Westville, Illinois has been a leader in the community since William P and Elizabeth A West laid out the town in 1873. What started out as a Railroad Station on the Danville and Southwestern Railroad line, became the Melting Pot of the Nation.
On the 1900 U.S. census, Westville had a population of 1,605 people. By 1920 the population was up to 4,241, brought in mostly by the railroads to the many mines located around the town, and they came from various countries in Europe where they had worked in the mines. Families came here to do what they had done in their home country, but to have a better life, too.
At one time, thirty seven countries were represented in Westville, each with their own languages and cultures. And many of those immigrants have relatives who live in and proudly represent Westville today.
Several people have worked diligently over the years to establish the Westville Historical Depot and Museum as a reminder of their rich history with the people and events that brought this village to life. Various artifacts and mementoes have been added to the museum over time to keep that history alive in the minds of the modern-day population. At this time, they added two coal cars like the ones that actually brought the coal out of the mines, and an historical mural of the town, painted by Mike Harper of Art as a Mission, to remind everyone of the town as it looked years ago. Plaques on the coal cars contain the “Coal Miner’s Prayer” and lists of all of the mines that have been in the area, their locations and years of operation, none of which are in existence today.
A ceremony was held to dedicate the new additions, with Charles Sermersheim as Master of Ceremony, Fr. Timothy Sauppe performed the blessings of the Historical Mural and the coal cars. Keynote speaker Mike Marron, State Representative, spoke of “Westville-The Melting Pot of Nations.”
Marron noted “Westville coal mines dug the coal that fired the factories that built the cars that fed the economy of the country. We stand on the shoulders of giants of the past. Where we came from is important and helps determine where we are going.”
During the Dedication Ceremony of the Coal Cars and the Historical Mural, Westville Mayor Mike Wiese Proclaimed August 31 as George Delhaye Day in honor of all work, enthusiasm and encouragement George contributed to help Westville grow.
George was the Chairman of the Westville Historical Depot and Museum for several years prior to his death just four days before this dedication took place. He worked many hours bringing the museum up to the standards everyone came to expect when George was in charge. It was obvious that George loved what he was doing when he gave tours through his beloved museum.
Although George himself never worked in the coal mines or on the railroad, he wanted people to remember that the roots of Westville ran deep into the tunnels below the earth and that the railroads brought people into the community, transported the miners to work and back, and took the coal out to the rest of the world.
George and the committee did extensive research to compile the lists of mines in the area. Some mines were short-lived and others provided jobs for hundreds of men over several years. Not only did he work hard for the museum, he was always ready to help on any other project in Westville. He loved the town and promoted it in any way he could, including supporting the Westville High School Tigers.
There are postcards, T-shirts, coasters and caps depicting the scenes at the museum, that are on sale to raise money for museum maintenance, and they accept monetary donations, too.
The new coal cars and the historical mural can be seen on the north side of the depot museum. But you will miss a lot if you don’t stop to look inside to get the bigger picture of the rich history of the town of Westville.