The municipality of Bellwald is a typical hillside community, high above the Goms and the Fieschertal, consisting of the village of Bellwald and the hamlets of Ried, Egga, Bodmen and Fürgangen.
Bellwald village, which gave the name to the municipality, is the highest village in Goms, located at 1,560 m above sea level. Until after the Second World War, the population of Bellwald made a living almost exclusively from traditional mountain agriculture, consisting of cattle breeding and arable farming. This was a subsistence economy with multi-purpose farming, aimed primarily at the needs of the local population. In terms of population, Bellwald is a small municipality. From 1850 to 1970, the population of Bellwald was between 250 and 300. Agriculture, with its limited land resources, was unable to feed everyone, forcing part of the population to emigrate in the 19th century and become mercenaries in foreign armies. After the ban on mercenary service in 1859, they went as settlers to South America or as milkers to Prussia and California. After the First World War, they migrated to the municipalities of the main valley or to other cantons. The great turning point began in Bellwald towards the end of the 1950s. From 1956, a cable car connected Bellwald to the valley. Two years later the tourist board was founded and in 1962 the first hotel opened its doors.
The road into the valley, completed in 1971, accelerated the development of tourism and Bellwald was transformed from a farming village into a tourist resort. Bellwald is a typical hamlet settlement - a form of settlement that is common on the slopes of the Valais valley known as the "mountains". Sometimes the term "Bellwalderberg" appears in documents. The Alemanni who came to the area in the 8th and 9th centuries, undertook massive clearing of the Goms region and settled initially in individual farms, from which small hamlets and village settlements gradually developed as the clans grew in size. Bellwald was first mentioned in documents in the early 14th century. At this time, a separation from feudal rule took place. In 1394, the "Bellwalderberg" became a "farmers' guild" with the aim of buying its way out of the existing levies. Out of this developed the community, the citizenry which laid down the Burger statutes in writing in 1555. As the actual village constitution, these statutes contained rules and regulations on the recognition and acquisition of civil rights and regulated economic life and land use.
The history of Bellwald, the highest village in the Goms (1,563 m above sea level), cannot boast bishops and provincial governors like Münster or Ernen. We do not even know what the "Bei" or "Bell" in the name means. A consonant shift could have turned "Fellwald" into Bellwald, as the forest had to be "felled" and cleared when the area was settled. There are said to have been times when every family was obliged to cut down at least six trees a year in order to obtain the necessary land for cultivation. "Bielwald" would also fit with the location of the village on a hill, especially as a part of the village still bears the name "Biel" and the area is often referred to in old writings as "Bellwalderberg". Whether it was once called "Fell" or "Biel", the word "Wald" ("forest") does not require interpretation. According to legend, however, the Bellwald inhabitants missed out on their share of the forest, because they did not dare to push themselves forward (hence the nickname "rabbits") when the forest in the Goms was being divided up. By way of consolation, God gave them the name Bellwald. The sun and the wide panoramic view, however, could not be taken from the Bellwalders.
In 1374, Bellwald main village was called "Zblattun". The part of the village below the church named "unner dr Blatte" still reminds us of this. The other parts of the village are called "üffem Platz, bim Brunne, üff dr Schlüecht, dr Biel, dr Geissfärrich, ds Mättelti, d'Steirufena and Turre".
New houses and holiday residences have been built on the edge of the village over the last few decades.
Many new houses have been built in recent years in the hamlet of Ried, almost stifling the old village on the ridge. This hamlet experienced its heyday between 1630 and 1750, when most of the houses were built there.
In 1600, the hamlet of Eggen, today the smallest of all, was more important than Ried or Fürgangen. Today there are still four old houses there: "ds Hüeberhüs" from the 16th century, the large semi-detached house at the top of the village, built in 1647 and finished in 1723, the house next to the chapel, dating from 1756 and an old house from the 16th century, which was used as a barn for a long time and made habitable again in 1976. To the west, there was another house as the farmstead indicates. The old "Restihüs" was demolished in 1895. It stood below the large semi-detached house. You can still see the cellar walls of a house that disappeared at the beginning of the 20th century, to the west of the house next to the chapel in the direction of the Fieschertal. After World War II, the old bakehouse was also demolished.
The hamlet of Bodmen, formerly divided into Bodmen and auf der Halte, is thought to have been an independent community until 1821. The village or community still owns forest on the "Gibelegge".
In 1896, eight buildings were destroyed by fire between upper and lower Bodme, including three houses.
Fürgangen, first mentioned in 1293 as "Wrgangen" or "Wurgangen", was once under the rule of the Counts of Blandrate. Paul Bogner von Niederernen bought these governing rights in 1444 and called himself "Judge of Fürgangen". After 1595 this jurisdiction is said to have passed to the Schiner family. It is not known when the Fürgangen "Freigericht" amalgamated with the "Zendengericht" of Goms. The hamlet of Fürgangen, which belonged to the Ernen parish until 1963, was largely destroyed by fire on 12 July 1887. 18 buildings fell victim to the fire, including two houses, and one human life was lost. The following year, the inn, barn and stable burned down in Fürgangen.
During the conflagration in Fürgangen in 1887, a large "fire" in the throats of the fire brigade team was quenched according to the municipal bill with "11 litres of white wine at 80 cents a litre; 11 litres at 1 Franc and 2 1/2 litres of brandy at 2 Francs per litre and 3 litres of red wine at 1 Franc", plus bread at 10 Francs to assuage their hunger. Fire has always been an enemy to be feared in the villages with their wooden houses built close together. Therefore, according to tradition, St. Agatha's Day (5 February) is still celebrated as a holiday, as our forebears decided in a community meeting on 7 March 1909.