Established in 1803 by Rev. J. T. van der Kemp on the farm Roodepas of Theunis Botha as a mission station of the London Missionary Society. The name is derived from the Hebrew word Baitheel, meaning 'House of God'.
Under the previous political dispensation, Bethelsdorp was a township almost exclusively inhabited by People of colour (Afrikaans: Kleurlinge). This changed somewhat with the end of Apartheid in South Africa in 1994, as living and trading in the township is now freely open to all races.