The History of Bethel

Bethel is located at the mouth of the Kuskokwim River, 40 miles inland from the Bering Sea. It lies in the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge, 400 air miles west of Anchorage. It lies at approximately 60 47' N Latitude, 161 45' W Longitude (Sec. 09, T008N, R071W, Seward Meridian). The community is located in the Bethel Recording District. The area encompasses 44 sq. miles of land and 6 sq. miles of water.

Bethel was first established by Yup'ik Eskimos who called the village "Mumtrekhlogamute," meaning "Smokehouse People," named for the nearby fish smokehouse. There were 41 people in Bethel during the 1880 U.S. Census. At that time, it was an Alaska Commercial Company Trading Post. The Moravian Church established a mission in the area in 1884. The community was moved to its present location due to erosion at the prior site. A post office was opened in 1905. Before long, Bethel was serving as a trading, transportation and distribution center for the region, which attracted Natives from surrounding villages. Over time, federal and state agencies established regional offices in Bethel.


To Community Histories Index Alaska DCCED Community Database Online


History and map graphic used with permission from the Alaska Department of Community and Economic Development