News & Events

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...

Bethel Fiddle Fest June 2021

Bethel Fiddle Fest June 2021

Contact us for information about the 2021 Bethel Youth Fiddle Camp scheduled for June 6-11, 2021! Limited number of students will be accepted. Fill out the application below, phone Wendy at 573-822-9498, or email wendyinbethel@gmail.com. REGISTRATION Submit $350 check...

Annual Meeting 2021

Annual Meeting 2021

Historic Bethel German Colony's annual meeting will be March 7, 2021, at 4:00pm at the Fest Hall. We will review the past year's events, visit with friends, elect new board members, and discuss what is coming up this year. We welcome all who are interested in the...

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.