By Dorothy Dean Viets Schell, Gateway Press, Baltimore, 1990




1. Dr. John Viets

Possibly the earliest written colonial record of Dr. John Viets, the progenitor of the Viets family in America, is the following marriage notation from the First Dutch Reformed Church of New York City, now the Marble Collegiate Church:

A 1700 Apr. 24 Johannes Veet, j.m. Van Brisach, in Sweden, en Catherina Meyers, j.d. Van N. Yorck, beyde woonende alhier. ["Marriage Records from 1639 to 1801 in the Reformed Dutch Church," New York Genealogical and Biographical Record.]


J.m. and j.d. are the Dutch abbreviations for "young man" and "young woman" respectively, indicating that this is likely the first marriage for each; "beyde woonende alhier" translates as "both living here," i.e., New York City. Notice of the marriage, bearing a slightly different date, is also found in the public records of the province of New York.

April 27, 1700, John Veet and Catharine Meyers.

It is the consensus of most researchers that John Viets was a German, and that the Viets family is of German origin, despite the fact that the church marriage record states that he was from Sweden. No "Brisach" has been located in Sweden, while there is a Breisach in the state of Baden, Germany. It seems likely that "Sweden" was erroneously entered for "Schwaben" which is a term used to designate an area of Baden-Wuerttemberg.

Breisach is on the Rhine in the Duchy of Baden, Germany. The family traditions point to Germany, never to Sweden. The library of Dr. John Viets, if we may trust the appraisers of his estate, was in the German language.


It should, however, be mentioned that in one branch of the family there is a tradition that Dr. Viets came from Holland. In the material written by H. Isabel Viets appears the following:

1950 Reunion [of the Viets Family]

A letter was read from a professor in Holland who wrote Mrs. Thomas W. Viets of East Granby, while she was Secretary last year in the Dean's office at Dartmouth College. Mrs. Viets had signed a letter which he received, and being struck by her name, he wrote to tell her that the town where he lives was populated to a great extent by people of that name (Viets). All of the businesses were run by them and "they were upright, honest, trustworthy citizens."


Since the spelling of the name is the same as that which Is used by our family it seems to have some bearing on the discussion which is raised at intervals as to the origin of our ancestor, Dr. John Viets.


It is my opinion that Dr. John Viets was a native of Holland and went to Germany to study medicine as many others have always done. After finishing his course he took a sea voyage before returning to Holland.


A descendant of Dr. John Viets, Frank Garfield Viets Jr. of Fort Collins, Colorado, wrote to Dorothy Viets Schell in 1975:

. . . The country of his [Dr. John's] origin appears to be rather uncertain, but I am sure it was from one of the provinces in what we now call the Netherlands or West Germany. I have been around Wageningen and Arnhem in the Netherlands several times and noted that the name Viets is rather common and has identical spelling. . . .

In addition to the records of their marriage, other documentation can be found for their presence in New York. Church records of 1704 reveal that Catharine Vietts, listed as wife of Dr. John Vietts, took her first communion in the Lutheran Church of New York City. A sad notice in the same church records appears on July 11, 1706: Johann Viett's little son Lucas, born 19 June 1705 buried in our church here in New York. [Stryker-Rodda, New York Genealogical and Biographical Journal, v. 104 and 105.]


After carefully weighing such evidence as we possess, this may be said with confidence: John Viets or Viett was born in Germany, possibly in Holland, at a date not far removed from 1665; received more than a common education; studied medicine; came to America about 1690; brought with him to this country fifteen books in the German language, which in those days was a library; was entitled "Mr." which, as the term was used at the time, indicates that he belonged to the better class, and was a man of respectability and enterprise. Judging from his descendants, and from the race to which he belonged, we may picture him as a man of even features, good looks, physical force, and fair intellectual ability.

There is a tradition handed down by Mrs. George Viets, wife of Capt. George, which runs as follows:

John Viets was a good linguist, able to read and write several languages; on completing his studies in Germany, including medicine, he took a sea voyage for pleasure and travel, and came to New York; three times he undertook to return to the Fatherland, but was shipwrecked and driven back on the American coast each time, and was thus led to the conclusion that Providence decreed that he should settle in this country.

A similar tradition is from Mrs. Andrew Clark, a great-granddaughter of Henry Viets I. She adds that the shipwrecked members "lived ten days on fish caught and roasted in the sun; a vessel laden with mahogany rescued them, but the captain and mate dying soon after of a fever, Dr. Viets, with such knowledge of navigation as he possessed, managed to bring the vessel into New York harbor."

That John Viets came first to New York and lived there several years, there is no doubt. There he married his wife, and there two or three of his children were born and one son, Lucas, died and was buried. He must have found in the mixed population of the place many of his own countrymen, the Germans, although the greater part of the inhabitants were English and Dutch.


He was probably led to remove to Connecticut by the same motives which are ever urging people to change their residence, the pursuit of fortune and a better place for himself and family.


The copper mines in Simsbury had been discovered a few years before Dr. Viets settled there, and made the place famous both in this country and in Europe, but there is no evidence that he ever was in any way connected with these mines. The statement made in a local history that he was connected with a company of German miners as physician and surgeon is undoubtedly without foundation, for his arrival antedated that of the German miners by eleven years. Residing as he did about three miles from the mines he may have been summoned there in cases of sickness or accident among the miners.


The earliest written reference to our ancestor in Connecticut is found in the Simsbury town records, under date Dec. 18, 1710, when the following vote was recorded: "Mr. Viett admitted to become an inhabitant here in Simsbury." This was the way newcomers were naturalized: by a vote of the freemen at a town meeting. The next reference to him is under date Jan. 5, 1711, eighteen days after he was admitted to citizenship, when the heirs of Sergeant John Griffin deeded to "Mr. John Viett, now resident of Simsbury, a certain piece and parcel of land situated within the township of Simsbury, at Samon Brokks, near the Falls, somewhat northerly of Thomas Griffin's house where said Thomas now dwells, and northeastward of said Thomas Griffin's field. . . . The said parcel of land is 11 acres, 3 roods, 8 perches, be it a little more or a little less."


By "Samon Brokks" is meant Salmon Brook, a name applied in that day to the region bordering on the brook of that name, and extending from the Farmington River at Tariffville, northward into the present town of Granby. The land referred to could not have been a great distance from the intersection of the Granby and Simsbury roads a mile north of Tariffville. Here our forefather settled, and built, unless there were buildings on the place when he received it from the Griffins (the deed mentions none). December 11, 1712, he was "granted liberty by the town to keep a house of public entertainment for the year ensuing."


The next reference to him bears date April 9, 1713, when he mortgaged the land received from the Griffin family to Mrs. Hannah Merriman of Windsor, "with the dwelling-house, linseed-oil mill, and other buildings standing thereon for the sum of ten pounds current money." In April 1723, a few months before his death, he received a grant of eighty-two acres of land from the town. This land was bounded "on the north by the highway leading from Salmon Brook mill towards Windsor, and on the west by William Hays' and Joseph Lamson's land."

In the probated inventory of Dr. John Viets' estate are articles which show that he was a man of sufficient enterprise to have provided himself with the iĀ»plements in use in those days. This inventory mentions seventy-eight acres of land, part of a building, and lumber, but has no reference to any other real estate. From this it may be inferred that he had disposed of his home place, and was beginning to build on his new grant of land.


Dr. Viets died in middle life, it is said of a fever. He left a widow and family of children, the oldest of whom was perhaps sixteen years of age and the youngest eleven. There are three records of his death: the Hartford probate record, the Simsbury town record, and the record made by his son, Henry. These agree except that the two official records write the name Viett, while the son, who probably made a note of his father's death some years later, wrote the name Vietts. He died in Simsbury, November 18, 1723. The grave cannot be found, as no stone marks the spot. The most probable conjecture is that his remains lie in the Simsbury burying ground, for there his wife is buried. Her stone bears the inscription: Catron Vets, ye wife of Dct. John Vets, died March 5, 1734, Ae. 68. This gives 1666 as the date of her birth. Her son, Henry, leaves a record of her death as occurring on March 6th, as does the town record.



1-1. Lucas, born January 19, 1705, in New York City; died there July11, 1706.

1-2. Catherine

1-3. Henry, b. 1709

1-4. Mary

1-5. John, b. November 3, 1712

1-6. Benoni, born December 7, 1714 (Illegitimate son of Margaret Wilcoxson, raised in the family of Dr. John Viets and given the name of Viets)

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