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Catlin History Online

Mystery Answered!

W. G. Halbert

In the November 2003 newsletter we ran a short article about the mystery stone located at the village park asking: "Who was W.G. Halbert and where was he superintendent?". After many telephone calls and lots of speculation we discovered that Mr. Halbert was a superintendent of various local coal mines. Elinor (Valentine) Crawford was his great-great-grandaughter and Albert Puzey was his grandson. Diane Schutz volunteered to gather some information on Mr. Halbert. His obituary and her interview with grandson Albert Puzey is included.

Obituary from The Commercial-News of Wednesday, August 10, 1921

Wm G. Halbert Dies Suddenly

Prominent Coal Operator and Former Alderman

Succumbs At His Home

William G. Halbert, former superintendent of Dickson and Gerarghty coal interest in Westville and vicinity, later at the head of the operations of the Deering Coal Company, of Chicago, and an alderman in the Fourth Ward of Danville in the city council for several years, died suddenly at his home, southeast corner Franklin and English streets shortly before 10:30 o'clock Wednesday morning.

Mr. Halbert had been in failing health for the past three years but until about six months ago he was not in a serious condition. Eight weeks ago he took to his bed, shortly after a visit to Chicago, and after that he had been up and around for brief intervals. He was down town and greeted old friends as late as Thursday of last week. Wednesday morning he wanted to leave his bed but was not regarded strong enough and it was decided to order a wheelchair for him. Less that 10 minutes after placing the order, Mr. Halbert died. Heart failure and complications caused his death.

In his 26 years of residence at Westville and Danville, Mr. Halbert introduced the intensive system of coal mining in this district, which resulted in the doubling and later the tripling of the coal shipment from the Danville territory. He came here at the opening of the No. 1 shaft southwest of Westville in April 1895. He has been active in inventions, and a coupler which he developed that would prevent coal cars from becoming uncoupled while rounding sharp curves was patented.

On Christmas day, 1872, at Nelsonville Pa. Mr. Halbert married Miss Rebecca Bennett, a native of Maryland. Six children were born to the union, four surviving. They are J. Alva Halbert, manager of a large coal mine in Colorado; Walter S., now a farmer near Massillon, O.; Mrs. Frances May Puzey, wife of George Puzey, of Catlin, and William Halbert, a farm manager at Yeddo, Ind. Helen died in Westville about 13 years ago and another daughter, Mary, died in Nelsonville, in infancy.

Interview by Diane Schutz with Albert Puzey, November 15, 2003, Recalling his grandfather, W.G. Halbert

"He was a big man, bigger than I am, solid built."

Shows me his picture. W.G. Halbert looks distinguished, with a head-full of white hair. Imposing.

"He had an office in Danville. I don't know about one here (Catlin). Janet was excited when she found an ad for his business, while researching the 100 year history of Danville High School for the yearbook. His office was on Vermilion Street. I remember him. I was 5 or 6 years old when he died."

Shows me a picture of his mother, the daughter of W.G. Halbert. She is a stunningly beautiful, dark-haired young woman.

"That's before she was married," Mr. Puzey tells me. "It amazes me how my grandfather used to take the horse and buggy to Danville, to the bank, to get the money for the miners pay. He'd just throw it on the floor of the buggy and go to Westville with it. No one ever bothered him. They didn't mess with him. Never. And Westville was rough town back then."

I asked two questions:

"It must've been silver dollars, and what bank, you suppose?"

Mr. Puzey repled: "It had to have been the First National Bank. And he paid the miner's in gold! That's why it's a wonder he never got robbed, or worse. But he never was bothered. (Chuckling) He was a big man, that's no doubt why."

"His mine, the first one, was where Nellie Mae's son lives (Nellie Mae Stout Davison). That was, I guess, No. 1. You can't even tell it now, that there was ever a mine there."

I asked if there was a gob pile or anything at all.

"Maybe kind of a place fixed over where the air shaft was. But no, no gob pile."

He continued, "Peabody was sunk about 1901, I think, that was before my time. I think maybe Deering sunk it, but I'm not for sure."

I asked Mr. Puzey why he thought the stone was in the city park.

"I don't know. It beats me. I didn't even know anything about a stone until you told me about it. It's a good mystery!"

I told Mr. Puzey that we are now 99 percent sure that it was placed at the park, where the old grade school stood, because someone saw "Supt" on it and mistakenly thought it meant a superintendent of schools.

He chuckled over someone's obvious gaffe. "No," he said. "He wasn't a superintendent of schools. He was a mine superintendent."

  A pile of coal mine refuse is called a gob pile.


Catlin Historical Society
210 North Paris
Catlin, Illinois 61817
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