From meadow to meadow – Sheridan Media
Property of Van Leer. Insertion, John and Clara Van Leer. Clearmont Historical Group Photo
Passaic was a community in Sheridan County, which was settled around 1914. Named after the town of Passaic, NJ, by the first residents John Van Leer, the community flourished for over 20 years, despite the fact that, unlike most of the early towns in Wyoming, was not located along a railroad line.
Passaic was founded by settlers. During the second half of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, many enterprising people moved west to take advantage of the “free lands”. The Homestead Act of 1862 was a means of distributing public land to private owners. Over 200 million acres of land have been claimed and settled under this law. In Wyoming, a total of 67,315 homesteaders have turned out. The total area of family land was 18,225,327.
With the law on land ownership, the rules for claiming your land were simple. You must have been over 21; be a citizen of the United States; never bore arms against the United States; and be the head of the family. After paying a small filing fee, you could claim a 160 acre parcel of land.
The only problem was that the homesteader had to “prove himself” on earth within three to five years. That is, live on the land, build a residence, make improvements, and then request a deed. If the conditions were met, the title was given and the land was theirs.
Settlers from all walks of life came to the west, immigrants, landless farmers, single women and former slaves worked to meet the challenge of “proving themselves”.
In a 1919 Sheridan Enterprise public notice for claiming the land after proving:
NOTICE OF REPUBLICATION (Notice of renunciation of deposited coal) US Department of the Interior, Land Office in Buffalo, Wyoming, January 29 1919. NOThereby notice given that George Washington Smith, of Clearmont, Wyoming, which on June 8, 1915 entered Homestead. n ° 07571, for SE 1/2 SE 1/4 Section 8, NO ?? NE 1/4 E1 / 2 E 1/2 Article 17, BN 1/4, NE1 / 4 Section 20, Township R7 N., Vary 78 W., 6th ‘Principal Meridian, filed a notice of intention to make final proof of three years, at establish claim the land described above, before Fred A. Lohse, United States Commissioner in Clearmont, Wyoming, March 18, 1919.
Names of the applicant as witnesses: Ora Schenffer. William Dooley, Fred L. Reynolds, Pere Whedon, all of Passaic, Wyoming RALPH R. READ. Register.
Ira Roadier, Clearmont, who has researched Sheridan County homesteaders for several years, counted over 100 homesteads in the prime area of Passaic Country during the 1920s and 1930s.
With so many people in the area, mail delivery was important. People ordered clothes and dry goods from the Montgomery Ward (Monkey Ward) and Sears and Roebuck catalogs. In addition, the letters from the family from the East were eagerly awaited by residents of the isolated community.
In the Sheridan Post on Tuesday, May 19, 1914. The equipment of the new post office in Passaivs, at the head of Cabin Creek, descended via Arvada on Saturday. Mrs. Emma M. Jennings is Postmaster. The route will be from Clearmont to Passaic, which will make it much more convenient for settlers on the heads of Buffalo and Squaw creeks.
In an old Polk directory it says, “Passaic is a county post office 27 miles northeast of Clearmont, which is on the CB & QRR shipping point. Internship at Clearmont Fare, $ 2.00 at Sayle, Mont., $ 2.00 at Quetus, Mont., $ 1.50.
The directory stated that Ms. CM Van Leer was the postmaster. Many of the early postmasters were women, and postmen were located in the houses of the postmaster. Emma M. Jennings was the 1st Postmaster from 1914 to 1916; then Susie Miller 1916 to 1918, Harey Compher, 1918-1920; Lowell (Nix) Green 1920-1922; Clara VanLeer, 1922-1937.
When Clara VanLeer left her post in 1937, Oscar Cunningham took over the post in 1937 and continued to lead it out of the VanLeer household. He held the post until 1940. Glen Shatzer was Passaic’s last postmaster 1940-42. Glen’s mother, Evalyce, was a teacher at Passaic.
Sheridan Post, December 1919 – NEW PASSAIC ROAD MAIL PROVIDER Fred Williams is agato transport mail from Clearmont to Passaic. Mr. Williams was the first mailman and he sseems n / Anatural to have him at work. Mrs Jean Rigsby was a passenger with Mr Williams on Monday. Mrs. Rigsby spent the night at the Williams house in order to take the stage at his home in Quietus, Mont. the next morningng.
Later, the postal service became faster, people began to drive automobiles.
Sheridan Post, July 1922. WF Brittian from Quietus, MT will be the new mahe transporter from Passaic to ClearMountain. Mr. Brittian has purchased a new Dodge truck and will be making his maiden trip on Monday July 3. Mr. Brittian will also carry mail from Passaic to Sayle, MT, starting Monday July 3rd.
Passaic was District 42 and spanned 180 miles and was, at one point, the third largest electoral district in Sheridan County.
There were several small rural schools in the Passaic area at one time: Cabin Creek School; the French stream school; Green school; School K; LX Bar School; Dooley school; the Whedon school; Smith School and Ritchie School. Most of these schools started in the 1920s and closed in the late 1930s, but the Green School operated until 1962.
Passaic was seen as a community, not a town, there were no stores so most people shopped in Clearmont. In an article on Passaic, written by Thomas J. McCarthy, whose family lived near Passaic, said, “It was a thriving community… (but) for groceries you went to Clearmont. With a good lively team and leaving early in the morning, the trip could be done in a day. He added that going to the Sheridan with a crew and a cart took two days.
There was, however, a school, a post office, a doctor (one of the early settlers was Doctor Earl Whedon, who also had an office in Sheridan), a lawyer, and a community hall.
Many Wyoming ranches were started as farms, some ranchers bought adjourned farms when their neighbors decided farming in barren Wyoming was too difficult a way to make a living.
In the Passaic-Buffalo Creek area, the majority of the farmers were sold to John Kendrick, and ultimately Kendrick’s various ranches included over 210,000 acres in Sheridan and Campbell counties.
One of these farmers sold himself and left a note on the door of his property: 20 miles from the water, 40 miles from the woods, I’m leaving this damn place and I’m leaving it for good.
Today, nothing remains of the thriving community. The community post office closed in 1942 and the Green School closed in 1962. In July 2000, a forest fire swept through the area and burned what was left of the Passaic community hall and a residence.
The land has now become grassland again for ranchers’ cattle, much like before the influx of settlers west to try their luck at making a living on the high dry plains.
The Clearmont Historical Group is researching information on Passaic for an upcoming book. Email Sandy Hinz at [email protected] or call 307-758-4685.