News & Events

Bethel Colony 2023 Market Dates Announced

Bethel Colony 2023 Market Dates Announced

Join us in Historic Downtown Bethel in 2023 for these Bethel Colony Spring and Fall Markets... April 15-16 and September 30-October 1, 2023 ____________________ Admission $2 Artisans Antique Vendors Craftsmen Flea Market Tables Vintage Finds Home Decor Collectibles...

Christmas in Bethel 2022

Christmas in Bethel 2022

The colonists observed many "fete" days such as Easter, Christmas, New Years, harvest feasts, Independence Day and others with music, singing, dancing and visiting. On these occasions tables were loaded with all the good things the German kitchen and cellar could...

Fall Market – October 1-2, 2022

Fall Market – October 1-2, 2022

Join us in Historic Downtown Bethel in 2022 for the Bethel Colony Fall Market... October 1-2, 2022 ____________________ Admission $2 Artisans • Antique Vendors • Craftsmen • Flea Market Tables • Vintage Finds • Home Decor • Collectibles • Furniture and...

Our History

Bethel, in North River Valley, five miles from Shelbyville, was founded in 1844 as a religious communal colony by Wilhelm Keil and his German-American followers. Keil (1812-1877), an independent preacher, called his adherents “Christians.” Without a written agreement, they shared their property and labor, though private earnings were allowed. Bethel community was early noted for its handicrafts and musical band.

Membership was about 650 in 1855 when Keil, fearing Bethel too subject to outside influence, led a group west and established Aurora Colony in Oregon. Their expedition over the Oregon Trail is unique for it was conducted as a funeral cortege. Keil’s son, Willie, died before he realized his father’s promise to lead the group and was carried instead in the head wagon in a metal box, alcohol-filled. After six months and over 2000 miles, he was buried at Willapa, Washington.

Keil never returned to Bethel, directing affairs there by letter. When the colonies disbanded, 1879-1881, they held property in common valued at $109,806. Bethel supplied $64,328 of this and owned 4267 acres.