Bethel, Missouri
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member YoSam.
N 39° 52.605 W 092° 01.443
15S E 583457 N 4414533
Town that was an experiment in communial living, is Shelby County.
Waymark Code: WM16BC
Location: Missouri, United States
Date Posted: 01/30/2007
Published By:Groundspeak Premium Member OzarksJim
Views: 26

County of marker: Shelby County
Sponsor: State of Missouri Historical Society and State Highways Commission
Location: Main St. & 1st St. Bethel
Date of marker: 1955

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 officials 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.

Web link: [Web Link]

Additional point: N 39° 48.369 W 092° 02.448

History of Mark: Not listed

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