News & Events

Bethel German Colony 175th Anniversary Heritage Day

As we approach the 175th anniversary of the founding of Bethel, it seems appropriate to include artisans in the Septaquintaquinquecentennial events. We also thought it was the perfect opportunity to invite third thru fifth grade school children to Bethel again to...

Wildlife & Outdoor Expo 2019

The First Annual Wildlife & Outdoor Expo will be held in Bethel, Missouri on Labor Day - September 2, 2019. 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...

Fall Pickers Market

We're excited to be hosting the Northeast Missouri Fall Pickers Market in Bethel on Saturday & Sunday, September 7-8, 2019. Antiques Vintage Architectural Salvage Jewelry & Clothing Repurposed Finds Handmade Crafts Original Art Fall Decor Live Music Food Good...

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.