News & Events

Adult Fiddle Camp

Adult Fiddle Camp

Adult fiddle camp October 11-14, 2023, allows fiddlers age 18 and over to study with master fiddlers to learn new tunes, build a network of fiddler friends, and/or perfect technique. For more information or to register, contact Wendy Brumbaugh at 573-822-9498 or John...

Bethel Youth Hunt

Bethel Youth Hunt

Bethel Colony "Youth Hunt" competition for the 2023 deer season will take place the youth weekend only, October 28th at sunrise through October 29th at sunset. The buck with the most points (minimum size of 1" point to qualify) wins 50% of the entry pool, along with...

Bethel Colony Fall Market

Bethel Colony Fall Market

Join us in Historic Downtown Bethel for the Bethel Colony Fall Market... September 30-October 1, 2023. ____________________ Admission $2 Artisans • Antiques • Craftsmen • Flea Market Tables • Vintage Finds • Home Decor • Collectibles • Furniture and more...plus...Food...

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.