Obituary Details

Rensselaer Schuyler VanTassell

(01/18/1845 - 04/12/1931)
Courtesy of Lusk Free Lance, 04/16/1931

R. S. Van Tassell, Early Pioneer of Wyoming, Passes Away at Pasadena, Calif. Sunday; Burial at Cheyenne Today

Another of the old-timers of Wyoming, a true pioneer and one of the largest land holders in the state, R. S. Van Tassell, passed away on Sunday, April 12th at Pasadena, Calif.

Mr. Van Tassell was known to many of the old-time residents of this vicinity and the loss in greatly felt among them. He came to Wyoming in 1865.

Mr. Van Tassell was the owner of the large ranch adjoining the town named in his honor, and this property is known all over the state. Besides this tract, the deceased has many other large holdings in Wyoming, and was considered one of the heaviest land owners of the state.

He was between 90 and 95 years of age at the time of demise, according to those who know him intimately.

The remains were brought back to Cheyenne by his widow, with whom he had spent the winter in Pasadena.

Funeral services are being conducted this (Thursday) afternoon at Cheyenne, and are in charge of the Knights Templar of that city. They will be held at 2 o'clock at the Consistory Temple and interment will be made in the Cheyenne cemetery.

An article published in the Cheyenne Tribune-Leader of April 14th, gives quite a bit of the history of Mr. Van Tassell, and it is herewith reprinted.

Van Tassell's age is uncertain, but he doubtless was past 90 and may have been past 95. Old timers who were his contemporaries here when Cheyenne was founded in 1867 say that he then was a mature man. That was 64 years ago.

The Van Tassell ranch holdings are among the most extensive in the west and he was among the largest cattle raisers of the Rocky Mountain region. His ranch acreage in Laramie county approximated 21,000 acres and he had broad holdings in Albany and Niobrara counties, Wyoming and in Nebraska. The town of Van Tassell, Niobrara County, was named after him.

Van Tassell came to the Wyoming country and the site of Cheyenne before there was a Wyoming or a Cheyenne. He was born in New York, spent the earlier years of his manhood in Iowa and in 1865 was at Fort Kearney, Neb., the leader of a party of 15 men who were headed westward along the route on which it was expected the Union Pacific railroad would be built. He was detained at Fort Kearney by the commandant, the late Maj. John Talbot of Cheyenne, because Talbot did not regard it safe for a party of 16 men to travel the Indian-infested country to the westward. Talbot required Van Tassell to recruit his party to 50 men before the expedition set out for the Wyoming country.

In 1866 Van Tassell, in company with Tom McGee and John Sparks, wintered on Sherman Hill. They were getting out ties for the Union Pacific and their headquarters was at Tie City, a camp near the foot of Cheyenne pass at the point where the Happy Jack and Telephone roads conjoin. The railhead of the Union Pacific did not reach Sherman Hill until 18 months later.

Very little regarding Van Tassell's brushes with Indians while he was preceding the railroad westward is known, but he related that on one occasion when he was pursued by Indians he shot his horse and used the carcass as a bulwark from behind which to shoot at his attackers until help arrived.

Van Tassell settled in Cheyenne as soon as the town was founded and engaged in freighting, mail carrying and stock raising. He had a contract to carry mail between Cheyenne and Fort Collins before the Colorado Central railroad was built in 1870. This railroad, its pioneer purpose of connecting Denver with the Union Pacific, was torn up more than 40 years ago.

The 70's found Van Tassell engaging extensively in cattle raising, with his major holdings on the Running Water in the region now Niobrara County and on Pole Creek, north of Cheyenne. The "home ranch" was, and still is, on Pole Creek about 23 miles northwest of this city.

He conducted the Union Pacific stock yards at Cheyenne for more than 40 years and during the period provided feed there for millions of head of sheep and cattle.

One of Van Tassell's hobbies was always to have a saddle horse named "Gypsy." A consummate horseman, as "fine a figure of a man" on horseback as ever rode the ranges, he never for 50 years was without a favorite mount called "Gypsy." It was on a "Gypsy" that he guided President Theodore Roosevelt from Laramie to Cheyenne during the famous "50-mile ride" made by the strenuous president in 1908. Roosevelt then was 50 years old and Van Tassell past 70, but the rancher set such a hard pace that the president finally was moved to remark: "Say, Van, you old rascal, I believe you're trying to show me up."

Van Tassell continued to ride a "Gypsy" many miles daily until about 12 years ago, when he was struck by a swinging ranch gate and suffered an injury of the hip which became progressively more serious as the years passed and in recent years made it extremely difficult for him to ride or walk. He continued, however, actively to direct his immense ranch interests.

The Van Tassell home ranch on Pole Creek was a social center during the period when the roster of local cattle raisers included the names of scions of some of the leading New York City and English families, the period when the membership list of the old Cheyenne Club read like a section of the Gotham social register.

Van Tassell was a member of the Wyoming Stock Growers association for 53 years, his membership dating from April, 1878, and he took an active interest in the association throughout.

He was thrice married. His first wife was the widow of James Moore, a prominent stockman with whom he was associated in business. The Moore home, one of the finest in early Cheyenne, was the rambling residence at the northwest corner of Twenty-First Street and Carey Avenue, which now is the nucleus of the Wayne Daniel service station structures. In the late 80s Van Tassell married Miss Louise Swan. Fifteen years ago he and Miss Maude Bradley were married. She survives him.

The Van Tassell estate includes extensive holdings of Cheyenne realty, among the local properties being hundreds of lots in interior Heights addition and the historic "stone warehouse" at the northwest corner of Fifteenth Street and Pioneer Avenue.

Van Tassell was a member of Cheyenne Lodge No. 11, A.F. and A.M., the Wyoming Commandry and the Wyoming Consistory.

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Related/Linked Records

Record Type Name
Obituary VanTassell, Maude (11/30/-0001 - 07/25/1949) View Record