Van Rensselaer Schuyler Van Tassell was owner of a large cattle ranch (Van Tassell Ranch, a member of the infamous Wyoming Stock Grower's Association) in southeastern Wyoming. In 1877, he bought the Jay Em Ranch from Jim Moore. After Jim Moore died in 1880, Van Tassell married his widow and then took control of the rest of Jim Moore's estate (which included everything in the Van Tassell area). In 1886, the Fremont, Elkhorn & Missouri Valley Railroad built their line across the Nebraska-Wyoming border and headed for Lusk. They built a railroad siding/whistlestop about 2 miles west of the state line and named it in honor of the rancher who owned the entire countryside: Van Tassell. As Van Tassell had married the widow Moore only for his own profit, he wanted nothing to do with the place. He went so far as to transport all his cattle and ranch supplies in and out of Cheyenne rather than do business at the Van Tassell depot. Van Tassell was also a good friend of Teddy Roosevelt and the two of them made a horseback expedition from Laramie to Cheyenne in 1908. Before Van Tassell died he'd married 5 different women for the sole purpose of growing his estate and making more money. When he died in California in 1931 he was one of the largest cattle ranchers in the Rocky Mountain area. He was buried in Cheyenne.

However, in the early 1900's, the days of the arrogant cattle barons and open range cattle grazing on the unfenced prairies of Wyoming were coming to an end and homesteaders were pouring in. The first ones arrived in the Van Tassell area on the train in 1903. The town was incorporated in 1916 and by 1920 had a bank, hotel, billiard parlor, furniture store, lumber yard, 2 hardware stores, 2 churches, a blacksmith shop, 3 cafes, a city jail, 2 newspapers and its own electric light plant.

Van Tassell grew to be a prosperous farming, cattle and dairy ranching town with a peak population of about 200. The Buckaroo Bar became famous for its "longest bar in Wyoming." However, as time went on, the younger people left for the bright lights of the big cities and Van Tassell is nearly a ghost town now. At this point, almost half the town's population is employed by the town government in one way or another. There is a civic building, a post office, a grocery store and a few homes still in business.