News & Events

Wildlife & Outdoor Expo 2020

The Second Annual Wildlife & Outdoor Expo will be held in Bethel, Missouri on September 5, 2020. 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 visitors make...

Free Webinar: Exploring Missouri’s German Heritage

Free Webinar: Exploring Missouri’s German Heritage

Coming up May 13, 2020, a webinar with Caitlin Yager of Missouri Humanities, Exploring Missouri’s German Heritage: Bethel German Colony Promised nothing but bread, water, and hard work, German Americans in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and other states sold their property and...

Annual Meeting 2020

Annual Meeting 2020

Historic Bethel German Colony's annual meeting will be March 8, 2020, at 4:00 pm at the Fest Hall. We will review the past year's events, visit with friends, elect new board members, and set goals for 2020. We welcome all who are interested in the historical aspect of...

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.