Frank J. Viets


Frank Viets. Mr. Frank Viets, of Grand Forks, first saw the shores of fair Dakota on the 20th of September, 1870. Himself and wife and little daughter came up the lakes from Ashtabula, O., to Duluth; from there they traveled by rail to St. Paul, and thence to St. Cloud, where Mr. Viets bought a “prairie schooner” outfit and drove the remaining 230 miles to Georgetown. He remained there about two years in the employ of the Hudson Bay company. He drew lumber from St. Cloud the first winter, making five trips, the total distance of which was nearly 2,500 miles. He was then appointed manager of the company’s hotel at Georgetown. He came to Grand Forks in 1873. He finished the interior of the Northwestern hotel and opened it for the company. He went into business for himself in 1875 and opened the Viets, now the Richardson, in 1878. He also built the first flour and saw mill in Grand Forks, the first named being still in operation and two large store buildings, one of which was destroyed by fire. He platted Viets’ addition, the first addition to the original townsite, so it will be seen that he was prominently identified with the development of the city during the seventies. He has been east for a few years but has returned to his first love. Since his first settlement in Dakota he has amassed a competence. (Grand Forks Daily Herald, Friday Morning, December 11, 1891, Volume XXI, Number 35, Page 2)

Page 76. Frank Viets is a native of Ohio, born in 1839, and served in the civil war. Himself, wife and little daughter came to Georgetown in August, 1870, and opened a hotel in one of the old post buildings. He was obliged to team his furniture and supplies from

Page 77. St. Cloud and Alexandria. In those times Mr. and Mrs. Viets entertained many distinguished persons who chanced to visit the upper part of the valley. When the business transactions of the post were transferred to Grand Forks, Mr. and Mrs. Viets also came and took charge of the Northwestern hotel. Thus Mr. Viets early became identified with the history of the city of his choice.

Page 82. In 1876 (June 24) Frank Viets purchased the Fadden claim near the confluence of the (Red and Red Lake) rivers. The same year that Mr. Viets acquired this property he built upon it a hotel called the Viets house, known in later years as the Richardson house; next year he erected a flour mill and afterward had platted on the land the first addition to the original townsite. (History of Grand Forks County, With Special Reference to the First Ten Years of Grand Forks City, H. V. Arnold, Larimore Pioneer, Larimore, North Dakota, 1900)

Page 132. COL. FRANK JESSE VIETS, son of Rev. Rodney and Lucinda (Wood), was born at Saybrook, Ashtabula county, O.,

Page 133. March 12, 1839, and lived there until twenty-one years of age. Then he entered the army, serving as private four months, when he was appointed first lieutenant, serving as such until April, 1864, when he resigned on account of disability. He married, Nov. 30, 1865, Nancy L. Dow of Madison, O. From 1868 to 1870 he was in Kansas and Colorado. In 1870 he moved with his family to North Dakota, and located at Grand Forks. Here he opened the North Western Hotel for the Hudson Bay Company, and afterwards built the Viets House, known for many years as the best hotel in the northwest. He planted what is known as the Viets Addition to Grand Forks, built a grist-mill and saw-mill, the first mills north of Alexandria, Minn., and bought the merchandise business of the Hudson Bay Company at that place. He then went to Minto, North Dakota, and built a large roller flouring mill, and was in an extensive general store for about two years. Going back to Grand Forks he again engaged in the hotel business, and remained there until the winter of 1896 (likely means 1897), when the grand structure known as Viets House was burned (likely means the Hotel Dacotah fire on December 17, 1897), entailing a very heavy loss upon its owner, as well as destroying a very profitable business. Within a few months he went to British Columbia and invested the remainder of his fortune in a mine which proved to be very remunerative, and after nearly two years of labor, to which he was unaccustomed, and which caused him to grow old quite perceptibly, he succeeded in disposing of his interest in the mines, exceeding his most sanguine expectations. In the interval from 1880 to 1890 he owned and occupied a fine farm in his native town near Ashtabula, one-half mile from the city limits. While residing there the Loudon Rubber Works was incorporated, in which he became a stockholder with Viets, Southwick & Co. general managers. He has been ever ready to aid in the advancement of any plan to further the interest of any town or city in which his lot has been cast. Mrs. Viets is a noble type of the true wife, mother, and friend, always ready to assist the sick and afflicted, and to relieve the needy and destitute. She is highly esteemed by all who are favored with her acquaintance. Daughter:

Page 134. Gertrude Dow, b. at Saybrook, Ohio, March 5, 1867; m. in 1885, M. S. Titus, a banker of Minto, N. D., where they reside. Children: Annie G. Titus, b. at Ashtabula, O., in 1887, and Frances E. Titus, b. in Dakota in 1889. (A Genealogy of the Viets Family with Biographical Sketches, Francis Hubbard Viets, Hartford Press, 1902)

Col. F. Viets to Visit in City. Early Pioneer Who Was Prominent in History of City Expected. Location of courthouse on present site indicated his good judgment in future growth of city. Strenuous objections to site where G. N. round house stands, won. Former hotel owner and man of affairs. Colonel Frank Viets, who is now visiting his daughter, Mrs. M. S. Titus of Minto, is a man who was interested in many of the early enterprises of this city. Colonel Viets, who is expected in the city the middle of this week, was one of the early pioneers of the state, coming to this section when the Hudson Bay Company had wide interests here, and himself working for that company. Colonel Viets donated the site for the present Presbyterian church. He also gave the church several lots on sixth street. The ground on which the present Winship monument now stands was the property, at one time of the pioneer. The Colonel made a strenuous fight to have the courthouse located on the plat of ground it now stands on. When the county first contemplated erecting a building, there was much agitation by a body of citizens to build it where the G. N. roundhouse now stands, but Colonel Viets so strongly opposed this that his arguments carried, and the courthouse was erected where it stood for so many years. Col. Viets saw in the present location, a site much better situated to the center of the then growing Grand Forks. That his foresight was sound, can be judged from the present location of the G. N. roundhouse and where the courthouse would be, if the opposition won their fight. The Colonel is well remembered by a number of early settlers, especially at the time he conducted the old Dacotah hotel. His contemplated visit here this week is anticipated with a great deal of pleasure by his many old acquaintances. (Grand Forks Daily Herald, Wednesday Morning, April 29, 1914, Volume XXXIII, Number 154, Page 8).

FUNERAL NOT ARRANGED FOR FRANK VIETS. Prominent Early Resident of Grand Forks Died in West Sunday. No information had been received up to late Monday night as to the funeral of Colonel Frank Viets, aged 88, prominent early resident of Grand Forks, whose death in Los Angeles Sunday (June 5, 1927) was reported in a message received by his grand-daughter, Mrs. M. C. Bacheller. For the last few years, Colonel Viets had made his home at Minto, N. D., with his daughter Mrs. M. S. Titus, and last September, accompanied her to California to spend the winter. He had been in failing health for some time, but his condition was not known to be serious by friends in the city. Mr. Viets was born in Saybrooke, Ohio, on March 12, 1839, the son of a Cambellite minister, Rodney Viets, and he spent his early life in the usual frontier activities of that time.

At the breaking out of the Civil war, he went into West Virginia with one of the first regiments raised in Ohio, the First Ohio Volunteer Light Artillery, and served during practically the entire period of the war, most of the time as a commissioned officer. In 1864, he married Miss Nancy L. Dow in Lake county Ohio, and went to Kansas, where he was connected with the building of the Kansas and Pacific railroad, for which he was a teaming contractor, operated commissaries and did contract construction work. He was sent to Georgetown, Minnesota, by the Hudson’s Bay company in 1870, and his daughter, who is now Mrs. M. S. Titus is said to be the first white child in the Red River valley. Two years later he embarked in the mercantile business in Grand Forks, and in 1876 he established the first grist mill that was built in North Dakota.

Built Hotel. In that same year he built the present Hall Hotel on Third street, as a residence, but a year later he converted it into a hotel, which he operated as the Viets’ House for several years. He was one of the builders on the original Hotel Dacotah, which was destroyed by fire in 1897. At the time of the fire Colonel Viets was associated with his brother-in-law, J. J. Dow, in the operation of the hotel. During his business activity in Grand Forks, he laid out several additions to the city, among which are Viets addition and Riverside Park addition. Viets Avenue was named for him. He also donated the land to the Presbyterian church upon which the present church stands and was one of the builders of the original structure. Shortly after the burning of the Hotel Dacotah, Colonel Viets returned to Ohio and Indiana, and for a number of years he conducted the English Hotel on Columbus Circle in Indianapolis. Leaving there he lived in Ashtabula, Ohio, until about five years ago when he returned to North Dakota, and since has divided his time between Grand Forks and Minto until he made the trip to California last fall.

Friend of Hill. Mr. Viets was one of the prominent figures of the early days in Grand Forks and was a close friend of the late James J. Hill, with whom he was connected in various railroad and construction enterprises. Mrs. Viets died seventeen years ago in Ashtabula. Shortly after her death the Colonel began failing in health, and for the last fifteen years has been comparatively inactive. In addition to his daughter, Mrs. M. S. Titus, and his granddaughter, Mrs. M. C. Bacheller, he is survived by another granddaughter, Mrs. W. J. Plunkett of Park River, N. D., and five great grand children. (Grand Forks Herald, Tuesday, June 7, 1927, Volume XLVI, Number 185, Page 5)

Early Pioneer Passes Away. Mrs. Frank Viets Died Yesterday at Her Home in Ashtabula, Ohio.  History of Mrs. Viets and Her Husband Who Made Journey to Georgetown in Red River of the North Cart – Some Other Interesting Facts Regarding the Early Life Here of These Pioneer Residents. The death of Mrs. Frank Viets, a well known former resident and early pioneer of Grand Forks, occurred at an early hour yesterday morning (January 1, 1910) at her home in Ashtabula, Ohio, of a complication of ailments. Mrs. Viets was known and esteemed as few women are by not only the early residents of Grand Forks, but of all the eastern part of North Dakota as well. She was a remarkable woman in many respects and exerted a wide influence for good upon those among whom she lived. With Mr. Viets she left her home in Ohio in 1869 to make a home in the new west. The Northern Pacific was being built, on paper, at that time and Georgetown was a prospective point for crossing the Red river, and Mr. and Mrs. Viets located at Georgetown. The journey for the last hundred miles or more was made in a Red river cart. During the first year of their residence at Georgetown there was not another white woman living within many miles.

Mr. and Mrs. Viets opened a modest hotel there and for nearly two years all of the settlers coming in this direction stopped at the Viets house there. The Great Hudson Bay company established a trading post at Georgetown with Mr. Viets in town. In 1872 it became evident that the Northern Pacific would cross the river 20 miles north (south) at Fargo. Grand Forks was just coming into notice at that time and had perhaps 50 bona fide residents. The Hudson Bay company discerned that it was to become an important trading point and opened a trading post here with Mr. Viets in charge. They also erected a hotel which was known for some time as the Hudson Bay house. Mr. Viets opened here the first real hotel in North Dakota, with Mrs. Viets as the hostess. Many a traveler coming to this section in those early days had reason to bless her name for she was a mother to all in need, and lent a helping hand to many in distress. She was foremost in every good work. It was largely through her efforts that the means were collected to build the first Methodist church in Grand Forks.

Retired From Hotel. In 1874 the Hudson Bay company disposed of its holdings and retired from business in the United States. Mr. Viets retired from the hotel and it became the Northwestern hotel. Later it was moved to a new location and is now the Arlington hotel. Mr. Viets acquired some land in the south end of the new city and built a modest cottage which is now a part of the Hotel hall on South Third street. Guests who had been accustomed to stopping with Mr. and Mrs. Viets in the hotel at Georgetown and later in Grand Forks, asked to be taken in at their new home when visiting Grand Forks on business. At continued requests Mr. Viets built an addition to his cottage in order to take in a few transients. Later the demand still being insistent and another addition was built, and then another. Finally the long disjointed building became Grand Forks’ leading hostelry and was for years the favorite stopping place here. Mr. Viets also built a flouring mill near his hotel, the first in the state on a commercial scale. While Mr. Viets was the agent of the Hudson Bay company he purchased for the stores in Grand Forks, Georgetown and “Frog Point” a bill of goods aggregating $70,000 from one James Twamley, a New York traveling man, who happened out this way. The traveling man thought that a town that could place such orders would be a good place to locate in and a little later he entered into partnership with Mr. Viets in the general merchandise business. They acquired the stock of goods formerly owned by the Hudson Bay company and opened up business on the site of the present Ontario store.

Moved to Minot. Ten years later they removed to Minot and engaged in general merchandising there. Mr. Viets also erected and operated a large flouring mill at Minto. In the meantime Grand Forks public spirited citizens had erected a mammoth hotel, which had become an elephant on their hands. At their request Mr. Viets returned to Grand Forks and with J. E. Dow became the successful proprietors of the house. The splendid hotel was completely destroyed by fire in 1896 and there being no prospect of its immediate reconstruction, Mr. Viets accepted a hotel proposition in Michigan and a little later Mr. and Mrs. Viets moved to their former home in Ashtabula, Ohio, where they have since resided. In all of Mr. Viets’ varied enterprises Mrs. Viets was his constant advisor, helpmeet and active partner. Her life was largely devoted to charity work and other good deeds. She leaves one daughter, Mrs. M. S. Titus of Minto, who was with her at the last. (Grand Forks Daily Herald, Sunday Morning, January 2, 1910, Volume XXIX, Number 55, Page 8).


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