Dixon Middle School, in Provo, Utah, is one of two middle schools in Provo City School District, educating students in the 7th and 8th grades. The school first opened its doors to students in March 1931 as Dixon Junior High School, and, along with Farrer Junior High School – which opened the same year – were the first junior high schools in the district.
John Matthews, who served as principal at Dixon from 1967 to 1969, and from 1970 to 1973, stated “Dixon Junior High School commemorated its 36th birthday on March 3rd of this year, 1967. This is not old for the life of an institution; but the founding of Dixon, along with her sister school – the Farrer, represented a great step forward in the history of education in Provo. Up until that time the junior high school program was the step-child of Provo’s school system, which lagged behind many communities of the state.”
“During the decade prior to Dixon’s birth, all grades above the sixth were at Provo High School, with junior and senior high levels functioning under the same principal and taught by the same faculty. This organization was improved in 1927 when two different principals were appointed for the two age groups who were still, however, using the same plant, same teachers, and the same campus.”
So the need for separate junior high school facilities at that time was urgent. In 1929, the voters of Provo gave approval for the board of education of Provo City Schools to sell bonds of $225,000 to finance the erection of two junior high schools in the community. To serve the west side of Provo, a site was selected on February 17, 1930, and purchase of the land was begun. Joseph Nelson was designated architect; and the contract for the building was finally awarded to the lowest bidder (the firm of Cox and Christiansen) for $85,000 on June 30, 1930. Construction was begun immediately and the classrooms were occupied on March 7, 1931 (even though the building was not accepted as complete by the board of education until August 4,1931).
John F. Mower, who, prior to the 1930-31 school year served as principal of Franklin School, was appointed principal at Dixon, and headed a staff of seventeen teachers when the school opened. Principal Mower became known as “Mr. Junior High School” of Utah, and served as Dixon’s principal until the spring of 1963, winning the love and respect of the whole community. His thirty-two year tenure as principal is unprecedented in the school’s history.
Interestingly, the naming of the school created a bit of confusion for some Provo residents. On December 4, 1930 the board of education agreed “that we name the new building on the west side of the city the Dixon Junior High School in recognition of the pioneer family of that section who have contributed much to the welfare of the community and the schools.”
The most conspicuous contribution was the appointment of Henry Aldous Dixon (1890-1967) as superintendent of Provo City Schools on March 25, 1932, a position he formerly held for nearly four years (1920 to 1923). He served as superintendent until June 30, 1937. However, as noted, the school was not named specifically after him, but rather the Dixon family, of which he was a descendant (his grandfather, Henry Aldous Dixon, born in 1835, was the patriarch of the Dixon family which settled in Provo). It was this larger family organization for which the school was named.