The John H. Dixon diary is a 4"x2¾", 142-page leather-bound journal. The diary opens with Dixon's trip from Tuscarawas County, Ohio, to Daviess County, Indiana, from September 5-24, 1861. He made the journey with a group of westward migrants, though he rarely mentioned his companions. Dixon noted each county through which they passed, the terrain, and the food they ate. He often slept in hay or in his wagon and ate in taverns when he could. He also noted when they set off each day (they rested on Sundays) and when they stopped for breakfast and dinner.
The next set of entries, starting on September 25, 1861, is entitled: "An account to things common and general, that may take place during my stay in Indiana." Dixon recorded his daily work activities as a laborer (building and painting houses, maintaining carriages, caring for horses, chopping wood, husking corn, and making apple butter) and his social life (talking, singing, attending a prayer meeting at a United Brethren church, and writing letters). He spent most of his time in and around Clarksburg and Washington, Indiana. On October 1, 1861, Dixon applied for a teaching certificate, for which he was asked to read and write, and was quizzed on geography and grammar. The journal ends with a 7-page "true and correct history" of his life from September 5-October 31, 1861. In these pages, Dixon stated his plans to send this diary back to his friends in Ohio to "keep it to remember me when I am dead and gone."
Dixon often worked with Esrom Redman of Madison, Indiana. When work was slow, Dixon washed dishes, swept the floor, and tended the horses. He spent much of his social time with a man named Clark. His diary entries provide a day-in-the-life account of a young man, trying to establish himself in Indiana, in 1861.