Historical Details

Van Tassell Post Office History

Courtesy of The Lusk Herald, 04/04/1985

75 Years of history celebrated

by Tracy Rowe, News Editor

The Van Tassell Post Office has delivered mail for the community for the past 75 years now and plans to celebrate with an open house Tuesday, April 9.

The anniversary was first brought to the attention of Post master Garnet Heckert when Bill Wilkner, a postal mark collector from Greeley, Colo., sent cards to the post office to be marked for what he thought was the 100th anniversary. Heckert later discovered the date to be the 75th anniversary. The date sneaked up on her without much warning, she said.

Official celebration will include coffee and cake to be served at the Van Tassell Town Hall from 2-5 p.m. Tuesday and special envelopes with a reproduction of a pen and ink drawing of the post office, by Niobraran Georgia Shoults, will be available.

A special Folk Art Decoy Duck postage stamp has been chosen for the occasion. Heckert said people who want their mail postmarked on the 75th anniversary must have it to her at 10 a.m. Tuesday or before.

The celebration will be sponsored by Wayne Heckert, the Shoults Ranch, Rose and Lester Lewis, Norma Bruegger and Sons of the old Van Tassell ranch and Andy McMaster.

Assisting at the post office in addition to Heckert are Lorena Ellicott, Rose Lewis and Georgia Shoults - leave replacements, and Bud and Shirley Owens and Clarence West - carriers. Ellicott has served under the past three postmasters.

The office now serves 28 boxes, and 11 stops on each of the carrier routes around Van Tassell. At any one time, from 10-12 people claim to be residents of the town east of Lusk.

Homesteaders began arriving in the area in 1909 with many of the families following to meet them the next year.

First settlers included Wayne Heckert, Charles Wheeler, Larsons and now the Shoults' and Fred Bruegger homesteaded in 1911. Bruegger worked for Jakie Mill at that time. The Erlewine family came in 1913.

Charles W. Wheeler is reported to be the first postmaster who ran the post office from his general store. He was followed by Mrs. Wilson and Mrs. Catherine McCabe.

The Shoults ranch was homesteaded in 1912 by a young school teacher named Anthony Larson. Larson soon married Ethel Fogel, another school teacher. She filed to homestead an adjoining piece of property thus forming the current location.

They taught school for several years, each of them driving a team of horses to school.

It is now known as the Shoults ranch owned by Rex, Lucille (Larson) Shoults, their son Ron, his wife Georgia and their sons.

The town of Van Tassell was incorporated in March of 1916 and reached its peak around 1913-20. The town itself has a long history behind it and the post office has been there since almost the very beginning.

By 1917 Van Tassell news items were carried in The Lusk Herald. Other marks of a growing town showed up in the newspaper as it reported that three carloads of grain were shipped from Van Tassell in Jan. 1919. The new hotel was opened with 16 rooms and a large lobby. That year other new building included a bank, furniture store and a pool hall.

At the peak of its development Van Tassell had two hardware stores, three general stores, lumber yard, bank, two saloons, two pool halls, ice house, livery stable, two churches, The Van Tassell Booster, creamery and butter factory, blacksmith shop, electric power plant, two garages, meat market, depot, two drug stores, a fire department, city hall and a jail. At this time Catherine McCabe was postmaster.

The town's population dwindled after that time as it became a ranching area and not a train depot.

One of the first marks of change came in January of 1963 when postage went from 3 cents to 4 cents and 5 cents for out of town mail. The penny postcard went from 3 cents to 4 cents.

The Bancrofts retired in July 1964 after 22 years as postmasters. The Bancrofts had followed Catherine McCabe who retired in 1942.

It was reported in the Harrison Sun July 23, 1964, that Lester Lewis, mayor of Van Tassell had spoke out against the U.S. Postal Service's intention to phase out smaller post offices in the nation. His words moved Senator Gale McGee to help maintain smaller post offices until the U.S. Postal Service could produce better service to a small community than what the small post offices could.

With the continuation of the small post office Mary Foutz became postmaster followed by Ila (Rising) Buckley, Meg Davies and the current Garnett Heckert.

Heckert is the first postmaster to live outside of the city limits. She often rides a snowmobile into the post office. One year the weather was so consistently bad that Heckert spent 12 nights in the small building sleeping on a cot in the back room.

The building itself is the first one not to be a part of a general store or drug store. It stands alone just north of Highway 20. The building had been used to store tools in at one of the Lance Creek oil fields until it was brought to its present site.

At one time the post office served Chadron, Neb. the service began Jan. 30, 1952 through June 30, 1974.

The town received its name from a rancher who owned much of the land in that area.

Van Rensselaea Scuyler Van Tassell, a pioneer, came to Cheyenne when it was founded in 1867. He forged through the country before the Union Pacific Railroad broke the first trail.

Van Tassell first came to the eastern part of Wyoming when he bought the Jay Em ranch from Jim Moore in 1877. After Moore's death he married Mrs. Moore. He acquired the land where Van Tassell now stands in 1880.

When the railroad came through in 1886 railroad officials named the station and the town that sprang up, Van Tassell, against the wishes of Mr. Van Tassell. He never liked the town named in his honor, ignored its merchants, and freighted in his ranch supplies from Cheyenne.

Wayne Heckert, one of the homesteaders, can remember when he came in 1910, all that stood in the town was a box car for a depot and a post office in Wheeler's Store.

Van Tassell had five wives. He died in California in April, 1931, nearing 100. He was buried in Cheyenne, the city he loved best.

Images & Attachments

Leave replacements at the Van Tassell postal service (L to R) are Lorena Ellicott, Georgia Shoults and Rose Lewis.
Mail carriers are Shirley Owens, Clarence West and (not pictured) Bud Owens.
Past Postmaster Ila Rising Buckley (left) with Garnett Heckert.

Related/Linked Records

Record Type Name
Obituary Heckert, Charles (12/19/1936 - 01/22/1999) View Record
Obituary Heckert, Wayne (12/14/1902 - 01/26/1986) View Record
Obituary Lewis, Lester (07/12/1913 - 03/18/1988) View Record
Obituary McCabe, Catherine (11/28/1871 - 01/25/1952) View Record
Obituary West, Clarence (02/05/1916 - 02/16/1988) View Record
Obituary Bruegger, Fred (02/03/1941 - 04/26/2007) View Record
Obituary Lewis, Rose (03/27/1915 - 02/03/2017) View Record
Obituary Heckert, Garnet (10/08/1935 - 03/15/2017) View Record
Obituary Owens, Shirley (07/09/1927 - 12/08/2018) View Record