Nachusa

by Jason C. Ayres


John Dixon, Nąčú-są, "Pale Hair"

After the Winnebagoes had removed from Northern Illinois, they made occasional visits to their old friend, Nachusa. That his influence over them had not been weakened by the lapse of time is attested by the following statement of an early settler of Dixon.1


(200) I took up my residence in Dixon, March 1, 1855, and I remember well that for many years thereafter, a band of Winnebagoes — men, women and children — came down Rock River; I should think in August of each year, camping out from place to place, trapping, hunting and fishing. They usually stopped here about a week; sometimes less, and made frequent visits to John Dixon who was evidently regarded as their best friend and a sort of chief among them. I remember one year, when two separate bands came down and were camped near together, on the flat east of the lower ice house. It appears that some of the rough element in town went up to the camp and agreed with some of the Indians that the whites would furnish plenty of whiskey if the Indians would get up an imitation war dance or something of the kind; and 'have a hot time in the old town'. The dwellers in the east end of town and up the Grand Detour road were much alarmed, and fearing what drunken men, whites and reds might do, said the proposed orgie must be stopped at once. The city Marshall brought Father Dixon over in a carriage and he talked to the Winnebagoes in their own language, telling them they must not do anything of the kind, as there would be trouble with the whites, and their safety was to move on without delay, and in an hour's time the last Winnebago had departed down the river.

(201) In the early seventies, the Winnebagoes were still making annual visits to John Dixon. They would camp in the weeds across the street from his house, and during their stay would give exhibitions of their dances in the hall. Father Dixon would visit with them for hours at a time, and they used both the English and Winnebago languages, alternately laughing and crying as they talked over the events of days gone by. The estimated distance from their Wisconsin home is one hundred and twenty miles, which they walked for the purpose of visiting their old friend. John Dixon's death occurred in 1876. The next week a band of Winnebagoes came to visit him. When they learned of their old friend's death, they wept over their loss; there was no exhibition on that trip, and after staying two days they returned to their Wisconsin home.


Notes to the Text

1 Jason C. Ayres.


Commentary. Jason C. Ayres — Stevens gives a sketch of this early resident of Dixon:

Jason C. Ayres

(5) Jason C. Ayres of Dixon was born in St. Lawrence county, New York, August 22, 1835. He is a son of Colonel Sylvanus and Anna (Bean) Ayres and on both sides is descended from old families of New England founded by adventurous colonists from the mother country in early colonial days. Both his grandfathers were revolutionary soldiers and his father served in the war of 1812. His father was a native of Massachusetts and his mother of Saratoga, New York. They settled first in Herkimer County and afterwards removed to St. Lawrence county, New York, where they resided for several years. In 1836 the family moved to Indiana and settled on lands owned by them north of Fort Wayne, which was then a village, to make a home, in what was then an entirely new and undeveloped country. Upon the death of the father, some four years later, the widow with her family returned to Buffalo, New York, where Jason C. Ayres passed his boyhood days and acquired his early education in the schools of that city. He moved to Chicago in 1854 and in December of that year he visited Dixon for the first time, traveling by rail to Rochelle, Illinois, which was then the terminus of the Dixon Air Line, now the Chicago and Northwestern Railway and from thence by stage to Dixon. In March, 1855 he located in Dixon, to which place the railroad had then been completed and has since resided here. He engaged in the real-estate business as a junior partner in the firm of J. Crawford and Company, operating in the northwestern states in the location, purchase and sale of government lands. The partnership was dissolved in 1863 and Mr. Ayres continued the business alone, and in connection therewith he held the office of city clerk and treasurer for some twenty years. In the meantime he took up the study of law and was admitted to the bar in 1870 but has since continued to give the greater part of his time and attention to real-estate and financial operations. He was one of the original stockholders and organizers of the Dixon National (6) Bank and has been president of the bank for more than thirty years. He was married in May, 1861 to Lavina C, daughter of Dr. John S. Crawford of Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Mrs. Ayres passed away September 21, 1907, survived by one daughter, Mrs. Anna A. Dement, widow of Lewmon D. Dement of Dixon, who with her daughters, Carmen L. and Rosanna V. Dement reside with her father in the old home, — her other daughter, Esther A. Dement, having been united in marriage with Morgan Lloyd Davies of Chicago and residing in that city. In politics Mr. Ayres has always been a Republican, casting his first vote for electors for John C. Fremont, and has taken an active interest in political measures and efforts for party success, but has never sought office or any political preferment or reward. Fraternally he is a Mason, a member of Friendship Lodge, No. 7, one of the oldest lodges in the state, and of Nachusa Chapter, of Dixon Commandery, K. T., and of Freeport Consistory, A. A. S. R. thirty-second degree. Mr. Ayres is widely and favorably known as an active and efficient business man and a public-spirited and influential citizen."1

"Nachusa" — the Hočąk is Nąčú-są, "Pale Hair." Whitney's note nicely sums up his life:

John Dixon (Nąčúsą)

John Dixon (1784-1876) came to the Sangamon country in 1820 from New York in the hope that the climate of the West would restore his health. Not only did he recover from the "pulmonary disease" that had seemed imminent when he gave up his clothing business in New York, but he outlived all of his twelve children as well. From Sangamon County, Dixon and his family moved on to Peoria in 1825. There he held numerous county positions — recorder of deeds, circuit clerk, clerk of the county commissioners' court, and justice of the peace. Three years later he moved still farther north to Boyd's Grove in Bureau County, and from Bureau County he went to Ogee's Ferry in 1830. A post office had been established at that place in 1829, and Dixon obtained the position as postmaster soon after his arrival. During his residence in Bureau County, Dixon subcontracted for portions of mail routes and was proprietor of the Galena-Springfield mail stage. In the BHW [Black Hawk War], Dixon served as an assistant to Q. M. [Quartermaster] Enoch C. March and accompanied the 3d Army through part of its expedition across Wisconsin to the Mississippi. After the war he expanded his trading operations and was active in the development of Dixon, which was named in his honor. In 1838 he was elected by the legislature to the state board of public works. Largely through his influence, the U.S. Land Office was moved to Dixon from Galena in 1840. Dixon retired from business some thirty years before his death, but he remained active in civic affairs throughout his life.1

"Dixon" — the old crossing at the town of Dixon, Illinois, is located at 41.844390, -89.484324.


Notes to the Commentary

1 Frank Everett Stevens (1856-1939), History of Lee County, Illinois (Chicago: The S.J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1914) 5-6.
2 The Black Hawk War, 1831-1832: v. II, Letters and Papers; Part I, April 30, 1831-June 23, 1832. Ed. Ellen M. Whitney (Springfield: Illinois State Historical Library, 1973) 60-61 note. Whitney also cites the following: William D. Barge, Early Lee County, Being Some Chapters in the History of the Early Days in Lee County, Illinois (Chicago: Barnard and Miller, Printers, 1918), passim; History of Lee County, Dr. Cochran (Chicago: H. H. Hill, 1881), 150-158; Lee County (1914), I: 237-60; Newton Bateman, Paul Selby, Ezra Morton Prince, John H. Burnham, Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois (Chicago: Munsell Pub. Co., 1908) I:134.


Source

Norton William Jipson, Story of the Winnebagoes (Chicago: The Chicago Historical Society, 1923) 200-201. This is an unpublished typescript.