Family Stories

William Cottingham and Lavina Ann Halbert – Lewis County

In the Vanceburg Cemetery (also known as Woodland Cemetery), in Lewis County, is the grave of William Cottingham Halbert and his wife Lavina Ann Halbert.  They were cousins and shared the same last name.  William was the son of Stephen Halbert and Mary Cottingham, born February 20, 1817.  Lavina was the daughter of Daniel G. Halbert and Rachel Thomas, born December 17, 1827.  They shared Isaac Halbert and Elizabeth Daniel as grandparents.

From History of Lewis County, Kentucky in the biography of Judge William Clarence Halbert, son of William and Lavina:

Judge Halbert is a son of William C. Halbert and Lavina A. Halbert, who were cousins.  They were both born and reared in Lewis County, Kentucky, their parents on each side having been born in Bourbon County, this state, and their parents on each side having come from Culpeper County, Virginia, in the early settlement of Kentucky, to the central part of the present state of Kentucky.  Isaac Halbert, the great-grandfather of Judge Halbert, was a native of Scotland, born not far from the English border or boundary line, from whence he came to Virginia prior to the Revolutionary War, settling first near Alexandria, in Fairfax County, where he married Elizabeth O’Daniel, and then moved to Culpeper County, in that state, where he continued to reside until he removed to Kentucky, in March, 1785.  He served as a private soldier from Culpeper County in a Virginia regiment during the War of the Revolution.  In March, 1785, as stated, Isaac Halbert emigrated to Kentucky, moving his family and household goods by land from Culpeper County, up the waters of the Potomac, to Pittsburg, and then, by what was known as a family or houseboat, he made his slow journey to what was then called Limestone, now Maysville, where he landed and took the old buffalo trail or road to Boonesborough station, or fort, where he lived for the next three years, and in which his eldest daughter, Catharine, and perhaps on of his sons, was born in May, 1787.  In April, 1785, Isaac Halbert located and surveyed various tracts of land, by virtue of treasury warrants obtained by him from the state of Virginia, aggregating about three thousand acres.  These lands were situated in the vicinity of the station, where he then lived, and are now in Bourbon, Clark and Jessamine Counties, this state, but then in Fayette County, Virginia.  Daniel Boone, then deputy surveyor of Fayette County, Virginia, surveyed one of these tracts of land for him, and his survey and plat are now on file in the records of the land office at Frankfort, Kentucky.  He was a friend of Boone and Simon Kenton, and bore his part in the struggle to wrest the new country of his adoption from the Indians and to make it a state.  In 1799 he purchased four thousand nine hundred acres of land on Salt Lick Creek, in what is now Lewis County, but was then Mason County, in this state; and in the winter of 1800 he erected a dwelling house on this land, at the forks of Salt Lick Creek, seven miles west of Vanceburg, and in the spring of 1801 he moved into this house, which was the third house built in what is now Lewis County.  He continued to reside on this land until his death, in 1825, and he is buried in sight of his home, where he died.  He was a member of the first petit jury that was ever impaneled in the Lewis Circuit Court, in July, 1807.  His wife was born in Virginia, of Irish stock on both sides and she survived her husband twenty-two years, dying in 1847, in her eighty-seventh year.  Isaac and Elizabeth Halbert became the parents of nine sons and three daughters, all of whom reached maturity, and six of their sons served as volunteer soldiers in the War of 1812 in various Kentucky regiments; three of them were at the battle of the Thames, and one served as a marine on board of Perry’s fleet in the memorable battle of lake Erie.  Stephen Halbert, grandfather of Judge Halbert, was one of these sons who responded promptly to the call of Governor Shelby and marched with him to the Thames and helped to end the war with honor and victory in that section of the Northwest Territory.  Another of their sons became a member of the colony that settled Texas in 1828, and received a league of land on the Brazos River from the Spanish Government for settling on it.  He afterward served in the war between Mexico and Texas, and subsequently served as circuit judge in his adopted state.

Stephen Halbert, the paternal grandfather of Judge Halbert, was born in Bourbon County, Kentucky, in March, 1793, and came, with his parents, to Lewis County in the spring of 1801.  He married Mary Cottingham in that county, in April, 1813, who died in 1829, at the early age of thirty-two.  She was born also in Bourbon County, the daughter of William Cottingham and his wife, Mary Johnson, who emigrated from Snow Hill, Worcester County, Maryland, and settled in Bourbon County in an early day.  He came from Ireland, or his parents did, and his wife came from England, or was of English descent.  To Stephen Halbert and his wife, Mary Cottingham, were born eight children – five boys and three girls – and of this number, William C. Halbert, father of the Judge, was the second in order of birth.  He was born in Lewis County on February 20, 1817, and was there reared to maturity on a farm.  When barely of age he served as deputy sheriff of St. Francis County, Arkansas, for three years.  Resigning this position on account of ill health, he returned to Kentucky, and shortly after his return he was appoint acting sheriff of Lewis County (all the county officers being then appointed and not elected), and he continued to discharge the duties of sheriff, and without any deputy, for six years to the entire satisfaction of the court and the people.  It is said that he never returned a warrant not executed if the person named in the warrant was in Lewis County; that he never summoned any one to help him arrest a person for whom he had a warrant, and that he never carried a pistol while acting as sheriff; and that he promptly collected and accounted for all public taxes and moneys that came or should have come to his hands as a collector.

He read law, and was admitted to the bar in 1856, and then removed from his farm to Vanceburg, where he made his home and engaged in the active practice of his profession until his death, in September, 1877.  He was elected and served as county attorney of Lewis County in 1862, and again in 1870, and served eight years in all.  He was nominated in 1852 for State Senator by the Whig party from the Fleming and Lewis District, but declined the nomination on account of ill health.  In 1865 he was nominated by the Democratic party for State Senator from the Mason and Lewis District, and was elected and served four years.  He declined a renomination from that party in 1869, on account of ill health, and the demands of his private business.  He was the leader of the Whig party in Lewis County from the time he acted as sheriff of the county until the demise of that party.  He then became a member of the Democratic party, and continued the leader of it in Lewis County until his decease.  He had a talent and a liking for politics, and could lead and organize his party as but few men could in his day, or since then in Lewis County.  He never drank, used tobacco or gambled, was a strict member and an elder in his church, and his one diversion was playing politics; but he never sought office for himself, and when he made a race at all he was drafted to help out his party and lead a forlorn hope, he having always belonged to the minority party in Lewis County.  He was never defeated when he did run for office.

He was a very successful lawyer and enjoyed a wide reputation and large practice in Lewis County, where he was on one side of every important case tried in that county for years prior to his death.  He procured the passage of the law that secured the removal of the count seat from Clarksburg to Vanceburg, and to his efforts almost alone does Vanceburg now enjoy the honor of being the county seat.  He was the father of the turnpike road system and the bridge law of Lewis County, under which more than one hundred miles of turnpike were built and many bridges erected over all the main streams in the county.  He gave the site for the court house and jail to the county.  He also gave the site for the Christian Church, of which he was an elder, in Vanceburg.  He was a charter member of the Polar Star Lodge, No. 363, F. & A. M., and of Burns Chapter, No. 74, of Vanceburg.  He built the flouring mill in Vanceburg and many of the dwelling houses therein, and took an active and intelligent interest in building up the town, of which at one time he owned practically half the land in it.

Out of ten children, only half were living when William C. Halbert made his will at the end of August 1877.  It was probated the next month.  A list of children of William C. and Lavina Ann:

  1. Mary Cottingham Halbert, 1848-August 31, 1919, married James Rival Pugh, 1844-1905.
  2. Walker Reid Halbert, November 1850-October 1867.
  3. Isaac Newton Halbert, October 1853-1865.
  4. Clara Belle Halbert, 1854-1856.
  5. Charles Halbert, 1855-?, died young.
  6. William Clarence Halbert, February 19, 1856-November 22, 1931, married Fanny Blanche Bate.
  7. Rachel Florence Halbert, March 1859-November 1888.
  8. Henry Daniel Halbert, March 2, 1862-?, married Roberta.
  9. Lilly Sterling Halbert, September 1, 1864-August 5, 1930, married Abram Harvey Parker.
  10. Stella Halbert, 1866-1866.

In the 1850 census William is listed as 33, a farmer; Lavina is 22; and daughter Mary C. is 2.

This is the home built for William C. Halbert, Sr., in the late 1850’s.

In 1860 three additional children are in the family – Walker, 11; Willie C., 4; and Rachel F., 1.  James Gettie, 50, a farm laborer, lives with the family, as well as Isaac H. Voiers, 25, a merchant.  William C. is listed as a lawyer.  He also owned a large general store and a mill.  Mr. Voiers was most likely one of his employees

By 1870 four of the children are dead – Walker and Isaac; and two not listed in the census records – Clara and Charles.  Mary is married and living with husband James Pugh.  Henry D., 8, and Anna Lilly, 5, have been added to the family unit.

By 1880 William Cottingham Halbert has passed away.  Three children live with their mother – Rachel, 21; Henry, 18; and Lilly 16.

In 1900, living with Lavina, 73, is daughter-in-law Roberta Halbert, 33, widowed, and grandson Henry, 1.  This must be the wife of Henry Daniel Halbert.

By 1910 Lavina Ann Halbert is very close to the end of her life.  Daughter Mary Pugh, 61, widowed, is head of household.  Lavina, 80, lives with her.  Mary’s daughter, Helen M. Pugh, 17, lives there also.

Lavina died December 9th of that year, at the age of 74.  Her death certificate lists her parents, both born in Kentucky.

William C. Halbert, 1816-1877.  Lavina A. Halbert, 1827-1911.  Vanceburg Cemetery, Lewis County, Kentucky.

Will of William Cottingham Halbert

Lewis County Will Book H, Pages 31-33

Last Will and Testament of William C. Halbert, deceased

Lewis County Court, September Term 1877

A writing purporting to be the last will and testament of W. C. Halbert, late of this county, deceased, was this day produced to court and duly proven by the oath of Warner Clary and C. Honaky, the two subscribing witnesses thereto, and said will, having been duly proven is ordered to be filed and recorded.

Thomas A. Mitchell, Clerk

I, William C. Halbert, resident of the County of Lewis and State of Kentucky, do hereby make and publish this my last will and testament in manner following, to wit.  First.  It is my will and desire that so much of my personal property as shall be subject to executing and not subject to distribution or allowed by law to the widow and her infant children be immediately sold after my decease and the proceeds thereof applied to the payment of my just debts and funeral expenses.  Should my personal property and choses(?) in action not be sufficient for that purpose then I authorize my executors hereinafter named to sell and convey so much of the real estate owned by me at my death as shall be necessary for that purpose.  And in order to save said real estate from being sacrificed my said Executor may if necessary to that end use in paying off said indebtedness or incumbrances on my said estate the proceeds or monies arising from the insurance on my life that shall be coming to me or my estate from the Southern Mutual Life Insurance Co. at Louisville, Kentucky, and the Masonic Mutual Benefit Insurance Co. at Maysville, Kentucky, which funds they shall draw, use and contract for that purpose and for the benefit of my wife and children.

Second.  After the payment of my debts and funeral expenses as above provided for, I give and bequeath to my wife, Lavina A. Halbert, during her natural life all my real and personal estate of every kind and description, with the qualification and conditions herein designed.

Third.  It is my will and desire that all and each of my five children hereinafter named shall share equal and alike in my estate, except that the part or proportion following to my daughter Mary Pugh, wife of James R. Pugh, shall be inherited by her and her children exclusive of her husband, to be enjoyed by my said daughter during her natural life after she comes into the possession thereof and then to descend to her children after her death.

And I further desire and direct that my children not now married shall have and enjoy the homestead and property with their mother so long as they remain single and unmarried and wish to so live and reside  – their mother to send them to school and to have them educated as well as they can be educated at such schools as we have in the city of Vanceburg, Kentucky.  And I further wish and direct that in case of any of my children not now married should marry before the death of my wife as aforesaid that she should make such provisions for he, she or them out of my said estate  left to her during her life or she can conveniently do without discommoding herself, and charge the same to such child and heir to be taken from him, her or their part or portions of said estate in the final divisions thereof – it being my desire that each of my children, to wit, Mary Pugh (wife of James R. Pugh) and William C. Halbert, Jr., Florence Halbert, Henry Halbert and Lilly Halbert, shall be made equal and share alike in my estate owned and possessed by me at my death and which portion I give to them, their heirs, executors and assigns forever.  But in case either of said children should die without leaving children of their own, then and in that case his, her or their said share or portions of the one so dying shall go and descend to the remaining ones each sharing equal and alike thereof.

Fourth.  I further direct, authorize and empower my executor hereinafter named to prepare, make and execute deeds for any real estate that I may have sold or contracted to sell to such persons or may be entitled to same and which I had neglected to convey in my lifetime and to receive for me and in my name any balances due and coming to me upon such sales of land and to receipt for same in my name and to carry out and complete such sales and conveyances as fully as I could do if living and acting in person.  And my said executors shall have full power in my name and for the use and benefit of my estate to sell and convey any of my real estate not heretofore sold by me for the purpose hereinbefore expressed as fully and completely as they could do if empowered by a court of chancery for that purpose and such sale and conveyance so made by them shall be as binding upon my heirs and estate as if made and done by myself in person, it being my will and desire for my said executor to settle up my said business and estate as speedily and with as little litigation and expense as possible.

Lastly.  I do hereby constitute and appoint my friends L. B. Bair and Geo. T. Halbert, Executors, of this my last will and testament, hereby revoking all others and I do further request and desire that they may be allowed and permitted

To qualify and act as such executors without given or being required to give any security whatever for the performance of their duties as such under this will – having implicit confidence in their integrity to do right by me and my estate.

In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal on this 28th day of August A. D. 1877

W. C. Halbert

Signed, sealed and acknowledged in the presence of C. Honaker, Warner Clary

I will and bequeath to my son W. C. Halbert, Junior, all my law books.

W. C. Halbert

August 30, 1877

Attested and signed in the presence of C. Honaker, Warner Clary

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