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Bethel, Missouri
Location of Bethel, Missouri
Location of Bethel, Missouri
Country United States
State Missouri
County Shelby
 • Total 0.14 sq mi (0.36 km2)
 • Land 0.14 sq mi (0.36 km2)
 • Water 0.00 sq mi (0.00 km2)
715 ft (218 m)
 • Total 135
 • Estimate 
 • Density 811.59/sq mi (313.45/km2)
Time zone UTC-6 (Central (CST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s) 660
FIPS code 29-05104
GNIS feature ID 0714027

Bethel is a village in Shelby County, Missouri, United States. The population was 135 at the 2020 census.


Bethel was founded as a Bible communist utopian colony in 1844 by Dr William Keil (1811–1877), a Prussian-born preacher. He and his followers, who were almost exclusively German immigrants to America, believed that the Book of Acts required that Christians hold all property and means of production in common and they organized their Colony accordingly. Traditionally male work was communally performed; however, traditionally female work was still individualized and performed in single family households.

By 1850, the Bethel Colony had a population of 500; by 1860, 600. It owned thousands of sheep, cattle and horses, and had over 3,500 acres under cultivation. It was the commercial center of the region. However, the construction of the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad threatened Dr. Keil's theocracy. In 1855, he led his some of his followers westward over the Oregon Trail, to eventually settle Aurora, Oregon. Other wagon trains followed in subsequent years. The remainder of the Bethel Colony retained their communal ownership of property and shared means of production until three years after his death in 1877. In 1880, the property was divided among the remaining members, thus ending Missouri's most successful communal experiment.

The Bethel Historic District, bounded by Liberty, King, 1st, and 4th Streets, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970. At least twenty of the buildings constructed by the Bethel Colony are still extant. These houses are on exhibit to visitors and to the public.

Also listed on the National Register of Historic Places are nearby Elim and Hebron.


Bethel is located at 39°52′38″N 92°1′28″W / 39.87722°N 92.02444°W / 39.87722; -92.02444 (39.877205, -92.024433).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the village has a total area of 0.14 square miles (0.36 km2), all of it land.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 184
1900 225
1910 235 4.4%
1920 254 8.1%
1930 251 −1.2%
1940 217 −13.5%
1950 194 −10.6%
1960 152 −21.6%
1970 143 −5.9%
1980 132 −7.7%
1990 117 −11.4%
2000 121 3.4%
2010 122 0.8%
2019 (est.) 112 −8.2%
U.S. Decennial Census

2010 census

As of the census of 2010, there were 122 people, 60 households, and 34 families living in the village. The population density was 871.4 inhabitants per square mile (336.4/km2). There were 79 housing units at an average density of 564.3 per square mile (217.9/km2). The racial makeup of the village was 93.4% White, 2.5% from other races, and 4.1% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.5% of the population.

There were 60 households, of which 25.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.3% were married couples living together, 8.3% had a female householder with no husband present, 5.0% had a male householder with no wife present, and 43.3% were non-families. 41.7% of all households were made up of individuals, and 20% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.03 and the average family size was 2.74.

The median age in the village was 45.7 years. 21.3% of residents were under the age of 18; 5% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 22.2% were from 25 to 44; 27% were from 45 to 64; and 24.6% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the village was 53.3% male and 46.7% female.

Notable person

  • Henry Theophilus Finck (1854-1926), musical critic
Women's History Month on Kiddle
Women Scientists of Antiquity
Mary the Jewess
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