Another son, the brother of John W., was killed during the construction of a bridge at an unknown location.
John W. Viant received little education in Canada, but at the early age of 15 was able to get a position as a clerk at Castleton, Canada, where he lived until he was 20 years old. Realizing the poor opportunities for advancement there, he traveled on to the United States in 1856. He stopped in Indiana along the way, liked the territory, and remained in Crown Point for one year.
In the spring of 1857, he returned to Canada and was married to Ann Jones. That fall they traveled back to Indiana to become early settlers in Lowell.
The children of John and Ann Viant were Frederick H., Cassius M., Clifford, John W., and Bessie.
John W. Viant, Sr. soon became a partner of Jonah Thorn, who is listed as the first storekeeper in the Town of Lowell. They purchased a stock of dry goods and groceries from a Mr. Merton and continued on as the sole owner of the General Store until 1881, when he sold it and began farming. A year later, in 1882, he went back into business, taking his eldest son, Frederick, as a partner.
In 1884 he was listed as "The oldest Lowell Merchant living." The following is a quote from an old Lake County history: "When he came hither, the population numbered about 100, and he has been identified with its growth and prosperity; he has supported churches, schools, and other useful enterprises. He is an original member of Colfax Lodge No. 378. Besides owning valuable property in the Town of Lowell, he has seventy acres of good farm land."
In 1866, John was listed as the first secretary of his lodge. The following is copied from a story written by Schuyler Dwyer: "The lodge met on the third floor of a building that stood on the corner of Commercial Ave. and Clark St. A general store and Ed Pixley, a jeweler, occupied the first floor, and H.V. Weaver Undertaking equipment was on the second floor."
In 1843, James Sanger became the first Postmaster at the "Outlet Post Office" east of Lowell, at the present site of Lowell High School. After the office was moved to the downtown business district, John W. Viant became Postmaster in 1858, and held that position until the time of President Lincoln's assasination in 1865. When vice-president Andrew Johnson became President, Sanford Barlow was appointed Postmaster at Lowell.
The "old timer" remembers Frederick as a painter of nature scenes as well as a sign painter. One sign he painted can still be seen on the building at the northwest corner of Clark St. and Commercial Ave. It was painted in the 1920's and included an ad for a drug store, and a hand pointed north with the words "To Chicago." Why would a Chicago sign be on Clark St.? Because until about 1928, there was no bridge on Mill St. over Cedar Creek, and all northbound traffic drove on Clark St. toward Cedar Lake, then north from Cedar Lake, then north from Cedar Lake on the old Jackson Highway to Schererville, then on the old Lincoln Highway to Torrence on their way to Chicago.
Frederick married Lavina B. DeWitt, the daughter of Charles and Anna (Pratt) DeWitt. Charles was a brother to Harriet DeWitt, the wife of Irish Pioneer John Buckley.
The children of Frederick and Lavina were Hal, who lived in Gary and California; Violet, who was a teacher in Gary; Charles Bird; Faith (Mrs. Fred Iddings) of California; and Zim, who married Edith Bryant, the daughter of a very early Lake County pioneer family. They lived in South Bend and Hebron, where Edith still resides.
Charles Bird Viant, almost always known as "Bird," was also well known as a Lowell business owner. He and his wife, Ida (Berg) Viant, ran Viant's Restaurant in downtown Lowell for many years. But before that, "Bird" is remembered as the manager of the Grand Theatre, which stood on the southeast corner of Clark and Jefferson Sts. The Grand Theatre was torn down in the 1930's.
The "old timer" remembers when as a boy, he and his friends stood around outside the showhouse until Mr. Viant would let them in free to see the silent movies. Admission in those days was 10c and 25c. Vessie (Mahler) Fehlman, now deceased, and Agnes (Berg) Eich who still resides in Lowell, were two of the piano players who played during, the exciting movies with Mary Pickford, Rudolph Valentino and Milton Sills, stars of the silent screen.
"Bird" also held the position of Town Marshall of Lowell in the 1940's, and is remembered for the dapper white uniform he wore for special occasions.
Evelyn Viant (Mrs. John K.) Wheeler, great granddaughter of John W. Viant, provided assistance in the writing of this story.
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