Bethel Community ~ Bethel, MO
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member YoSam.
N 39° 52.605 W 092° 01.443
15S E 583457 N 4414533
Quick Description: True Communistic Experiment for religious freedom, thought as a bad word today, but any communal living is true communistic living.
Location: Missouri, United States
Date Posted: 4/7/2015 4:45:13 AM
Waymark Code: WMNN52
Published By: Groundspeak Regular Member Math Teacher
Views: 1

Long Description:

County of marker & site: Shelby County
Location of marker: Main St. & 1st St., Bethel
Marker erected by: State of Missouri Historical Society and State Highways Commission
Date marker erected: 1955

Wikipedia text on the German-American Experience

Marker text: 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 2,000 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 4,267 acres.

Bethel communal colony, with its small settlements called Elim, Mamri, and Hebron, was established in Shelby County. Nineveh lay over the line in Adair County. Keil's mansion stands at Elim, east of Bethel.

Shelby County, a fertile prairie region, noted for its grain and livestock farms, its bluegrass and saddle horses, was organized 1835, and named for first governor of Ky., Isaac Shelby. The county seat, Shelbyville, was laid out, 1835. Hunnewell, Shelbina, and Clarence were laid out, 1857, by officals of the Hannibal and St. Joseph R.R. (now the Burlington), first across Missouri, 1859. In the Civil War, Shelbyville was a Union post; Shelbina was the scene of a battle, 1861, and a raid, 1864; and the Salt River railroad bridge near Hunnewell was twice burned, 1861, and partially, 1864.

U.S. Grant's first active command of the war was of the 21st Ill. Inf. guarding the rebuilding of the bridge, July 1861. William F. McMurry (1864-1934), Methodist Bishop, was a native of Shelby County.


"William Keil (March 6, 1812 – December 30, 1877) was the founder of communal religious societies in Bethel, Missouri, and Aurora, Oregon, that he established and led in the nineteenth century.

"Influenced by German Lutheranism, pietism, and revival Methodism, Keil's theology was based on the principle of the Golden Rule as well as the view that people should try to share all with others by living communally (Acts 4:32-37).

"Keil was born in Prussia March 6, 1812 and raised by German Lutheran parents. He emigrated to the United States as a young man—apparently after receiving a mystic text from a gypsy. Initially he settled in New York and worked as a tailor, his family trade. Within a year, he and his wife, also German, moved to western Pennsylvania, where Keil gained a reputation as a mystic and healer. By 1837, he had opened a drugstore in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Keil soon heard about a group of former Harmony Society members who had left that communal group, and had moved to Phillipsburg (now Monaca, Pennsylvania), where they had tried to form the New Philadelphia Society. When Keil contacted the families in the early 1840s, he impressed some of them, and they suggested he form a communal society. As former members of such a society, they provided invaluable practical assistance to its founding and maintenance.

"Keil was influenced by revivalism and utopianism, which were popular in western Pennsylvania during the 1830s. After becoming a successful Christian preacher and building a large congregation, Keil, and his followers, moved to Bethel, Missouri, in 1844 and started a Utopian commune. This colony was considered successful, but many of its members—again led by Keil—moved to Oregon between 1853 and 1856 to start a new settlement, which became known as Aurora Mills. Keil died December 30, 1877, leaving a power vacuum that led to the dissolution of the colony in 1883.

"The community at Aurora is given tribute at Twin Oaks Community, a contemporary intentional community of over 100 people in Louisa County, Virginia. All Twin Oaks' buildings are named after communities that are no longer actively functioning, and "Aurora" is the name of the visitor residence." ~ Wikipedia

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