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Biography of Robert Dixon


This biography is from "Memorial and biographical record; an illustrated compendium of biography, containing a compendium of local biography, including biographical sketches of...prominent old settlers and representative citizens of South Dakota with a review of their life work... Also a compendium of national biography." Publisher: Chicago, G.A. Ogle, 1898. Pages 226-227.

HON. ROBERT DIXON, a farmer living on the south half of section 6, township 114, range 55, Hamlin county, is a native of Ireland, although of Highland Scotch descent. He was born November 8, 1835. His father, also Robert Dixon, was born near Edinburg, Scotland. His father was one of the Scotch Covenanters and the troubles of his time caused him to move to Ireland, and he there purchased the estate Lislea. Of this estate our subject's father became the free holder and it is to this day known as one of the picturesque spots of the Emerald Isle. Robert Dixon, the father of our subject, was born in the year 1804, and died August 3, 1850. The mother, Mary (Wilson) Dixon, was born in Ireland in 1809, and died in Illinois in 1865.

Hon. Robert Dixon left Ireland in his infancy, or about the year 1837, and landed in New York and went from thence, by the way of the Erie-canal, to Chicago and settled about twenty miles west of that city, in what is now known as Du Page county. Here the father purchased government land and became one of the earliest settlers of Illinois. In Du Page county Mr. Dixon grew to manhood, receiving a common-school education, and was brought up a stanch abolitionist. In August, 1861, he enlisted as a private in Company E, Fifty-fifth Illinois Volunteer Infantry, and during the war, he engaged in twenty-one pitched battles besides sieges and skirmishes, and was one of ten of his company that did not receive a wound. Among the battles in which he participated was Shiloh, Russell's House, Mississippi; Shelby Depot, Tennessee; Chickasaw Bayou, Mississippi; Arkansas Post, Arkansas; the assault and siege of Vicksburg, siege of Jackson, Mississippi; Amsterdam Ford, Mississippi; Mission Ridge, Kenesaw Mountain, Little Kenesaw Mountain, Atlanta, Ezra Church, the advance and siege of Atlanta, Jonesboro, Georgia, Bentonville, North Carolina, and Goldsborough. The most destructive battle to Mr. Dixon's company was Kenesaw Mountain, when his company sustained a severe loss of men. The regiment re-enlisted after three years of service, with the understanding that they should elect, their own officers, and Mr. Dixon was chosen lieutenant but was never commissioned, as the captain and lieutenant were killed at Kenesaw and Atlanta. He was later chosen captain by the popular vote of the company and in that capacity he served until mustered out in August, 1865. After the close of the war Mr. Dixon entered the wood and coal business at Chicago, but soon after began the manufacture of window sashes and blinds, but the business was destroyed by the crisis of 1873. He then engaged in the general merchandise business at Downer's Grove, in Du Page county, Illinois, and continued in that business until the year 1882. October 28, of that year, he filed a claim to the southwest quarter of section 6, Dixon township, Hamlin county, which he still owns. He first erected a shanty 24 x 28 feet and lived in it alone during the winter of 1882-83, and was the only resident of Dixon township during that time. In the spring of 1883 his family joined him and they have since made that their home. A Sunday-school was organized May 27, 1883, and was held in Mr. Dixon's shanty, and that summer Rev. H. M. Springer organized the first Methodist Episcopal church in the western part of Hamlin county, and our subject's shanty was also used for church services. The first public school held in Dixon township was held in Mr. Henry Cook's granary, on section 5. This school was organized in July, T884, and was taught by Miss Nettie Chase. Politically, our subject is a Populist and an upholder of prohibition and equal suffrage, and is a member of the Free Methodist church. He was a member of the first board of supervisors of Dixon township and has ever since been almost continuously connected with township and school affairs. For six years he served as county commissioner of Hamlin county, and in 1891, he was chosen state senator of South Dakota, and in the senate cast the first vote for United States Senator J. H. Kyle. Mr. Dixon has now retired from political life and is a licensed minister of the gospel o{ the Free Methodist church.

Mr. Dixon was married December 25, 1869, to Miss Sarah J. Rowland, third child of Celia (Smart) Rowland. She was born in Monroe county, New York, April 5, 1 844, of English descent, and their wedded life has been blessed by the advent of a family of four children, as follows: Mary Celia, Mrs. P. McLaren, Clark county; Robert R., living with his parents, and is a teacher by occupation; Stephen W., attending Wessington Springs seminary, a telegrapher by occupation; and Sarah E., a teacher of public schools, at present is also attending the Wessington Springs seminary.