Hoosier History Live! features host Nelson Price, Saturdays noon to 1 p.m. on WICR 88.7 FM in Indianapolis.

Saturdays, noon to 1 p.m. ET on WICR 88.7 FM.
And always online at hoosierhistorylive.org!

Aug. 3 show

Switzerland County and living on the Ohio River

The Schenck Mansion in Vevay, Ind., now operates as a bed-and-breakfast inn. The 35-room home was built by “hay king” Benjamin Franklin Schenck in 1874. Photo by Kendal R. Miller.Even though it's one of our smallest counties, the history is deep and rich, the views are scenic, and Switzerland County, with its county seat of Vevay, turns 200 this year.

Not only will Hoosier History Live! explore the county's heritage, which includes Swiss immigration, an entrepreneur known as the "Hay King" and a popular wine festival, we will explore the impact of the Ohio River on towns and farms in the far-southeastern corner of the Hoosier state.

For this journey in advance of the Vevay Switzerland County Bicentennial, Nelson will be joined in-studio by three guests:

Considered to be the home of the country's first commercial winery, Vevay hosts the annual Swiss Wine Festival. The four-day event, which will be Aug. 22-25, features a parade, riverboat cruises, music and a grape stomp.

Martha Bladen, 2013.The county's early Swiss settlers, who included John James Dufour Jr., his family and descendants, initially called their land on the river "New Switzerland." They set up vineyards and, in 1813, established the town of Vevay. Thanks to the ease of shipping goods by riverboat, the town and surrounding farms flourished for several decades. Farmers constructed flatboats and keelboats from nearby timber.

Kendal R. Miller, 2013 photo.A history nugget, courtesy of bicentennial material: "Due in part to its easy accessibility to the Ohio River, other forms of transportation were slow to develop in Switzerland County." No railroad companies ever laid track in the county. Major roadways also were slow to be built.

The result was that later in the 1800s, when railroads trumped river traffic such as steamboats as the primary way to transport products and people, the region's economy declined.

At the "Life on the Ohio" River History Museum, riverboat models and artifacts from the heyday of steamboats are displayed.

Switzerland County's “Musee de Venoge” is a museum and nature park celebrating the county’s French-Swiss heritage. This small house may be more than 200 years old and is an example of the distinctively French post-on-sill style of construction. Photo courtesy Indiana Landmarks.In addition to overseeing the museum and creating artwork, our guest Martha Bladen is a retired elementary school teacher. She also oversees the under-development Agricultural Museum Center, which will showcase a hay press barn. Invented in Switzerland County, the hay press was patented in 1843.

"The hay press was a three-story, animal-powered machine that, using a pulley and screw, pressed 300- to 400-pound bales," Martha explains. "The defining characteristic was the large wood 'driver' that dropped from heights of 20 feet or more into a hay-filled box, thus pressing the hay into large bales."

Switzerland County resident Ulyyses P. Schenck, who became known as the "Hay King," had a fleet of eight steamboats and barges. Even before that, the ancestors of our guest Barry Brown had settled in the county. Both sides of his family, which included Scottish immigrants, as well as Swiss and French, arrived in the early 1800s.

Vintage artifacts from various early settlers displayed at the Switzerland County Historical Museum include the first piano brought down river by flatboat to Indiana.

Roadtrip: Hoosier Theater in Vevay, plus good eats

The Hoosier Theater in Vevay, Ind., features a mural of the Ohio River on the side of the building. Photo by Lee Lewellen, courtesy Indiana Landmarks.Roadtripper and film historian Eric Grayson will report on adventures to be had in Vevay, Ind., including visits to the famous Hoosier Theater there. Built in 1837, it is notable for its balcony, which is suspended from the ceiling by cast-iron rods.

The 1974 TV movie A Girl Named Sooner was shot in Vevay, and Eric even ran a showing of the film at the Hoosier last year!

Right next door to the Hoosier Theater is Roxano's Restaurant, a popular local eatery that specializes in pizza and Italian cuisine. And around the corner is Java Bean Cafe and Confectionery, which he says is  a neat coffee house and art gallery, the kind of place you'd expect to find in a much larger city.

Eric also reports that just up the State Road 156 is Shell's Ice Cream and Grill, which he says is open late and is great for someone who just finished watching a long movie and wants to take a shake home for the road.

Eric also says Vevay has a very strong Main Street program, which we surely will hear more about from our show guests.

History Mystery

The “Life on the Ohio” River History Museum in Vevay, Ind., features a rare and diverse collection depicting life and work along the Ohio River, from the earliest flatboats to the rise and fall of the steam packets and towboats. Photo by Kendal R. Miller.

Switzerland County is one of the state's smallest counties, but it's not the smallest. That distinction goes to another county in the far-southeastern corner of the Hoosier state; it borders Switzerland County. And it's the smallest county in Indiana, both in population and in area.

Question: What is the county?

To win the prize, you must call in with the correct answer during the live show and be willing to be placed on the air. Please do not call if you have won a prize from any WICR show during the last two months. The call-in number is (317) 788-3314, and please do not call until you hear Nelson pose the question on the air.
The prize is a couple of tickets to the Switzerland County Historical Museum and the Life on the Ohio River History Museum in Vevay, Ind., courtesy of the Switzerland County Historical Society, and a gift certificate to Dick's Bodacious Bar-B-Q in downtown Indianapolis, courtesy of Visit Indy.

Your Hoosier History Live! team,

Nelson Price, host and creative director
Molly Head, producer, (317) 927-9101
Richard Sullivan, webmaster and tech director

Pam Fraizer, graphic designer
Garry Chilluffo, creative consultant
Michele Goodrich, Jed Duvall, grant consultants
Joan Hostetler, photo historian
Dana Waddell, volunteer-at-large


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Please tell our sponsors that you appreciate their support: Indiana Historical Society | Indiana State Museum | Lucas Oil | Moody Nolan | Print Resources | Story Inn.

Facebook logo links to the Hoosier History Live! page.Acknowledgments to Print Resources, Monomedia, Indiana Humanities, Visit Indy, WICR-FM, Fraizer Designs, Heritage Photo & Research Services, Derrick Lowhorn and many other individuals and organizations. We are an independently produced program and are self-supporting through organizational sponsorships, grants and through individual tax-deductible contributions through Indiana Humanities. We do not receive any government funding. Visit our website to learn how you can support us financially.

Aug. 10 show - encore presentation

Ancient people here - and agricultural beginnings in Indiana

Awl, 10,400 years old, from Carroll County, Indiana, found in 2003.Never let it be said Hoosier History Live does not dig deep into our rich heritage. As evidence, our focus during this show is on the so-called "Very First Hoosiers," or ancient people who lived more than 10,000 years ago in the densely wooded forests that became the site of Indiana.

During this encore broadcast of one of the most popular shows in our archives (its original air date was Sept. 29, 2012), Nelson's guest is Dr. Christopher Schmidt, an archaeologist, biological anthropologist and director of the Indiana Prehistory Laboratory at the University of Indianapolis.

In addition to sharing insights about the ancient people who lived in what became the Hoosier state, Chris also discusses the beginnings of agriculture here. He is credited with discovering the oldest known man-made tool in Hoosier soil, an awl (used for making clothes) found during a dig near the town of Flora in Carroll County. Christopher Schmidt.The awl is estimated to be about 10,400 years old.

During the show, Chris, a popular U Indy faculty member who has overseen excavations across Indiana, shares details about the ancient Hoosiers of nearly 11,000 years ago, as well as information on the animal and plant life that surrounded them.

After many centuries, the ancient people began to develop agriculture, a move that, according to Chris, also meant an increase in various diseases. He discusses the correlation, as well as the origin of maize in Indiana.

Chris describes the ancient people as biological ancestors of Native Americans, although they differed culturally from the Native Americans who were living in the Eastern Woodlands when white settlers arrived.

According to Chris, the first evidence that Eastern Woodlands people manipulated plants - the beginnings of agriculture - occurred about 3,000 years ago. The ancient people, who lived in structures similar to wigwams, initially cultivated four varieties of plants that, according to Chris, today might be dismissed as "weeds."

Conclusions about the ancient people's diet and agricultural cultivations come from analyzing a variety of sources, including fossils found in Indiana.

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Hoosier History Live!
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