Free Love Valley in North Coventry Township got its name from the unusual moral code of a rebellious religious group that lived in the area in the mid-19th century, explains Jim Marks in a video for North Coventry Township.
Between 1837 and 1857, a group led by Theophilus Ransom Gates took hold of a few farm families in the Shenkel Valley. The sect never had more than 35 members and they followed the teachings presented in Gates’s pamphlet, The Battle-Axe.
The Battle Axes, as the members of the group were known, favored nudity and cohabitation. As such, the name Free Love Valley soon became synonymous with this area of the township. Gates led the group until his death in 1846. He was succeeded by Hannah Williamson, a self-styled prophet.
In 1855, one of the group’s members, Hannah Shingle, was murdered in her farmhouse by her own axe, but it was never determined who the perpetrator was. Soon after this, the group fell apart and Williamson moved away from the township in 1857.
Learn more about Free Love Valley in North Coventry Township here.