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Bethel in Shelby County, Missouri — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)
 

Bethel

 
 
Bethel Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Jason Voigt, May 10, 2020
1. Bethel Marker
Front side
Inscription.  
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, Wash.

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,
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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.
 
Erected 1955 by State Historical Society of Missouri and State Highways Commission.
 
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Bridges & ViaductsChurches & ReligionRailroads & Streetcars
Bethel Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Jason Voigt, May 10, 2020
2. Bethel Marker
Reverse side
Settlements & Settlers. In addition, it is included in the Former U.S. Presidents: #18 Ulysses S. Grant, and the Missouri, The State Historical Society of series lists.
 
Location. 39° 52.603′ N, 92° 1.442′ W. Marker is in Bethel, Missouri, in Shelby County. Marker is at the intersection of Main Street (State Highway 15) and East 1st Street, on the left when traveling north on Main Street. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 127 Main St, Bethel MO 63434, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 2 other markers are within 9 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Shelby County World War I Memorial (approx. 5 miles away); Newark, Missouri (approx. 8˝ miles away).
 
Also see . . .
1. Wilhelm (a.k.a. William) Keil on Wikipedia. (Submitted on May 10, 2020, by Jason Voigt of Glen Carbon, Illinois.)
2. Bethel, Missouri on Wikipedia. (Submitted on May 10, 2020, by Jason Voigt of Glen Carbon, Illinois.)
 
Bethel Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Jason Voigt, May 10, 2020
3. Bethel Marker
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on May 11, 2020. It was originally submitted on May 10, 2020, by Jason Voigt of Glen Carbon, Illinois. This page has been viewed 345 times since then and 11 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on May 10, 2020, by Jason Voigt of Glen Carbon, Illinois. • Devry Becker Jones was the editor who published this page.

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Feb. 25, 2024