Historical Details

Van Tassell Ghost Town Article Brings Memories

Courtesy of The Lusk Herald, 09/12/1957

A magazine article, "Six American Ghost Towns", which appeared in the August issue of Ford Times, a Ford Motor Company publication, prompted State Senator and Mrs. Andrew McMaster to compile a list of businesses that formerly operated in Van Tassell.

About 1916 Van Tassell had an estimated population of 600, now it has 32 residents and two or three times that many dogs. The large dog population is necessary to keep the skunk population down.

The magazine article says that Van Tassell came into being because shallow water wells produced an ample supply.

The land around Van Tassell was considered good homesteader land and people from the east and midwest, taking advantage of this free land offer, came in droves. The small homesteads then began to be combined into larger units and the population of the immediate area shrunk. This, combined with the fact that automobiles came into wide-spread use, spelled the end of Van Tassell as a thriving community, but not the actual end, for the present residents of the community most certainly are not ghosts.

The article in the Ford Times was brought to The Herald's attention by many people, including United States Senator Frank Barrett. The Washington D.C. office of the Ford Motor Company called Mr. Barrett's attention to the article just after its publication. Senator Barrett also brought the article to the attention of State Senator and Mrs. Andrew McMaster.

Mr. and Mrs. McMaster have been residents of the Van Tassell area for many years. They compiled the following list of businesses that were operating in Van Tassell just prior to and during World War I.

Van Tassell Bank, Howell Jones, cashier, and Warren L. Jones, assistant cashier; Chicago and North Western agent, Norten Brown; Catherine Limon Restaurant; Adams and Skillings Garage; General Store, Charley Wheeler, later sold to Earl Ellicott; Postmistress Mary Wilson; dairy, John Davel; pool hall, Seth Stephensen; Erlewine Restaurant; mailman, Frank Phimey; mail and dray, F. O. Calhoun and Jim Edwards; McCabe Drug Store and Post Office, Mr. and Mrs. Alex McCabe; M. J. Kuester Hardware Fuel and Grain; garage, Bill Ladwig.

Livery Barn, City Dray, and Ice, Charley Calhoun; Zerbe Hardware, H. E. Zerbe; Peet and Purdy General Store, Burt Peet and Mr. Purdy; ACA General Store, Jim Clark; restaurant, Horace Greeley Moore; Stewart Lumber, Chester Stewart and later Ivan Parker; meat market and store, Nick VanSant; Stenger Land Office, O.I. Stenger; saloon and pool hall, Charley Cunningham and Romey Cunningham; Kuester Hotel, Tom Christofer and later Lathrop; Dr. Mitchel, community doctor; veterinarian, Dr. Oberly; Van Tassell Pioneer, newspaper, John Pendry, Tony Kuhn, and Carrol Carver, not all at the same time; Daniels Real Estate and Locater, Kenneth Daniels; mayor , Walt Adams, blackmith and later light plant, R. A. McHale.

The Lusk Herald
September 19, 1957
Mrs. Adams Writes Postscript to Van Tassell Ghost Town Article

Mrs. Lawrence Adams, The Lusk Herald's Van Tassell correspondent, has written a postscript to the Van Tassell ghost town article that appeared in last week's issue and was prompted by an article in the Ford Times. Undoubtedly Mrs. Adams is expressing the opinion of many residents of that community. The following is by Mrs. Adams.

Perhaps we should have the last word in this ghost town discussion, or at least be permitted to add a small postscript.

We admit that we might fall into the ghost town category in respect to the fact that we have been reduced in size from a once flourishing business center to a "wide spot in the road." We also admit that it would not take very long to count the scant population, but we would advise the person who counted the dogs and skunks to have his eyes examined, for there surely must be something the matter with them. We admit to no ghostly spires of fallen down buildings, no ghostly echoes from empty houses, no broken windows or squeaking doors usually associated with ghostly dwellings. Many buildings have been moved away and put to use elsewhere, but the ones left would be a credit to any community and are not at all ghostly-looking.

Mrs. Gertrude Richardson of the Chicago Art institute spent three weeks of her vacation in this vicinity last summer making many paintings of Van Tassell, showing the beautiful and unusual rock formations in the background, and the well kept homes and yards. We sincerely hope that one of her pictures may eventually brings us a little more favorable publicity.

The Lusk Herald
September 26, 1957
Van Tassell Founded by Two Women Early Day Resident Informs Herald

Elmer M. Meyers of Cave Junction, Ore. has written The Herald more interesting history about Van Tassell. The letter was prompted by The Lusk Herald's article about early day Van Tassell.

Mr. Meyers writes: "Early in the spring of 1909 Edith Ammons came to Peoria, Ill. and contacted my mother-in-law, Mrs. Ida Van Sant and induced her to go to Wyoming with 26 people and locate on a homestead close ot the railroad. Fred Thielbar and myself were among the first people. After we located, Ida Van Sant and Edith Ammons founded and built the first buildings in Van Tassell. She set Wheeler up in the grocery business and we lived upstairs over the store until we got our farm buildings built. Edith Ammons founded and ran The Van Tassell Pioneer, our newspaper. Sam Gagstetter and O. I. Stenger came later and brought in the rest of the homesteaders. George Leonard was the first successful farmer.

"We had a 4th of July celebration in 1910, also a snow storm in the afternoon. People were wrapped up in blankets and fur coats, but nobody went home until after midnight. That was a day. I had a sandwich stand and did a big business in hot coffee.

"The idea of this letter is to give credit to the founder of Van Tassell - Mrs. Ida Van Sant and Edith Ammons. I did my bit, but it was not important like the work my mother-in-law did."

In another letter to The Herald Mrs. Forest Porter of Whitney, Nebr. writes "You misspelled the name of the dairyman. He was John Deuel instead of John Davel whose family were good friends of my folks. Also Mary Wilson was an aunt of my husband who ran the postoffice."

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Related/Linked Records

Record Type Name
Obituary Adams, Lawrence (12/20/1901 - 03/05/1988) View Record
Obituary Barrett, Frank (11/10/1892 - 05/30/1962) View Record
Obituary McMaster, Andrew (08/19/1896 - 06/11/1986) View Record
Obituary Wilson, Mary (07/16/1926 - 12/21/2011) View Record