Wednesday, December 30, 2009

CryptoWA #14 - The Pickled Pioneer

An unusual wagon train left Bethel, Missouri for the Oregon Territory in May of 1855. At it's head was a wagon first modified for the role of an ambulance, but hastily converted again to serve as a hearse. This contained the coffin of Willy Keil. Willy was the son of Wilhelm Keil, a religious leader who journeyed westward with his commune of followers in search of a "New Eden."

Dr. Keil promised Willy he could lead the expedition, but he died of malaria shortly before the group's departure. So, Wilhelm constructed a lead lined coffin and filled it with the Bethelites own Golden Rule whiskey. This preserved Willy for the long trip West. True to his father's promise, he was at the head of the procession.

The group arrived near present-day Menlo, Washington in November and finally buried Willy Keil. His grave can still be seen today, and he is sometimes called the Pickled Pioneer.

The Bethelites, on the other hand, didn't stick around very long."New Eden" proved too dank and wet for their tastes, so they moved further south into present day Oregon, establishing the town of Aurora.