Friedrich Schenck, forester and one of the leaders of the Bettina colony, son of Johann and Theodora Philippina Magdalena (Klipstein) Schenck, was born in Darmstadt, Germany, on March 30, 1820. His Klipstein grandfather was one of six generals who fought and won the wars of Frederick the Great of Prussia. In school Schenck concentrated on forestry and natural sciences, but for his required manual training chose woodworking and sculpture. He carved a full-sized stag head, whose antlers reached nearly five feet high. According to family accounts this piece was so admired that the city fathers had two iron castings made and mounted on the gateposts, called Hirschköpfe Tor (Deerhead Gate), of the stone wall enclosing the grand-ducal hunting forest north of Darmstadt. At age twenty-six Schenck won appointment as Oberförster (head forester) of another grand-ducal forest at Nieder-Ramstadt, a suburb south of Darmstadt. Objecting, however, to the compulsory military service, he helped to organize the group of young men who emigrated to Texas in 1847 to found the Bettina colony. In 1850 Schenck went back to Germany to marry his fiancée, Caroline Luise Friedericke Lorenz. The couple returned to Texas in 1851 to employment in the General Land Office. They lived in Austin and reared ten children. One of the Schencks' close family friends was Carl G. von Iwonski, the noted painter, who in one picture featured two Schenck daughters (Johanna and Caroline). In a second painting he portrayed Schenck's astonishment at finding a housemaid trying to pluck the fur from a rabbit he had shot for dinner. Another warm friend was George W. Brackenridge, who, on Schenck's assurance that the San Antonio River was fed by a permanent artesian spring, purchased and donated to that city the tract now called Brackenridge Park. Schenck, a faithful friend of the Indians, was esteemed by them as a healer. The Comanche chief Santa Anna once came to him for a healing of the chief's daughter, which required a several-day absence. Although expressing some concern about his ability to deal with that case, Schenck went and successfully accomplished his mission. Family stories also relate that Schenck, always a skilled mechanic, invented a repeating rifle in Austin. Falling ill during the patent tests, he asked a close friend to carry them on. The rifle passed the tests, but the friend patented it under his own name. Schenck told his family that betrayal by a close friend pained him far more than the loss of his invention. In 1875 Schenck died in Austin of spinal meningitis. His widow later moved to San Antonio and lived with family members until 1916.
Support Texas History Now
Join TSHA to support quality Texas history programs and receive exclusive benefits.
H. T. Edward Hertzberg, trans., "A Letter from Friedrich Schenck in Texas to His Mother in Germany, 1847," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 92 (July 1988).
- Founders and Pioneers
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
H. T. Edward Hertzberg, “Schenck, Philipp Friedrich Karl Theodor,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed January 26, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/schenck-philipp-friedrich-karl-theodor.
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.
For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml
If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.