Our Binkley line was Mennonite, of course, among the Pennsylvania Dutch of Lancaster County. Among our ancestors in this line is a distinguished personage: Jacob Engle, known as “Yokeli”, who co-founded the River Brethren–a sect that survives today as the Brethren in Christ. Our descent from Yokeli comes through my great-great-grandmother Mary Engle Barr, who married Christian Kreider Binkley and established the California Binkleys. Mary’s close connection to a line of Mennonite clergy may help to explain her son Robert C. Binkley’s decision to join the ambulance corps in World War I.

Yokeli and the River Brethren

Born near Basel in 1753, Yokeli came to Lancaster County as a child and was soon orphaned. At the age of 18 he experienced a religious conversion under the influence of the pietist revival movement of the time. Unsatisfied with the ministers he knew, Yokeli established a new denomination with some like-minded friends, drawing elements from the pietist and Anabaptist traditions. They became known as the River Brethren. During the Civil War, in order to qualify as non-resistants and escape the draft, the Brethren adopted a more formal structure and took the name Brethren in Christ.

Yokeli’s house, where the River Brethren first met, still stands.

Line of Descent from Yokeli

These are the generations from Yokeli to Mary Engle Barr, with numbers from the genealogical tables Morris M. Engle, The Engle history and family records of Dauphin and Lancaster Counties (Hummelstown, Pa.: M.M. Engle, 1927; available at HeritageQuest if you or your library has a subscription)

  1. no. 53: Jacob “Yokeli” Engel (1753-1833); married Veronica Schock (1750-1816)
  2. no. 1384: Rev. Henry S. Engle (1789-1853); married Hanna Myers (1800-1840)
  3. no. 1448: Rev. Jacob Meyers Engle (1825-1900); married Elizabeth Gish (1827-1894)
  4. no. 1449: Susan Engle (1846-1928); married Elias J. Barr (1834-?)
  5. no. 1454: Mary Engle Barr (1873-1943); married Christian Kreider Binkley (1870-1938)

We know most about Jacob M. Engle. He requested exemption from the draft as a non-resistant in 1862.

Rev. Yacob was an up-to-date farmer in Conoy township, on the farm along the Conoy Creek, with its many natural sceneries near Lobato. He had taken a great interest in fishing and had large dams for his private pleasure and many were his friends that enjoyed his entertainments.

Engle History, p.128.

Influence on R.C. Binkley

It is therefore clear that Robert C. Binkley’s grandmother Susan Engle Barr descended from a line of ministers of the River Brethren. Could this have influenced his decision to volunteer for Stanford’s ambulance unit in 1917, after the U.S. entered the First World War? We have no direct evidence, but it is not improbable. Before his service he was a teetotaler; exposure to civilized French drinking habits cured him of that. Perhaps he had also absorbed pacifist leanings at his mother’s knee.