Politics & Religion
Belief and Doctrine of Aurora
Politically, most of the Aurora Colonists voted as Republicans. The museum has surviving voting records from 1872 and 1874 as well as Union Ticket in support of Lincoln in 1864.
Dr. Keil supported the cause of the Union though he did not want his young men to fight in the war. Nevertheless, quite a few of the members at Bethel did join the militia, only to receive honorable discharges in 1863 just before they crossed the Oregon Trail to join Dr. Keil at Aurora. Other colonists, men like Christian Giesy, formed a militia in the Washington Territory in 1853 to protect themselves from what they felt might be immanent Indian attacks.
Most of the Colonists had backgrounds in protestant churches, most coming from either the Methodist or German State Lutheran Church. All came to believe, however, that denominations did not serve the will of God insisting as they did on formality. Keil, in particular, did not believe that ministers should be paid and a good percentage of his followers came out of a tradition in which communal living was considered the ideal for Christian living. The colonists built churches at Bethel and Aurora but attended neither after the colony disbanded and both churches were torn down early in the twentieth century.
From California Notations
When Charles Will visited the home of his Uncle Alfred Henry Will in California in 1926, he was told the following about the colony religion. “There were no religious meetings of any kind in Aurora prior to the building of the John Giesy House with work starting after the arrival of the Bethel wagon train of 1863. Charlie, your own grandfather, John Will, built many of the chimneys and fireplaces of Aurora Colony homes. It was while occupied at this trade on the John Giesy house that Dr. Keil stopped by and talked with your grandfather, who besides being very religious was also interested in education—-in the schooling of colony children. It was there that John Will told Keil—-‘We came to Aurora to be with you.’ Keil meditated on this for several days and then called the people together in a mass meeting in the still unfinished John Giesy House. From then on the meetings were held every two weeks by Keil. It was in that year that work was started on the big church on the hill.
The Church Building
Charles Snyder spent two years helping to build the Aurora Colony church which opened in 1867. The tower was 114 feet high with an observation balcony onto which one could easily fit the 60 piece colony band. The church was torn down in 1911 when the spire began to fall into disrepair.