David McAlpine, Lonaconing Coal Miner

This cabinet card portrait by Thomas L. Darnell (1825-1908) of Cumberland, Maryland, was one of a small group of photographs I recently rescued from an internet auction site. Unfortunately, despite resemblances among the sitters, this is the only one with an identification.

To complicate matters, there were several David McAlpines in Lonaconing. Because of the sitters’ clothing and the style of photograph, I ruled out the younger ones, and tentatively identified David McAlpine as born in Scotland, about 1856. I believe he was one of a family of Scots immigrant coal miners who settled in Lonaconing, Maryland in the late 1860s-early 1870s.

John McAlpine (b. abt. 1821, Scotland) came to Lonaconing with his seven  children, John Jr. (1845-1914), James, David, Walter, Agnes, Robert and George.

According to an obituary and notes on a memorial for David’s brother James McAlpine (1847-1932) their mother was Barbara Bell, and they were related through their mother to Alexander Graham Bell of telephone fame.

If this was David McAlpine’s wedding or engagement portrait, ca. 1885, then his companion would be Emily B. McAlpine (1860-1941).  Emily’s left hand rests against her white dress so as to show off several rings, a common pose in nuptial photographs.

David McAlpine died on 22 March 1899, and is buried in Old Coney Cemetery, Knapp’s Meadow, near Lonaconing. His death and life just prior are a mystery in themselves. According to the Genealogical Society of Allegany County’s “Allegany County Maryland Rural Cemeteries,” his grave marker in Old Coney Cemetery says “Co. B 1st Md. Inf. Span. Am. War.”

The roster of the 1st Maryland Infantry lists him as a private in Company D, but the grave marker reader may easily have mistaken a “D” for a “B.” The troops moved several times between mustering at Belair Md. in May 1898 and disbanding at Camp Mackenzie near Augusta Georgia in February 1899. So David McAlpine died less than a month after returning home to Lonaconing.

His death notice in the Cumberland, Md. Evening Times, obtained through Frostburg State University, makes no mention of his time in the army, saying only that he “had suffered from nervous prostration for the past four years.”

His death notice also mentions that he had served as janitor at the Allegany County Courthouse. This is the sort of political patronage job given to constituents who might have been unable to continue working because of disability.

Was his shattered mental health the result of a trauma such as a mining accident? The investigation continues.

Regardless of how and why he died, David McAlpine left his wife with five young children: Elsie Bell (McAlpine) Carpenter, Alice B. (McAlpine) Hardegen, Allan, Mable Edith (McAlpine) Duckworth, and Hila Madaris (McAlpine) Zimmerman Collett, all born between 1887 and 1895.

Thomas Ludwick Darnell was born near Poolesville in Montgomery County, Maryland, to Fielder Darnell (1798-1858) and Elizabeth  (Young) Darnell. Darnell, or Darnall, was an old, slave-holding Maryland family.According to Hartzler’s Marylanders in the Confederacy, Thomas served  as a private in Company B of the 2nd Maryland Cavalry during the Civil War.

Sometime between 1860, when he was working as a clerk in Washington, DC, and 1870, he settled in Cumberland as a professional photographer; his studio was for many years on Baltimore Street.  Assisted by his daughter Bertie and his son, William, Darnell produced untold numbers of cartes de visite and cabinet cards, as well as stereoviews of the developing coal regions of the Cumberland area.

He retired to Raleigh, North Carolina, several years before his death there in 1908. He is buried in Oakwood Cemetery, Raleigh, North Carolina, along with his wife, Adeline (Bartruff) Darnell, and four of his daughters.

Next up: “McAlpine Mystery House?”

4 comments on “David McAlpine, Lonaconing Coal Miner”

  1. I have three boxes of slides photographed by David R. MacAlpine – Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital city (350-383), Glasgow and the river Clyde (350-420, and Highlands of Scotland 350-377. You can have them if you are interested.

  2. Thanks for rescuing and sharing this photo album by T. L. Darnell. Please visit our Western Maryland History page on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/groups/363758143469/#!/groups/363758143469/


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