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Historic Bethel German Colony

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Dani Hendon

on 19 February 2014

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Transcript of Historic Bethel German Colony

Historic Bethel German Colony
by: Dani Hendon
2nd period

The Founder
Wilhelm Keil was born in Prussia in 1812. In 1836, he married and brought his wife to America to start their life together. He had many professions; a milliner, a tailor, a druggist/herbalist, and doctor. This was a time of religious revivals, and he became a preacher after being converted to German Methodism. He soon parted ways with Methodism and became an independent preacher in Pittsburgh. He denounced all organized churches after going through several religious transformations and sought to establish his own belief system among a group of devoted, mostly German followers.
Why He Started the Colony
Wilhelm Keil and his followers wanted to live in a community with a theocratic form of government, in which rule is directed by the belief in God or by certain religious beliefs. So in 1844, Wilhelm Keil, and his family, along with a few other pioneer families established a settlement on the North River, on the prairies of North Missouri. They founded Bethel German Colony, a Christian communal colony devoted to following the Golden Rule, and having all things commonly shared. After ten years of hard work developing this community, Keil decided to push farther westward to escape the threat of secular civilization intruding into their lives. The Pacific Northwest was chosen and a group of eighty indivduals from Bethel made the dangerous 2000 mile journey in covered wagons to finally settle twenty-five miles south of Portland, Oregon, and establish the new colony, named after Keil's daughter, Aurora.
5 Interesting Facts
The primary mode of income in the Colony was agriculture, with all the men helping with the crops all the way through harvest. The food was divided among the colonists with the surplus sold to buy more land and equipment.

The men of the colony were skilled craftsman, and worked at their own trades after fulfilling their responsibilities with the crops.

Dr. Keil promised his eldest son, Willie, he could ride in the lead wagon on their journey west to settle their new colony. Sadly, Willie passed away before they left but his father had his body placed in a lead lined coffin filled with colony made whiskey so he could make the 2000 mile trip with them. His body was buried near what is now Raymond, Washington.

The colony did not require the men and women to live separate, celibate lives, but was made up of families.

Today over 30 original Colony buildings survive in Bethel, which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.
Contact Information
Mailing address:

Historic Bethel German Colony
127 N Main Street
Bethel, MO 63434


Fest Hall - 660-284-6493
About Membership/information about Bethel - 660-284-6493


Historic Bethel German Colony

Bethel German Colony School
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