News & Events

Bethel Colony Spring Market

Bethel Colony Spring Market

Join us in Historic Downtown Bethel in 2024 for the Bethel Colony Spring Market, April 20-21 Admission $2 Saturday 10am-4pm, Sunday 10am-3pm . Come and support the craftsmen, artists, and small business owners at the Bethel Spring Market April 20th-21st! Here are some...

Annual Meeting

Annual Meeting

The Historic Bethel German Colony annual meeting will be held on Sunday, March 3, 2024, 4:00pm at the Fest Hall Restaurant in Bethel. The agenda is shown below. . Your RSVP will help us plan for food -- please phone the Fest Hall at 660-284-6493. We welcome current...

2024 Events in Bethel

2024 Events in Bethel

Join us for these events in Bethel for 2024: March 3 - Annual Meeting April 20-21 - Bethel Spring Market June 9-14 - Youth Fiddle Camp August 24 - Wildlife & Outdoor Expo Sept. 27 - Bethel Heritage Day Sept. 28-29 - Bethel Fall Market Oct. 9-11 - Adult Fiddle Camp...

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.