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




1-5-1. John Viets

John Viets, oldest son of Captain John and Lois (Phelps) Viets, was born at the old homestead near Newgate, March 2, 1736 and died at his home at Hop Meadow, in lower Simsbury, September 27, 1765 at the age of twenty-nine, leaving a wife and four children. His father Captain John Viets was appointed guardian on May 5, 1770 for the three youngest children, all under the age of fourteen [Hartford County Probate Records, FHF#0005641]. John, with his brother Roger, attended a school at Salmon Brook [Granby] where both were fitted for college. As the boys came home from school one Saturday, it is said that in fun they passed through a forked tree that stood by the road, but on returning to school Monday morning, they found that they were not able to go between the forks of the tree.

John did not enter college with his brother but instead became a farmer. He wrote verses of some merit. Two printed copies of one poem are still extant: "’A Prospect of the Final and Awful Judgment,' written by John Viets Jr. not long before his death, which, in his last hours, he expressed a strong desire might be published to a sinful, careless, and stupid world." The work contains three hundred and twenty-two heroic verses, printed on one side of a single sheet in four columns. At the end is the following acrostic on the author, written by an unknown hand:


J ust and upright, religious and sincere,

Of judgment deep, of understanding clear,

H is chief delight was in God's holy word,

N othing he loved so much as Christ his Lord.


V irtues fair paths continually he trod,

I n various science studied nature's God:

E nvied by few, respected by mankind,

T o all men civil, to his friends most kind,

S o great and good a man our age can seldom find.

On his stone in the Simsbury burying ground is the following epitaph:

"In memory of John Viets, son of Captain John and Mrs. Lois Viets, and brother of the Rev. R. Viets, Missionary, a man of great understanding, exemplary piety and prudent behavior. Living and dying he bore testimony against all popular errors, and in these points, what his conscience dictated, his reason was able to defend."


From the Hartford Courant, October 7, 1765: 

On Friday last died & Monday was buried Mr. John Viets in the XXX year of his age, son of Capt. John Viets. He was a young gentleman of well known abilities & usefulness, in good esteem with almost as many as were acquainted with him. The very great number of people who attended his funeral was an evidence how generally his death was lamented. 

John Viets married in Simsbury July 1, 1755 Elizabeth, daughter of Hezekiah and Dorothy Phelps of Simsbury. Children:

1-5-1-1. Deborah Viets, born June 25, 1757

1-5-1-2. Hezekiah Phelps Viets, born December 24, 1759

1-5-1-3. Elizabeth Viets, born February 15, 1762 

1-5-1-4. John Viets, born about 1764-5

The births of only the first three of this family are recorded on the town records. The existence of the fourth, John, rests upon evidence afforded by the probate record which refers to Hezekiah P. Viets and John Viets as heirs of John Viets Jr. Also in the will of John Viets Jr. are mentioned "my beloved sons, Hezekiah P. Viets and John Viets." On August 5, 1766 Elizabeth [Phelps) Viets was married to Deacon Amasa Case by Reverend Roger Viets. They were the parents of six children. She died in Simsbury October 17, 1783. Amasa Case was born October 18, 1731, son of Captain James and Esther (Fithin) Case. He was married five times: first, Elizabeth Hoskins; second, Elizabeth (Phelps) Viets; third, Abigail Phelps; fourth, Charity Pettibone; and fifth, Sarah Humphrey.

1-5-2. Roger Viets

Roger Viets, son of Captain John and Lois (Phelps) Viets, was born at the old homeestead at Newgate, March 9, 1738. He attended school with his brother John at Salmon Brook [Granby] where he prepared for college. He was graduated from YaleCollege with an A.B. degree in 1758.

His parents were Congregationalists. [In some of the early literature about Roger Viets the family, including Dr. John Viets, is said to have been Presbyterian. This is surely an error as records for Dr. John Viets are found in the Dutch Reformed Church and the Lutheran Church in New York City. This error seems to have been perpetuated in several articles over the years.] It seems likely that Roger entered Yale with the intention of studying for the ministry in the Congregational church of his boyhood, which was the mother church of New England.

Whilein New Haven he attended services at Trinity, the Episcopal Church, and wasso impressed that he began to read on Episcopacy and later joined this denomination. After his graduation he was employed as lay reader in the parish of St. Andrew's at Scotland [now North Bloomfield] in Simsbury. After several years as lay reader, the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel agreed to grant him an allowance of twenty pounds a year as soon as he should be ordained and take charge of the parish.


Ordination in those days required a trip to England as there was no bishop as yet in this country. Thus he set off across the Atlantic, a trip of three months' duration. Upon his arrival he discovered that the ceremony had taken place two weeks before, and he was obliged to wait six months for another opportunity. The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge befriended him during his stay. At last he was ordained April 17, 1763 in the Chapel Royal at St. James's Palace by Frederick Cornwallis, Bishop of Coventry and Litchfield, at the request of the Bishop of London. ["Anglican Clergy in Colonial America," Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society.]

Roger Viets landed at Boston, June 26, 1763, and served as the faithful pastor of St. Andrew's parish in Simsbury [now Bloomfield] for more than twenty-four years. He took into his own home as a pupil his nephew, Alexander Viets Griswold, who later became an Episcopal Bishop of the Eastern Diocese.

Note from unknown source in H. Isabel Viets' material:

Rev. Roger Viets held services in Hartford sometime about 1764. Apparently the first baptism actually performed occurred January 16, 1764 and was performed by the Rev. Roger Viets. The first marriage took place Dec. 16, 1764 and the first burial at which a Church of England clergyman officiated was in June 1766. In each of these cases the officiating clergyman was the Rev. Mr. Viets.

From Beardsley, History of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut:

The libraries of the clergy, furnished, to some extent, by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel and by individual munificence in England, were small. That of Viets at Simsbury was one of the largest and best selected in the colony; and though an excellent scholar, and a man of considerable culture and refined taste, yet his salary was so slender that he was compelled, besides his clerical duties to attend to agricultural pursuits in the summer, and occupy himself in teaching a sort of parochial school in the winter. The people among whom his lot was cast were for the most part poor, but "honest and well-behaved"; and being the only Missionary in what now constitutes Hartford County, he had a wide field to watch and cultivate, and was, therefore, like St. Paul, "in labors abundant."

The Congregational ministry around him was intellectually strong, and the opposition with which he was forced to contend was charged with all the bitterness which had been manifested in other parts of the colony. As the storms which preceded the Revolution gathered in blackness, he continued, like his brethren, to devote himself to his sacred duties, and found occasion to support the hopes of his parishioners living within the limits of adjoining towns, because "of late they had been distrained of their goods, and some of them imprisoned, for dissenting taxes or rates." But so much did the people under his pastoral care multiply that with the exception of Newtown and New Haven, the number of Episcopalians in Simsbury in 1774 was greater than in any other town of Connecticut.


The membership of St. Andrew's increased to nearly three hundred families during Roger Viets1 ministry. It was not unusual for him to travel thirty •lies on pastoral visitations. The Simsbury Mission assisted in the establishment of the parishes of Saint Michael's, Litchfield; Saint John's, Salisbury and Trinity Church, Bristol. The Reverend Viets produced many sermons, some of which have been published.


During the Revolution Roger Viets was suspected of sympathizing with the Loyalists. It is easy to see how this might have been true when one considers the close kinship he had established with England. Some fugitive British officers appealed to him at midnight for shelter. He did not dare give them lodging but did provide them with food. He was closely watched and summoned before the Superior Court on the charges of aiding the escape of prisoners and of holding treasonable correspondence with the enemy. He was sentenced to pay a fine of twenty pounds and to serve one year's imprisonment in the Hartford jail.

On August 4, 1785 Roger Viets wrote the following letter to Dr. William Morice, Secretary to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, in Hatton Garden, London [Archives, Connecticut State Library]:

. . I am resolved to live and die a true, active member & Presbyter of the Church of England - I will use no book of Common Prayer, but the English Edition and altho it is criminal here to pray for the King, publickly yet no one doubts who has the secret Prayers of my Heart and Soul. I have never prayed in particular for any government but the British. I stand ready (& desire God willing always to stand ready) to pay complete obedience to the Lord Bishop of London. . . .

 When independence became an established fact, the English withdrew their support from their missions in this country. However, they did offer parishes to their missionaries who would remove to the remaining British colonies in America. Roger Viets was invited to take charge of an extensive parish, not yet established, whose center was to be in Digby, Nova Scotia. This he decided to accept and in May 1786 set out to inspect his new post. In October he returned to Connecticut for his wife and children. 

In a volume of sermons by him [Evans, National Index of American Imprints] is the farewell sermon to the Simsbury people, in which he says:


Born as I have been, and nurtured among you, having led your devotions almost twenty-eight years, having been in holy orders twenty-four years, I have administered the sacrament of the Lord's Supper to a great number of devout and exemplary communicants, have admitted into Christianity by baptism no less than one hundred and twenty-two of riper years, and one thousand seven hundred and forty-nine infants, have joined in marriage one hundred and seventy-six couples, have committed to the silent grave, in full hope of their rising again at the last day, the bodies of two hundred and nineteen deceased persons, and have received by profession into the bosom of our excellent church two hundred and fifteen heads of families. From the year 1759 to the present time the number of conformists to the church has increased from seventy-five to more than two hundred and eighty families. Within the above period I have, upon a moderate computation, traveled by land and water more than the extent three times the circumference of the terraqueous globe.


In the summer of 1787 he chartered a boat to transport his family and some friends to Digby. For an account of the journey we are indebted to traditions handed down from his daughter Martha, known to later generations as Aunt Beyea (pronounced "B.A."). She died in 1872, age ninety-four, and was about eight or nine years of age at the time of the move to Nova Scotia. It is reported that the larder was well stocked and that music and dancing helped to relieve the tedium of the voyage. They arrived in Digby June 12, 1787.

The Reverend Viets traveled extensively to serve all the people in his mission. The area stretched from Clementsport to Yarmouth and down Digby Neck. He and his parishioners built Trinity Church in 1791. He was popular with the people and alwaysconscientious in fulfilling his religious responsibilities. He kept a pair of horses and would himself drive to the forest, cut a load of wood and deliver it to a poor parishioner. One day he was accosted by some English officers. To their surprise they found the woodcutter a "gentleman and a scholar" and invited him to dinner at the hotel where he revealed himself as the rector of the parish. Each expressed himself as having spent a delightful evening.

It is of interest to note that Samuel Edison, grandfather of Thomas Alva Edison, was one of the Reverend Roger Viets' parishioners in Trinity church. It is recorded that Samuel Edison purchased pew No. 36 for the sum of thirteen shillings and sixpence in 1792. [Cardoza, A Short History of Trinity Anglican Church, Digby, Nova Scotia.]

[Note: Much has been written about the Reverend Roger Viets including his ministry in St. Andrew's church in Connecticut, his problems during the Revolutionary War, and his role in the establishment of Trinity Anglican Church in Digby, Nova   Scotia. His life could well be the subject of a separate volume. See Appendix C for excerpts from some of his letters to •embers of his family. For further history of this most interesting member of the Viets family I would suggest that you consult the books listed in the bibliography.—DVS]

Roger Viets possessed the pen of an accomplished writer, is said to have been a good Greek scholar, and wrote smoothly flowing verses. One of his poems, "Annapolis-Royal," was the first poem to be published as a separate book in British North America, printed probably in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1788. Only two rare copies of the poem are known, one in the Douglas Library in Halifax and the other in the Boston Public Library. Another poem was entitled "A Father's Lamentation on the Sudden Death of an Amiable and Beautiful Child." [See Appendix D for the text of "Annapolis-Royal."]

Roger Viets visited his old parish and many friends in Connecticut in 1800 and the sermons he preached at that time have been published, as have many of his earlier sermons. He died at Digby, Nova Scotia, August 15, 1811 from "Quick Consumption" (pneumonia). He had been preaching on the Granville side of Digby Gut and had returned by open boat in a chilling fog. At his request, he was buried in an unmarked grave outside the east window of Trinity Church. He was succeeded at Trinity by his son Roger Moore Viets.

Roger Viets married November 19, 1772 Hester Botsford, born January 20, 1753, daughter of Captain Nathan and Sarah Botsford of New Milford, Connecticut. They had 8 children. Captain Botsford held prominent town offices for many years and was an active and influential citizen. Roger, it is said, never regretted the move to Nova Scotia, but his wife, although she twice visited her old home, died broken-hearted, her delicate constitution breaking down under exile. After the death of his first wife on April 25, 1800 Roger Viets married in Kingston, New Brunswick, July 18, 1802 Mary (Pickett) Isaacs, born June 12, 1754, daughter of David Pickett of Norwalk, Connecticut, and widow of Benjamin Isaacs. She is said to have been a wonderful stepmother to his children.

1-5-3. Seth Viets

Seth Viets, son of Captain John and Lois (Phelps) Viets, was born at the old homestead on Newgate Hill, East Granby, then Simsbury, May 26, 1740. He is mentioned in a will drawn up by his father in 1763 as "my third son, Seth," and given thirty acres of land, one-half of the house and barn, and one-half of all his other land in Simsbury not otherwise disposed of. This will, however, was set aside by another written later, of which Seth, Abner, and Luke were executors.

The Reverend Roger Viets leaves in his parish register a record of Seth's marriage: "At Turkey Hills, November 12, 1769, Seth Viets of Simsbury and Ruth Smith of Suffield," Ruth was a daughter of Simeon and Ruth (Harmon) Smith, both natives of Suffield. They had 11 children. She was born September 23, 1753. Seth probably lived after his marriage on the farm directly south of Newgate prison. An item in his father's account book tells of work being done on Seth's house. A bill of sale of a "certain nursery of apple trees lying in Granby to Luke Viets" dated January 13, 1795 shows that he had reserved this when he sold his farm to Eliphalet and Nathan Phelps. Seth's name was on the "grand" list in Turkey Hills parish in 1785.

Vermont records state that he settled there in 1780 which is probably an error, as his youngest daughter Sarah was born in Westfield, Massachusetts, in 1798, and his son Jesse was married there. This shows that the family must have spent some time in Westfield on their trek to Pawlet. From Simsbury records: "At a freeman's meeting held in Simsbury, April 11, 1774, Seth Viets was admitted and sworn." He was a surveyor of highways and a tithing-man.

From Smith, Record of Service of Connecticut Men in the War of the Revolution: "Seth Viets was one of those members of 18th Regiment, Col. Phelps, Capt. Bates Co., who was to be ready for action." Seth Viets Sr. died January 4, 1825 in Pawlet, Vermont, and was buried in Bardwell Farm Cemetery, WestPawlet. Seth Viets' grave is marked by the DAR. His wife died in 1817, age sixty-four.

1-5-4. Eunice Viets

Eunice Viets, daughter of Captain John and Lois (Phelps) Viets, was born at Newgate, November 24, 1742; married November 11, 1761 Elisha Griswold, born October 25, 1731, son of Samuel and Elizabeth (Porter) Griswold. They had 13 children. He was descended from the Windsor branch of a large family, the descendants of Edward Griswold who came from Kenilworth, England, to Windsor in 1639. "Squire" Samuel Griswold was the first of the Griswold family to remove from Windsor to Simsbury, where he purchased a tract of 500 acres lying within the principal bend of the Farmington River. Elisha Griswold seems to have come into possession of the paternal estate with whom it remained unbroken until his death and its consequent apportionment among his various heirs. He was a man of quite good sense and remarkable home-keeping habits. His numerous sons and daughters, however, were a family of various talents, especially mechanical and literary.

For a time during the seven years of our labor for independence, Mr. Griswold was arraigned almost daily before the Committee of Vigilance and questioned as to the most common actions of his life. But such was his great and exemplary prudence that nothing was ever found against him. The Committee, therefore, contented themselves with forbidding him to go beyond the limits of his own farm. As his farm was something of a little territory, however, this gave him space for exercise and as he was a home-keeping man and seldom left his farm except for Sunday church, there was no great hardship. Indeed, ignoring the principle involved it was no hardship at all except that it abridged his religious freedom.

The marriage of Eunice Viets with Elisha Griswold brought together two of the most considerable families and estates in the town. Mr. Griswold died March 13, 1803; his widow died at the home of her daughter in Lanesboro, Massachusetts, August 20, 1823.

1-5-5. Lois Viets

Lois Viets, daughter of Captain John and Lois (Phelps) Viets, was born at the oldhomestead near Newgate, January 29, 1745; married there April 25, 1768 by the Reverend Roger Viets to Jonathan Buttels, born November 10, 1747 in Simsbury. He was the son of Captain Jonathan and Jerusha (Dibble) Buttels. Jonathan Buttels occupied the home farm at the "wedge of land" adjoining Simsbury on the north, which became Granby in 1786. For a time he conducted a hotelthere. He served in the Revolution as a sergeant in his father's company of the 18th Regiment from August 18 to September 6, 1776; was made Ensign of Captain John Rice's Company in October 1780 and Lieutenant in May 1781.He died in Granby, December 13, 1823.

The pioneer ancestor of Jonathan Buttels or Buttolph was Thomas Buttolph, a leather dresser or glover, who came in the Abigail from London in 1635, age thirty-two years. He settled in Boston, was a freeman June 1641, constable 1647. His wife Ann, age twenty-four in 1635, joined the church in Boston in September 1639with her husband. The name "Buttolph" in church records is Buttal and is printed Buttels in Massachusetts Historical Collections. :

1-5-6. Abner Viets

Captain Abner Viets, son of Captain John and Lois (Phelps) Viets, was born February 15, 1747 and died at his home, one mile from the place of his birth, July 27, 1826. His farm embraced some 400 acres in the western part of the present town of East Granby, extending over the Granby line. The homestead was in possession of his grandson Levi Clinton Viets until 1901, when it was sold and passed out of the family.

Abner Viets was an extensive farmer at a time when farming in Connecticut consisted of producing large quantities of rye, corn, and other grains, and dairy and orchard products. His papers show that in 1790 he leased for a term of four years, for sixteen pounds, land in Turkey Hills lying north of Roswell Phelps' land and extending to the top of the mountain. His name was on the "grand" list in Turkey Hills parish in 1785 for the sum of 70 pounds, 5 shillings. He was a surveyor and sometimes a lawyer. In his account books are numerous charges for pleading cases. He was captain of militia, appointed October 1790. [Judd, Militia Record Series, 1-3, FHF#0003601.] During the War for Independence he did not enter the field in person, but hired substitutes on several occasions. An old certificate among his papers shows that on March 27, 1778 Owen Ruick enlisted in the room of Abner and Luke Viets. At a town meeting held in Simsbury in December 1784 he was appointed surveyor of the highways and grand juror. About 1809 he was appointed by his brother Roger as his attorney and agent to settle his business affairs in New England. He was spoken of by those grandchildren who remembered him as a man of good stature and of energy.

Abner Viets married in 1771 Mary, second daughter of Benoni and Martha (Moore) She was born June 27, 1751 and died September 1825. They had 10 children.

1-5-7. Rosannah Viets

Rosannah Viets, daughter of Captain John and Lois (Phelps) Viets, was born May 13, 1755 in Simsbury; married Eleazar Rice, a soldier of the Revolution. A letter to his wife shows that he took part in the Battle of Long Island. He manufactured potash, refining it further into pearl ash which was used for making soap and glass. They resided in the western part of the present town of East Granby. They had 8 children.

1-5-8. Luke Viets

Lieutenant Luke Viets, youngest child of Captain John and Lois (Phelps) Viets, was born June 6, 1759 and died in the old homestead February 25, 1835. His mother, after the death of her second husband, Colonel Humphrey, if not before, lived with Luke's family at the old place.

Following is the commission issued to Luke Viets by Samuel Huntington, Governor of Connecticut:

To Luke Viets Gent.

You being by the General Assembly of this state accepted to be Ensign of the 8th Company of Militia in the 58th Regiment in said State.

reposing special Trust and Confidence in your Fidelity, Courage and Good Conduct I do by Virtue of the laws of this State me thereunto enabling, appoint and empower you to take the said company into your Care and Charge as their Ensign carefully and diligently I discharge that Office and Trust, exercising your inferior Officers and Soldiers in the Use of their Arms, according to the Rules and Discipline of War ordained and established by the Laws of this State, keeping them in good Order and Government, and commanding them to obey you as their Ensign and you are to observe all such Orders and Directions as from Time to Time you shall receive, either from one, or from other your superior officer, pursuant to the Trust hereby reposed in you.

Given under my Hand, and the Public Seal of this State, at New Haven the 20th Day of October, A.D. 1790 

s/Samuel Huntington

By His Excellency's command, George Wyllys, Secretary.


Newgate was the State's prison until 1827, and no doubt some of the prison officials, as well as comers and goers, were guests at the Luke Viets' tavern. Kendall's Travels through the Northern Parts of the United States in the chapter on "Newgate" gives a unique description of the family of Luke Viets:


The traveler, after fording the Farmington, and passing through a region "beautiful with the varied charms of hills, field, and pasture" approached the place from the south. He says: "On my right I saw a house of respectable figure and dimensions, wooden and white-painted. This was the inn. On entering the door the good looks of the landlord afforded me some consolation. . . .


"My landlord was a plain and industrious farmer, in whom and his whole family there was realized, more than in any other instance I have met with, the picture which the imagination of so many has drawn, as that of the agricultural life in America. He was himself a grandfather, and had living with him his very aged mother. He was the father of nine children, of whom one or two were married and settled at a distance, and one or two near by. Two daughters and two or three sons were still under his roof. All the members of the family were personable and well-featured, and the two girl were beauties, one a blue-eyed blonde and the other a dark-haired brunette. I found them employed in a building detached from the house, one at the wheel, the other at the loom. They were presently in the farmyard milking the cows." The traveler adds further that he was "informed by the family that there was somewhere in the neighboring hill a black stone, by looking through which the seventh son of a seventh son born in the month of February with a caul over his head could see everything in the interior of the globe."


Luke Viets married June 30, 1777 [Bates, Records of Rev. Ransom Warner 1823-1854] Keziah Phelps, born in Sirasbury November 12, 1757 and died November 22, 1850. They had 10 children. She was a daughter of Ezekiel and Elizabeth (Gillett) Phelps. They lived one and one-half miles south of Newgate, on the place since known as the Raynor Holcomb place. The boundary stone of Mr. Phelps' farm, it is said, may be seen on the mountain with the initials E.P. marked on it. Ezekiel Phelps served in the Revolutionary War, perhaps the one of that name who served as a lieutenant in 8th Regiment, Captain Holcomb's Company. The encampment was so near the British that Ezekiel Phelps shouted to the British: "Shoot straight; shoot to kill, not maim." He was in New York August 26 and was discharged September 3, 1776. He brought home a cannon ball and a corkscrew.

According to Stiles' History of Ancient Windsor, Ezekiel Phelps was the son of Joseph and Rebecca (North) Phelps, son of Joseph (and Mary Collins) Phelps, son of Joseph (and Hannah Newton) Phelps, son of William Phelps who settled in Windsor.

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