North Coventry Twp, Chester County, PA

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Shenkel, variously spelled 'Schenkel.'

Free Love Valley [1]

SHENKEL REFORMED CHURCH, a stuccoed-stone structure erected in 1838. The SHENKEL FREE BURYING GROUND (L) was donated in 1784 by Henry Shenkel. In the middle of the nineteenth century this section became known as Free Love Valley because of the unconventional practices of the Battle Axes ('Thou art my battle axe and weapon of war' - Jeremiah 51:6), a religious sect founded by Theophilus Gates. The leader of this 'hilarious group of social outcasts' was born in Connecticut in 1787, and was subject to hallucinations in early childhood. He became an itinerant school teacher, law student, and writer of religious prophecy; in June 1837 he published the Battle Axe, whose leading article, 'The Order of God,' declared that 'among the present fashions and usages of this world that will fade away is that of man and wife so called, living in strife and disagreement.' In W.W. MacElree's Around the Boundaries of Chester County, Theophilus is portrayed as hawking his paper on the streets of Philadelphia for 'five cents a copy or a dozen for a quarter.' There he met and joined forces and fortunes with Hannah Williamson, 'earner of a public and unconventional livelihood,' and the two made their home in Shenkel. Here a group of local residents, attracted by Gates' teachings, met at one another's homes for the performance of a ritual whose uniform was nudity. In time, any Battle Axe felt free to call at another member's house and, after explaining about a Heavenly voice, walk out the door with the householder's wife; there was complete equality in this respect for women. MacElree reveals that one Magdalena Snyder entered the home of William Stubblebine, informing him that he was her divinely selected mate. 'Immediately William complied . . . shifting his wife to the end of the table and installing Magdalena in her seat.' Believing firmly that Heaven was near, Gates one night attached wings of light shingles to his arms and took unsuccessful flight from a roof. His following increased as did the peculiarities of the ceremonies. Although at first subject to certain restrictions, the Battle Axes later did away with restraints and marched up and down the aisles of Shenkel's Church 'in their shamelessness.'

Of Note [2]

JOSEPH LUPOLD - b. Oct 11, 1785, d. 1859. m. Sarah Zimmerman, b. Jan. 14, 1803. d. Nov. 12, 1895. Farmer; served in the War of 1812. Both buried at Shenkel's Church.

  1. Writers Program of the Works Progress Administration in the State of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania, A Guide to the Keystone State, 1940, American Guide Series, Oxford University Press, New York
  2. Lubold, Daniel G., Lubold, Lupold, Leopold, and Related Families, circa 1937, Edw J Smith, Printer, Reading PA

Nearby Neighborhoods

Street Names
Shenkel Road • Unionville Road

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