News & Events

The Northeast Missouri Spring Pickers Market

The Northeast Mo Spring Pickers Market will be held on April 18-19, 2020 at the historic German Colony of Bethel, Mo. Even bigger, with over 100 Vendors from throughout the Midwest with Art, Craft, Vintage and Antique booths will fill the several buildings, the Colony...

Bethel Adult Fiddle Camp 2020

Bethel Adult Fiddle Camp 2020

Annual Adult Fiddle Camp to be held in Bethel, Missouri April 29 thru May 2, 2020 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...

Christmas in Bethel 2019

Christmas in Bethel 2019

December 8, 2019 was another exciting day in Bethel as it ended a year of celebrating 175 years of existence. Bethel had several events during 2019 to revel and Christmas in Bethel was no exception. Visitors shopped for unique handmade gifts in the vendor area located...

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.