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Independent Voice

Students Learn Dixon’s History

Jun 05, 2024 09:37AM ● By Debra Dingman, photos by Debra Dingman

Museum Docent Dan Rott shows students how phones were used in the "old days."

DIXON, CA (MPG) - To some students on the field trips to the Dixon History Museum, the old switchboard that connected all kinds of phone calls in Dixon through one operator might have well been seen as a giant cell phone; except for all the strange different-colored cords coming out of it.

One color meant it was an incoming call and another color meant it was an outgoing call, and some people had to be interrupted from a conversation so someone else could make a call, retired Dixon Principal/Museum Docent Dan Rott explained.

“You might hear someone say, Molly, would you get off the phone so I can call the doctor,” said Rott. The children stood in rapt attention.

Classes from Gretchen Higgins and Anderson Elementary were followed by students from Dixon Montessori Charter School in touring the museum this past month.

The first part of their tour was held outside by the large wagon where Rott explained that “stagecoaches were dusty and bouncy and not at all like cars are now.” People started coming to California because of the discovery of gold. He told them a lot of miners would stop in Silveyville—if they could find it because the grass would grow so tall that only a large flag marked the town.

Docents shared that there were three groups of people who settled in this area. First, there were the Native American Indians from the Wintun Tribe (called Patwin.) Children recognized that name because of the local Patwin Park.

“After a hunt, the Wintun thanked the animal for its sacrifice, then every part of the animal was used for food, clothing, tools, utensils, smaller animals, and the habitat.  No part of the animal was ever wasted,” offered DHM President Kim Schroeder-Evans. “Also, Patwin, as they are often referred to, means ‘Native People’ in the Wintun language.”

Dixon Historical Society Kim Schroeder-Evans

 Dixon Historical Society President Kim Schroeder-Evans, far left, talks to the children about the Wintun Tribe.

She reminded the students that the Wintun are still here, and they still prepare acorn bread, but with modern appliances.

“They also--still to this day--make cordage, boats, mats, bracelets, skirts, dolls, and baskets out of the tule plant,” she said.

Students learned that the second group of people that came into the area were the Spaniards from Europe. Then there were the Mexicans from Mexico, and they actually came after the Spaniards, Rott told the children when they were done guessing.

After the children saw an old kitchen that had a 100-year-old ice box in it, there was further discussion about the building they were all in: the Coast Ice House. One of the students asked where they “bought” the ice from to bring to the icehouse and Rott told them how men would saw giant cuts of ice from the top of frozen lakes like Lake Donner and truck them back down the mountains to the cities.

Retired teacher/Docent Melissa Glide was at a large table and demonstrated for the children that through soaking and softening tule, a native and hearty plant, the Wintun used to make huts along with many other things.

Melissa Glide

 A student leans in for a closer look at a photo held by Docent Melissa Glide of tule grass.

Children got to see a large photo of a class of Dixon High graduates. Rott asked if they noticed anything different about their class photo.

“They were a lot more formal back then,” he said. There was a large spinning wheel and a doll set up in a corner display.

“In the old days, there weren’t a lot of stores to go buy things,” he told them. “My parents didn’t have money to buy toys. A lot of kids grew up that way and parents actually thought it was foolish to spend money on toys.”

Students also heard about how and why Dixon came from Silveyville and about ‘King, the best sheep dog’ from Dixon and many more interesting facts about the beginnings of our town. If anyone would like to learn more, the Dixon History Museum is located at 125 West A Street in downtown Dixon and is open Fridays and Saturdays 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Special museum openings can be arranged by calling (707) 693-3044 or see their website:

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