to preserve, protect and promote the history of
Switzerland County, Indiana
Switzerland County Historical Society
208 E. Market St.
Vevay, In. 47043
copyright 2011 Switzerland County Historical Society
Benefits of membership include:
Yearbook & Newsletters
Gift Shop Discount
Volunteer Opportunities & More
Daily Noon to 4:00 PM
Located at Mile 537.6 on the Ohio River, Switzerland County has long been recognized as one of the most important river communities of the 19th century.
"Life on the Ohio" River History Museum
Displays titled Beginning the Adventure, Life on the River, Romance of the River, A Working River, Steamboat Disasters, Showboats A’Comin”, and Whistle for the Landing portray many facets of the Ohio River’s history and the role the river played in Switzerland County’s early economic development. Our River History Museum showcases a rare and diverse collection of documents and artifacts depicting life and work along the river from the early flatboats & keelboats to the rise and fall of the Steamboat era. Map and boat murals,artifacts, ledgers and a fine collection of steamboat photographs such as that of the steamer U.P. Schenck shown above, help illustrate this region’s place in river history and lore.
An amazing collection of highly detailed and accurate models by Switzerland County native Harold Patterson helps bring the bygone river era to life. When the "Life on the Ohio" River History Museum opened in 2004 Luana Gaebel, granddaughter of Harold Patterson was a featured speaker and appropriately she and her family were welcomed as the first official visitors to the museum.
The 1885 Switzerland County History tells of the arrival of the first families to Switzerland County via flatboats. As the county developed its agricultural economy, the farmers turned to the river to get their produce to market. The enterprising farmers harvested timber from the surrounding hardwood forest, constructed flatboats and keelboats, and loaded their produce for their trip to market in New Orleans. Once in New Orleans they would sell their crops, sell the flatboat for lumber and walk back to southern Indiana via the Natchez Trace.
During the height of the steamboat era (1850-1920) dozens of steamboats stopped in Switzerland County weekly. The river was the lifeline of Switzerland County as food and supplies were brought in, while local produce and manufactured goods were shipped to market. Early maps show as many as 18 landings located in Switzerland County. One of these landings is located at the site of the Agriculture Museum currently under development. If a farmer had produce for market or someone needed a ride to the city they could go to one of these landings and flag down a steamboat. To facilitate the transfer of cargo and passengers wharfboats were located at North Landing, Patriot, Florence, and Vevay.