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...

Horizons 2024

Horizons 2024

Broaden Your Horizons with Arts, Humanities and Tourism Program JEFFERSON CITY, MO – Cultural events across Missouri are taking center stage as part of the 2024 Horizons initiative created by Missouri Humanities, Missouri Arts Council and Missouri Division of Tourism....

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...

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.