#Lookback: Atlantic City Mercantile

A County 10 series in partnership with the Fremont County Museum System
where we take a #Lookback at the stories and history of our community and
presented by Mick Pryor, Financial Advisor with Edward Jones.

The National Register of Historic Places was created by the National Historic Preservation Act, which was signed into law by Lyndon B. Johnson on October 15th, 1966. The National Register of Historic Places is a list compiled by the National Park Service to help support the nation’s efforts to preserve America’s historic and archeological resources. As of 2019, there are more than 95,000 properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Almost every county in the United States has at least one place on the list. In Fremont County, there are 35 locations that have been added to the National Register of Historic Places. One of the 35 locations is the Atlantic City Mercantile.  

In the 1840s, indications showed that gold existed in the South Pass region. The first claim in the area was made in 1867. Soon after the first claim, South Pass City was founded.   One year later, in 1868, Miner’s Delight and Atlantic City were also founded. By 1869, about 3,000 people lived near Atlantic City.  So, more permanent enterprises began forming in town. By 1870, the Leighton Brothers, Mr. Hoffman, Carle Melin, Jules Lamoureaux, A. Amoretti, and Louis Poire owned mercantile stores in Atlantic City. Using revenues they made from their mercantile businesses, these men started other businesses including ranches and freighting companies. This economic diversification allowed Atlantic City to survive as the mining boom ended. By 1872, the gold mining boom in Atlantic City had ended and the town became nearly deserted. The mercantile stores in town remained to serve the ranchers who had begun to settle in the area. Over the next 100 years, Atlantic City experienced several other mining booms, but none of these were ever as big as the boom that began in 1867.  

One of the businesses that allowed Atlantic City to survive past the gold mining boom was the Atlantic City Mercantile. The Atlantic City Mercantile was founded by Lawrence Giessler. He was born in Germany in 1855 but immigrated to Wyoming in 1873. At first, Giessler was working as a cowboy near the Sweetwater River. During the mining boom, Giessler moved to South Pass City where he married Emma Stegmiller. In 1890, he moved to Atlantic City and opened a store.  He leased land on August 14th, 1893, from Emile Granier for one dollar. This land had a house and a store already, which had possibly been erected by Jules Lamoureaux or Louis Poire in 1868. After leasing the land, Granier constructed a mercantile using adobe blocks covered in tin siding with a false front on the south side of the building. This made the Atlantic City Mercantile the second oldest building in town at the time that it was submitted to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. The oldest building in Atlantic City in 1985, was Hyde’s Hall, which at the time, was abandoned.  

Over time, Giessler added to the property. In 1894, he built a barn northwest of the mercantile and he erected a home behind the store before 1900. On March 21, 1900, Giessler purchased the land from Emile Granier for five dollars. From the 1890s to 1929, the Atlantic City Mercantile was the only store in town. In addition to selling basic goods, the store contained the Post Office from the 1910s to the 1920s. Lawrence Giessler also helped finance and manage the town’s first telephone network and used the money earned from the store to found a freight company to haul goods to small mining and ranching communities in the area from the Union Pacific Railroad stations. The store also served as the social center for the town. Betty Carpenter Pfaff, in her book called Atlantic City Nuggets, stated that Giessler’s store sat in the middle of the town like it had been a hub in the wheel of activity many years ago.  

The Atlantic City Mercantile closed in 1929, after the death of Lawrence Giessler. The store remained closed until 1964 when Lyle F. Moerer purchased the store from Giessler’s decedents. When the store was reopened, it became a tavern and a spring water concession. The tavern retained the old name and original appearance. On April 25th, 1985, the Atlantic City Mercantile was added to the National Register of Historic Places.  

Next up for the Fremont County Museum

April 30, 1-3 pm “Sheep Shearing Day” at the Pioneer Museum in Lander. Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series

April 30, 2-4 pm “Arts and Music Day” at the Riverton Museum. Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series

May 6, 9-5 “First Fridays” at the Dubois Museum, Pioneer Museum and the Riverton Museum. State Farm Riverton/State Farm Lander

Thru October 2022, 9-5 pm Monday-Saturday, at the Pioneer Museum, “Hurrah for The Cowboy: Men of the Open Range” Art Exhibition

The Dubois Museum, the Pioneer Museum in Lander and the Riverton Museum need your financial support.  In the current economic environment, the museums are more reliant than ever on donations from the private sector to continue to provide the quality programs, collections management, exhibits and services that have become their hallmark over the last four years.  Please make your tax-deductible contribution to be used specifically for the benefit of the museum of your choosing by sending a check to Fremont County Museums 450 N 2nd Rm 320 or taking it directly to the museum you choose to support.  

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