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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

General William C. Schenck

Dallas Bogan on 29 September 2004
The following is taken from Dallas Bogan's book, "The Pioneer Writings of Josiah Morrow."
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

Founder of Franklin and Enterprising Pioneer in the Great Miami Valley.

Youthful Land Surveyor at Cincinnati--Prominent Man in Northwest Territory--Lays Out the Town of Franklin And
Becomes a Leader in the Development
of the Miami Country.

January 29, 1914

I remember hearing Judge Geo. J. Smith in his old age say that when he was a law student in 1820 the remark was sometimes made that after the federal party had be- come a helpless minority, the ablest in Warren county was a federalist Gen. William C. Schenck of Franklin. I was able to give in the Warren County History only a brief sketch of this prominent pioneer of the Miami valley. A much better account will be here given.

William Cumming Schenck was born near Freehold, N.J., January 11, 1773. His father was a Presbyterian minister; his mother was Anna Cumming, sister of General John N. Cumming. The Schenck family is of Dutch extraction, the emigrant ancestor, Reefol Martense Schenck, having emigrated from Holland to New Amsterdam in 1630.
William C. received a good education, first under the direction of his father and afterward of his uncle Gen. Cumming. He was for a time undecided as to his profession and studied both law and medicine. Coming to the Miami Valley where his uncle and other prominent men of New Jersey had large land interests his attention was drawn to surveying, drafting, making deeds and conveyances, etc. He was one of the most intelligent of the pioneers on the Great Miami, becoming a master of land surveying, and filled responsible positions in the Northwest territory in early manhood.
He was only nineteen when he first arrived at Cincinnati and the next year was appointed a lieutenant in the militia of Hamilton county in the Northwest territory. He returned to New Jersey but in 1795 he was sent west again by General Cumming to examine land in what is now Montgomery county. He soon became an associate with Daniel C. Cooper, a surveyor from New Jersey of about the same age as himself. The first edition of Howe's Collections of Ohio says of the town of Franklin on the Great Miami: "It was laid out in 1795, a few months after the treaty of Greenville within Symmes Purchase by two young men from New Jersey, Daniel C. Cooper and Wm. C. Schenck. The first cabin was built by them on or near Lot 21 Front Street. In the spring of 1796 six or eight cabins stood on the town plot."
As a preparation for the settlement of Dayton, Cooper in September, 1795, marked out a road from Ft. Hamilton to the mouth of Mad river. During the fall and winter Cooper located a thousand acres of fine land in and near Dayton. In 1796 he settled at Dayton and became one of the principal proprietors of that town. In 1800 Cooper sold to William C. Schenck his interest in Franklin and the latter became as he supposed the sole proprietor of the town. On account of the uncertainty of the boundaries of lands as originally surveyed, however, Robert R. Ross became the owner of a part of Franklin. The plat of Franklin was not recorded at Cincinnati until 1800. Four of the original lots were given for the purpose of erecting public buildings on them and another was reserved for a church.
In 1801 Mr. Schenck surveyed a tract of 4,000 acres on the Licking river for his uncle John N. Cumming and George W. Burnet on which was laid out a town which be- came the county seat of Licking county. The town was laid out on the plan of and named after Newark, N.J. For his work as surveyor Schenck was given a third interest in the entire tract.
In 1816 he surveyed a tract of twelve square miles on the Maumee, a part of which he purchased himself. Swamp fevers of the region having undermined his health in which he sold his land for a thousand dollars.
In 1798 Mr. Schenck married Betsy Rogers and made his residence at Cincinnati for several years where three of his children were born. His name appears as foreman of a grand jury of Hamilton county in 1799. When the first legislature of the Northwest Territory assembled at Cincinnati Sept. 16, 1799, Mr. Schenck was chosen clerk of the upper house, called the Council. He held this position at all the sessions of the territorial legislature which were held, two in Cincinnati and one in Chillicothe.
In 1802, when ten delegates were elected to represent Hamilton county in the constitutional committee, Mr. Schenck represented a respectable vote but was not among the represented candidates. In January, 1803, at the first election under the first convention of Ohio, he was a successful candidate for representative, and when the legislature assembled at Chillicothe on March 1, he was unanimously chosen clerk of the senate.
In October 1803, he was elected a senator in the General Assembly to represent the four new counties of Warren, Butler, Montgomery and Greene and served in that office two years.
In 1808, he was voted for apparently on the federalist ticket for presidential elector, the Madison ticket carrying Ohio by a very large majority.
In 1803, William C. Schenck had moved from Cincinnati and made his home in the town he had founded on the Great Miami. He selected for his residence a beautiful spot overlooking the river on Front street where seven of his ten children were born. The following notice appeared in The Western Spy and Hamilton Gazette, published at Cincinnati:
"School, A schoolmaster is need in this place. A person qualified to teach an English school will find employment."
W. C. Schenck
Franklin, August 17, 1803.

When the first court of common pleas was held at Lebanon on the third Tuesday of August, 1803, a grand jury composed of fifteen influential citizens of the new country was impaneled, of which William C. Schenck was made foreman.
In 1800 William C.'s younger brother, John N.C. Schenck established a store at Franklin which became the most important trading point on the Great Miami between Dayton and Hamilton. John N.C. Schenck became a man of large means and died at the age of ninety-three leaving many descendants. Another brother, Garrett A. became a farmer near the town. In 1817, the father, Rev. William Schenck, then seventy-seven years of age, accompanied by his wife and three single daughters made his home at Franklin, and the next year organized the Franklin Presbyterian church. The Schencks became the most numerous and influential family at Franklin, the name there being as common as was Corwin in the early history of Lebanon.
General Wm. C. Schenck resided in the town he had founded until his death in the prime of manhood. He was not often elected to civil office but was an influential and useful citizen. In 1814 he was chosen by the legislature a commissioner to perpetuate the evidence of the original field notes of the survey of the Miami Purchase, the original notes having been lost in a fire which destroyed the residence of Judge Symmes. In 1818 he was chosen a trustee of Miami University. He took a deep interest in the construction of the Miami canal, but died before work was commenced upon it. In October 1820, he was elected a representative from Warren county in the legislature. He died at Columbus on January 12, 1821. After making a speech in the House in favor of the canal he was seized with an acute illness and died in a few hours, aged 48 years. He left a large family, of whom Admiral .James F. and General .Robert C. Schenck were the last survivors.

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This page created 29 September 2004 and last updated 28 September, 2008
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