News & Events

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...

Adult Fiddle Camp 2019

Annual Adult Fiddle Camp to be held in Bethel, Missouri May 15 to 18, 2019 The camp is held in Bethel, Shelby County, Missouri, a quaint rural hamlet situated in the rolling farm country of Northeast Missouri. Open to aspiring fiddle and guitar players. Adults are...

Annual Meeting 2019

The Annual Meeting of the Historic Bethel German Colony will be held Sunday, March 3, 2019, 4:00pm at the Fest Hall. Everyone is welcome to attend and enjoy this time to renew friendships, look at accomplishments, and set goals for the new year. Historic Bethel German...

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.