of oratory and a military college. And in addition to the many degree and certification programs, the school had added a preparatory department for those from “poorly taught” schools.
The school had two literary societies: Vespera and Aurora. The music department provided a college orchestra and a school band which performed at the weekly chapel services. The literary societies sponsored an annual inter-society debate competition. As a “Truly Christian” school, Dixon had chapters of the YMCA and YWCA.
In 1895 the state of Illinois placed a state- supported normal school in De Kalb with the name Northern Illinois State Normal School. The private school then adopted the name Dixon College. In the twentieth century Dixon College began to experience financial difficulties. In 1910 the school began selling off lots to reduce indebtedness. It closed around 1914.
The catalog advertised a fifty-week school year and a seven-to-six o’clock school day to enable students to accelerate their training.
Dixon College advertised itself as the largest normal school west of Chicago. The 1891 catalog boasts a term enrollment of 674 and a yearly enrollment of 1263. By 1901 those figures had become 993 and 2175.
Bricks and Mortar
Dixon College began in the “five-story brick edifice” completed in 1861. This building had previously housed Dixon Collegiate Institute, Female Seminary, Dixon Seminary, and Red Rock University.
In 1882 Dixon College moved to a new facility on the west side of Dixon on Hancock Street. On twelve acres, the College Building was three-story brick, measuring 168 by 70 feet. It contained a chapel seating 1,035, a commercial hall and an art hall. It featured steam heat with gas and electric lighting. A second three-story brick building housed ladies. It had 50 suites to accommodate 100 women. The building also contained the dining hall for both men and women.
In 1888 a similar hall was added to house gentlemen along with the library and bookstore. Telegraphy and shorthand facilities were also located here.
Some time after 1914 all school buildings were torn down, and the property sold for residential lots. Hancock Street no longer exists.
The catalog notes that the school wants “to encourage manly athletic sports.” College Football Data Warehouse shows football activity off and on from 1897 to1912. The catalog reported a football record of 5-0-1 in 1898, with wins over Freeport High School, Streator, Rochelle AC, Cornell College, Belvidere Crescents, and Armour Institute and a scoreless tie with Beloit College. But that team was also beaten badly by Northwestern and Wisconsin. The 1912 team—the school’s last—defeated Northern Illinois, Loyola of Chicago, Chicago Veterinary College, and St. Viator, with losses to DePaul and St. Ambrose.
Dixon College baseball teams were very successful—even against Western Conference and professional teams. While playing at Dixon College, Davy Jones earned a two-year law degree
before going on to a 15-year career as a major league outfielder.