Pioneer Makes Son’s Corpse Focus of Teachable Moment


William Keil

Like Yogi, Keil was Not Your Average Bear

On This Date in History:  William Keil  was an immigrant from Germany and worked as a tailor and a medical practioner.  He had been a Methodist but turned to mysticism.  So, like Yogi, he was not your average bear.  He possessed a very strong personality and fully expressed his religious convictions such that people readily followed his words and actions.  He seems like a pretty educated man, but he was considered something of but a shade north of literate.  Nevertheless, he established a colony at Bethel, Missouri in 1844 and took the reigns as the community’s leader. 

According to this book, Not Everyone Was Happy in the Bethel Colony

The Bethel Colony  was about 45 miles west of Hannibal, MO and mainly consisted of German immigrants and was intended to be a utopian type society.  However, unlike other such experiements such as the one in New Harmony, Indiana, the Bethel Colony was reasonably successful.  Apparently, it was not successful enough to meet Keil’s liking as he felt ever crowded by secular society that continued to flow in from the East.  I suppose he knew how the American Indians must have felt.  So, he sent scouts west almost as far as he could.  The scouts staked out a claim in the Washington Territory and Keil decided that he would lead a part of the colony to a new location. 

Keil as a Young Man. Kinda Scary lookin'?

William Keil promised his son, Willie, that he could have the honor of leading the wagon train.  But, shortly before their departure, the 19-year-old Willie fell victim to malaria.  Willie’s death delayed the planned early May 1855 departure date but it did not derail the entire mission nor did it cause William Keil to break his promise.   Instead,  Keil led the first wagon from the Bethel Colony which included the preserved corpse of his son.  He did not do as a sentimentalist but instead he used his misfortune as what we might refer to as a “teachable moment.”  Keil carried the preserved corpse across the continent to illustrate to his followers the strength of the bond of a man’s word.  He promised Willie that he could lead the wagon train and I suppose that meant dead or alive. 

Marker Near Willie's Grave

 So, on this date in 1855, the bearded, somewhat rotund, Keil let loose a blast from his trumpet to signal the departure from the Bethel Colony with Willie’s coffin in the lead.  But, it was no ordinary coffin.  It was a lead-lined version and was filled with whiskey so as to preserve the body.  Colonists followed and sung funeral hymns.  If they sang all the way to Washington, it must have been the longest funeral cortege in history.  Apparently, they did so for some length of time because the Indians whom they passed along the way left them alone out of respect,  fear or awe, or in a combination of all three.

Band Behind Pioneer Hotel ca. 1877 in Aurora, Oregon

In October 1855, the colonists reached their destination.  But, Keil wasn’t too happy with the location staked out in the Willapa Valley.  He thought that it was totally unsuitable for settlement.    Nevertheless, after a five month journey, Willie finally found his resting place as the long overdue funeral ceremony took place.  Keil was almost out of money but not energy and he led the group into the Oregon Territory.  There they founded the colony of Aurora.  He acheived his objective of establishing a new colony and he kept his promise to his son.   Today, Aurora, Oregon is about 20 miles from Portland and has about 700 residents.

Not Much to Investigate with Invest 90

Invest 90 Spaghetti Model Track Shows Media's Folly

Weather Bottom Line:  To begin with, lets get the Non-Tropical Low off the SE Coast out of the way.  As I said yesterday, all of the hype in the media is way over board and if this were three months from now no one would be covering it or even really making mention.  The Weather Channel has a crew down on the Outer Banks of North Carolina and they talk about 3-5 foot waves and very little beach erosion.  The guy said something about “out bands” of rain, which is nonsense because it’s not a tropical system.  The National Hurricane Center has gone down to just a 10% chance of it developing into a subtropical cyclone, let alone a tropical system.  If you look at the spaghetti models you see that none of them take the system on land anywhere except one that wants to carry it to Europe.  Almost all of them take it east, away from the US.  It’s drifting North Northwest but is expected to turn Northeast and then at least East Northeast.  It’s a non-story except for those who want to drive ratings or to alerty people that the hurricane season is near.  I’ll post the various hurricane forecasts on Thursday.

Friday 8 AM

As for our region…same old thing.  Upper 80’s and a very small chance of isolated afternoon t’storms.  My guess is as we go into the week deeper, there will be a cap developing and that will most likely  diminish the already low prospect of isolated activity.  When you see on TV a 20% chance, that’s the old CYA forecast, just in case.  I do not think that the conditions warrant that high of a percentage.  But, when we get to Friday, a frontal boundary should be here and that will help lift this humid mess and provide a chance for rain and t’storms.  Perhaps elevating chances ahead of it on Thursday night and then carrying into Friday as I suspect this guy will be moving rather slowly by the time it gets here.   Then, for the weekend, it should be closer to seasonal temperatures.

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