News & Events

Bethel Youth Fiddle Camp 2024

Bethel Youth Fiddle Camp 2024

Registration is now open for this year's youth camp held in historic Bethel, Missouri! One of the longest running fiddle camps in the United States, the Bethel Youth Fiddle Camp is excited about its 38th year! The Bethel Youth Fiddle camp is a week long, lesson...

Missouri Humanities Grant Awarded

Missouri Humanities Grant Awarded

Historic Bethel the Recipient of Missouri Humanities Grant The Missouri Humanities Council (MHC) has awarded a grant of $10,000 to the Historic Bethel German Colony in support of the project, "Stories of Bethel: Engaging the Next Generation to Learn and Share Our...

Christmas in Bethel

Christmas in Bethel

We hope you'll plan to join us on Sunday, December 3rd, for the annual Christmas in Bethel celebration. Free admission. . FOOD • Fest Hall Restaurant - Serving smorgasbord from 11am to 2pm (turkey and dressing, smoked sausage, more). Enjoy cookies and drinking custard...

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.