News & Events

Wildlife & Outdoor Expo 2021

Wildlife & Outdoor Expo 2021

The Annual Wildlife & Outdoor Expo will be held in Bethel, Missouri on Saturday, September 4, 2021. The village of Bethel is a historical German Colony located in Northeast Missouri. Several of the original Colony homes are still in existence. A variety of...

Adult Fiddle Camp 2021

Adult Fiddle Camp 2021

2021 Bethel Camp Adult Registration Wednesday October 6 – 9, 2021 Open to adults (18 & over) interested in learning to play traditional fiddle, guitar or mandolin or to sharpen already learned skills. Minimal basic skill on the instrument is required (know how to...

Spring Pickers Market 2021

Spring Pickers Market 2021

Who's ready for spring?!?! Historic Bethel welcomes The Northeast Missouri Spring Pickers Market on April 17-18, 2021. The Pickers offer vendors from throughout the Midwest with Art, Craft, Vintage and Antique booths to fill the Colony Barn and a big outdoor Market...

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.