Switzerland County


Ulysses P. Schenck

once a prominent merchant and manufacturer, of Vevay, was born in the Canton of Neuchatel, Switzerland, May 16, 1811. His parents, John J.P. and Matilda Schenck came to the United States in 1817, and located on a farm above Vevay, and, though a tinner by trade in his native country, Mr. Schenck turned his attention to farming till 1825. He subsequently engaged in merchandising at Louisville and shipping pork, but returned to his farm about 1832 and soon after died. Ulysses P. Schenck obtained but a common school education, but early in life acquired a self-reliance which results in the best kind of mental discipline. He was employed as clerk by his father in Louisville till he became of age and then began business for himself in the same city. In 1837 he removed to Vevay and in the following year began merchandising on the site of the present mammoth Schenck store. He was successful from the first, and added largely to his profits by sending flat-boats with produce down the Ohio River to Southern markets, his business soon assuming enormous proportions, and he soon became identified with steamboat interests to a large extent. In 1854, with his brother, he built the "Switzerland," which, on the outbreak of the civil war, he sold to the Government for a gunboat. In 1876 the "U.P. Schenck," one of the largest boats on the river, was built for the Cincinnati and New Orleans trade. Altogether Mr. Schenck has owned and controlled as many boats as any other man on the river. He was also prominent in the financial and manufacturing interests of Vevay; was president of the First National Bank of Vevay; president of the Union Furniture Manufacturing Company; and was one of the principals in the construction of the Versailles Turnpike. From the enormous quantities of hay purchased and handled by Mr. Schenck, he was long known as "The Hay King." He was a member of the Baptist Church for nearly forty years and expended about $10,000 in the erection of the church edifice for that society in Vevay. He also donated large sums to Franklin College, a Baptist institution of which he was trustee for several years. September 22, 1830, Mr. Schenck was married to Miss Justine, Thoebaud, a lady of Swiss parentage, whose family was among the early settlers of Vevay. She came to this country in her childhood on the same vessel with her future husband, unconscious of the link which was destined to unite them in later years. Of eleven children born to them only two survive: Andrew J. and Ulysses. In politics Mr. Schenck was always a Democrat, but avoided official position, except where local offices were urged upon him. Personally he was a gentleman of quiet air, over modest in his estimate of himself, frank and kindly in his manners. Than his, no name is more familiar in southern Indiana, and many sought his advice on business matters. He possessed a remarkable memory and an extraordinary stock of patience, at all times perfectly familiar with every detail of his immense business, and deliberate in all his transactions. His death occurred in 1884, and the vacancy thus occasioned in the commercial affairs of Vevay was keenly felt throughout the entire county.

Source: History of Switzerland County, Indiana 1885. Chicago, Illinois: Weakley, Harraman & Co., 1885
Transcribed by: Sheila Kell