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"A Pedigree Partly Indian, Partly Batavian"


    Van Tassel Biographical Sketches


Frank L. Van Tassel

Frank L. Van Tassel, secretary and manager of the Excelsior Mill Company, of Yankton, is a native of the old Keystone state of the Union, having been born in Conneautville, Crawford county, Pennsylvania, on the 28th of January, 1851. He is a son of Elizar B. and Rachel (Litchfield) Van Tassel, of whose ten children seven are living at the present time, namely: Clarence, who is a resident of Artesian, South Dakota; Frank L., who is the immediate subject of this sketch; Adella, who is the wife of Dr. W. H. H. Brown, of Denver, Colorado; Mina, who is the wife of Dr. Alva Johnston, of Meadville, Pennsylvania; Dr. Willis, who is a practicing dentist of Prescott, Arizona; Nettie, who is the wife of James Van Sommer, of Liverpool, England; and Harry, who is a resident of Waubay, South Dakota.

Elizar Van Tassel was born in Mayfield, New York, his parents having emigrated to America from Holland. He was reared and educated in the old Empire state, where he took up the study of law, being graduated in one of the leading law schools of the state. He finally removed to Meadville, Pennsylvania, where he was successfully engaged in the practice of his chosen profession for more than thirty years, becoming one of the representative members of the bar of the state. He
died when about sixty years of age, honored by all who knew him. His wife was born in Litchfield, Connecticut, of staunch old New England stock, and she died at Meadville, Pennsylvania, in 1900, at the age of seventy-five years, having been an active and devoted member of the Universalist church.

Frank L. Van Tassel, with whom this sketch has more specially to do, was reared in the parental home until he had attained the age of fourteen years, his early educational discipline having been received in the common schools of his native state. That he had availed himself fully of the advantages afforded is certain when we revert to the fact that at the early age noted he engaged in teaching penmanship and bookkeeping, by means of which he succeeded in defraying the expenses of his course of study in the Meadville Commercial College, and though he was a mere boy at the time he attained an enviable reputation as an instructor in the lines mentioned.

At the age of fifteen years he accepted a position as professor in penmanship and bookkeeping in the Humiston Cleveland Institute, at Cleveland, Ohio, where he did most effective work. In 1868, at the age of seventeen years, Mr. Van Tassel came to Yankton, which was then little more than a frontier village, and here he secured a position as bookkeeper in the mercantile establishment of Bramble & Miner, one of the leading concerns of the town. About eight years later he became a member of the firm, having been previously the general manager of the enterprise, which had eventually developed from a retail business of general merchandise into a wholesale grocery.

Operations were conducted upon an extensive scale, and large amounts of goods were sent into the Black Hills district. The goods were brought to Yankton by railroad, thence transferred by boat to Pierre, from which point transportation to the Black Hills was had by means of wagons. How great the scope of the business became may be partially appreciated when it is stated that frequently three or four steamboats were loaded with tile firm's goods in Yankton in one day. Mr. Bramble was located in the Black Hills, and Mr. Miner had charge of the Excelsior mill, which was established in Yankton in 1872, and thus the general supervision of the wholesale business devolved upon the subject of this sketch.

The firm retired from business in 1883 and in the following year Mr. Van Tassel assumed charge of the Excelsior mills, and he has since served consecutively in the capacity of secretary and general manager of the company, being known as a progressive business man and capable executive, while he has ever held the confidence and good will of the people with whom he has come in contact in the various relations of life. He was prominently concerned in the organization of the company which constructed the first telephone lines in South Dakota and was also one of those to take the initiative in the construction of artesian wells in the state, the enterprise in this line having proved of inestimable value and benefit in a public way.

He is president of the Business Men's Club of South Dakota and is ever loyal to the interests of the city and state in
which he has so long maintained his home, while he is recognized as one of the representative citizens and business men of the state. He is chairman of the building committee of the new Carnegie library in Yankton, is secretary of the Yankton Telephone Company, and a member of the directorate of the First National Bank. In politics he is a staunch advocate of the principles of the Democratic party, and while he has never sought official preferment he served three years as a member of
the board of trustees of the state hospital for the insane. His religious faith is that of the Protestant Episcopal church, of which he is a communicant, and for the past four years he has been a member of the vestry of Christ church, taking a lively interest in parochial affairs and in the general work of the church at large.

Fraternally Mr. Van Tassel is an appreciative member of the Masonic order, in which he has attained high degrees, being affiliated with St. John's Lodge, No. 1, Free and Accepted Masons; Yankton Chapter, No. 1, Royal Arch Masons; DeMolay Commandery, No. 3, Knights Templar; Oriental Consistory, No. 1, Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, of which he is a charter member; and of El Riad Temple, Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine.

On the 19th of October, 1875, Mr. Van Tassel was united in marriage to Mrs. Sarah (White) Bordeno, who was born and reared in the city of Detroit, Michigan. She had one child by her first marriage, William Bordeno who is now a resident of Spokane, Washington. and by her marriage to Mr. Van Tassel one child has been born, Frances L., who remains at the parental home.


History of South Dakota, Doane Robinson, Vol. I, 1904, pgs 814-815




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