Guide to the Robert C. Schenck Collection

Robert C. Schenck Collection
Dayton Metro Library
Phone: 937-496-8654
Schenck, Robert Cumming, 1809-1890
0.1 linear feet (45 items)
Robert C. Schenck was a nineteenth century Daytonian distinguished as a lawyer, soldier, statesman and diplomat. This collection includes items from 1800-1891.
The records are in English

Biography of Robert C. Schenck

Robert Cumming Schenck (1809-1891) was a nineteenth century Daytonian distinguished as a lawyer, soldier, statesman and diplomat.

Robert C. Schenck was born in Franklin, Ohio, on October 4, 1809, attended rural schools in the area and graduated from Miami University of Oxford, Ohio, in 1827. He taught at the university from 1827 to 1829; he studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1833 and commenced practice in Dayton, Ohio. In 1838 he married Miss Rennelche Smith. This union produced six children, all girls, of whom three died in infancy and three survived him.

General Schenck was a member of the State house of Representatives (1841-1843) and was elected as a Whig to the 28th through the 31st United States Congresses (March 4, 1843-March 3, 1851). During the 30th Congress he chaired the Committee on Roads and Canals. In 1850 he refused the nomination fro the 32nd Congress for personal reasons. His wife had died from tuberculosis in 1849, leaving him with these young daughters and himself in poor health. From 1851 to 1853 he left his children in the care of his late wife's sister and became Minister to Brazil and also accredited to Uruguay, the Argentine Confederation, and Paraguay. His health improved during this period.

He entered the Union Army on May 17, 1861, and served as brigadier general of Volunteers. He was seriously wonded at the second Battle of Bull Run on August 30, 1862. After a lengthy recovery he returned to active duty, but due to permanent damage to his right arm and hand he could no longer function as a field commander.

On September 18, 1862, he was promoted to major general, retroactive to August 30, 1862. He resigned his commission in the Army on December 3, 1863, to fill a vacant seat in the 37th U.S Congress, and was elected as a Republican to the 38th through the 41st Congresses and served from March 4, 1865, to January 5, 1871, when he resigned to accept a position in the diplomatic service. He was chairman of the Committee on Military Affairs (38th and 39th Congresses) and the Committee on Ways and Means (40th and 41st Congresses). He was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1870 to the 42nd Congress.

In January, 1871 he became minister to England. At the same time he was asked to serve as a member of the Joint High Commission for the settlement of questions then in dispute between the governments of England and the United States. Routine ministerial matters were attended to promptly and efficiently. During his time as minister, he permitted his name to be used to promote the sale of stock in a Utah gold mining venture; in return he received free stock. When the stock paid no dividends for the first few years it was assumed to be worthless and General Schenck was blamed. In 1876 he was ordered back to the U.S. for a congressional investigation, which exonerated him. But he resigned from his ministerial post and disposed of his mining stock. Ironically, the mine produced heavily in the years that followed and many who had been influenced to buy stock and kept it made large profits, but the old general was not one of them.

Returning to Washington, he resumed the practice of law; subsequently he worked for the State Department for many years on the codification of international laws.

Robert C. Schenck died in Washington on March 23, 1890, and was buried in Woodland Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio.

Scope and Content

The collection includes photographs, manuscripts, correspondence and newspaper clippings. The papers and photographs in this collection cover the period from circa1800 to 1891, and deal with the history of the Schenck family. There is a major focus on Robert C. Schenck and his career. From the photographs, one is autographed by him. This collection comprises 1 box of material, mainly correspondence, and is arranged into four series.

The collection covers the period 1800-1891. It includes most of the 19th century, from the founding of Dayton through the post-Civil War era. While the collection is focused on Robert C. Schenck, it includes material on his father, William C. Schenck. Born in New Jersey, the older Schenck came to Cincinnati in 1795 and worked as a surveyor to help open the Miami Valley to settlement. In 1796, he and Daniel C. Cooper acquired a large tract of land which eventually became the site of the city of Franklin, in Warren County. He bought out Daniel C. Cooper's holdings and laid out the town, building his home there in 1803. He likewise acquired a large tract in Licking County, east of Columbus, and laid out the city of Newark, and also had land holdings in Montgomery, Coshocton and Delaware counties.

In addition to the opening of the Miami Valley and other areas of Ohio to settlement, this collection touches on many events and developments in nineteenth century America on the local, state, national and international levels. This is largely due to the long and active life of Robert C. Schenck as a college student and instructor, lawyer, soldier, statesman and diplomat. It includes:

* Miami University's (Oxford, OH) first college class (1824);

* The study of law, the administration of his father's estate, and the Financial Panic of 1837 (1831-1840);

* The Ohio legislature and state redistricting (1841-1843);

* The House of Representatives and the issues of slavery and the Mexican War (1843-1851);

* Ministry to Brazil and the negotiation of special trade treaties with Paraguay and Uruguay (1851-1854);

* Construction of a railroad line linking Fort Wayne, Indiana with the Mississippi River (1854-1861);

* The Civil War, including the first and second Battles of Bull Run (1861-1862);

* The House of Representatives (again) including chair of the Ways and Neans Committee and the Committee on Military Affairs, the issue of bringing the war to a quick and successful conclusion, reconstruction, the national debt, and a complete revision of the internal revenue laws (1863-1871);

* Ministry to England and, early on, service on the Joint High Commission for the settlement of damages to American Commerce from vessels built in England during the Civil War and used by the Confederacy (1871-1876);

* Codification of international laws for the Department of State (after 1876).

Statement of Arrangement

This collection comprises 1 box of material, mainly correspondence, and is arranged into four series:
Series I: Books Pertaining to Robert C. Schenck
Series II: Manuscripts
Series III: Printed Materials
Series IV: Photographs

Restrictions on Use

Items in this collection are protected by applicable copyright laws.

Related Material: Related Material

Suggested search engines for locating other relevant materials:
National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections (NUCMC) and
OCLC WorldCat .

Separated Material: Separated Material

No separated material.

Indexing Terms

The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.


Dayton (Ohio) -- Biography
Ohio -- History -- 1787-1865
United States -- History -- 1849-1877


Schenck, Robert Cumming, 1809-1890

Preferred Citation

The Robert C. Schenck Collection, a special collection of historical materials at the Dayton Metro Library, Dayton, Ohio.

Acquisition Information

The Schenck Papers were accessioned into the Dayton Library on November 15, 1943 from James G. C. Schenck, a grandnephew of Robert C. Schenck.

Other Finding Aid

A print copy of the finding aid, including item-level description and some transcriptions, is available at the library.

Detailed Description of The Collection

Series I: Books Pertaining to Robert C. Schenck, Undated

In Memoriam, Genl. Robert C. Schenck, [S.l. : s.n., 1890]., 1890

The Life of Major Gen. Robert C. Schenck, U. S. A. of Vols, [S.l. : s.n., 1862?]., 1862

Kokkinou, Epiphanie Clara. The Political Career of Robert Cumming Schenck : A Thesis Submitted to the Faculty of Miami University in Partial Fulfill[ment of the] Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts, Miami University : Oxford, OH, 1955., 1955

Shenck, Robert Cumming. Speech of Mr. Schenck, of Ohio, in Reply to Mr. Giddings, in the House of Representatives, December 27, 1849, in Debate Upon a Resolution to Appoint the Standing Committees. Gideon & Co. : Washington, DC, 1850., 1850

Heck, Phyllis Fraser. History of the Dayton Country Club, 1896-1976. Dayton Country Club : Dayton, OH, 1976., 1976

Schenck, Alexander Du Bois. The Rev. William Schenck, His Ancenstry and His Descendants, compiled by A. D. Schenck, U.S. Army. R. H. Darby : Washington, DC, 1883., 1883

Series II: Manuscripts, Undated

Box 1 / Folder 1
Correspondence - Letters of William C. Schenck to Col. Robert Davidson, 1814-1820

Box 1 / Folder 2
Correspondence - Letters of Robert C. Schenck to Col. Robert Davidson, 1831-1840

Box 1 / Folder 3
Correspondence of Robert C. Schenck to Various Individuals, 1844-1888

Box 1 / Folder 4
Miscellaneous Correspondence, 1839-1891

Box 1 / Folder 5
Deeds, 1802-1838

Series III: Printed Materials, Undated

Box 1 / Folder 6
Newspapers and Newspaper clippings, 1800-1849

Box 1 / Folder 7
Miscellaneous Printed Material, Undated

Series IV: Photographs, Undated

Box 1 / Folder 8
Photographs, Undated