Solomon Hicks Bethea
After completing college preparatory work at the Dixon Seminary, Solomon enrolled at the University of Michigan at age 16. He returned to Dixon after graduation and studied law in the Law Office of Eustace, Barge & Dixon. He famously defended the accused killer in the Bloody Gulch Murder trial, perhaps the most notorious case ever heard in Dixon.
Solomon married the love of his life, Katherine Shaw, in 1884. Katherine suffered from a number of health problems. They had no children, and Katherine died of tuberculosis in 1893. A heartbroken Solomon never remarried.
Solomon was twice elected Mayor of Dixon and served in the Illinois State House of Representatives. He was an influential and prominent figure in the early days of the Republican Party, attending nearly every Republican National Convention—once serving as Floor Leader. Solomon’s personal papers show a regular exchange of letters with President Theodore Roosevelt. Judge Bethea was appointed by President William McKinley to United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois on March 18, 1905, to a seat vacated by Christian C. Kohlsaat, and then elevated by President Roosevelt to be Senior Judge of that territory.
Solomon died in 1909 in Sterling, Illinois, at the home of his cousin. A funeral train carrying his coffin slowly rolled from Sterling to Dixon, and as it passed rural fields and farms, men in the fields stopped working and took off their hats. Families came out of their homes and stood in silence as the train, carrying Judge Solomon Bethea, a well-respected pillar of their community, rolled by. Thousands of mourners paid respects at the funeral, and President Roosevelt sent a 12-member delegation to represent him at the service.
- Solomon Hicks Bethea at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a public domain publication of the Federal Judicial Center.
Christian Cecil Kohlsaat
|Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
March 18, 1905 – August 3, 1909
George Albert Carpenter