Willie Keil was born to Heinrich Wilhelm Keil and Louisa Moffit Reiter in 1836. A Prussian immigrant to the U.S., Wilhelm Keil established a utopian religious community based upon communal living and the Golden Rule in Bethel, Missouri in 1844. Over time civilization began to encroach on the commune, and neighbors convinced Willhelm it was time to go. So he headed west.
Young Willie was excited for the overland trek on the Oregon Trail, and set about learning to drive a pack team, so his father agreed that he could lead the wagon train to Washington. Shortly before their scheduled departure however, Willie contracted malaria and died at the age of 19.
Willhelm nonetheless kept his promise. He built a coffin lined with lead and outfitted a wagon as a hearse, laid his son in the coffin and immersed him the commune’s own “Golden Rule” whiskey. They traversed the Oregon Trail with the hearse at the head of the wagon train, and according to some stories they had an easier time passing through hostile American Indian country because of it.
When they reached the site near the Willapa River in Washington state, they laid Willie to rest in the coffin by lamplight. The park itself is a grassy hill with a few scattered trees.
Know Before You Go
Willie Keil's Grave is on the west side of WA Highway 6, at the intersection with Camp 1 Road, between Menlo and Raymond.