by Bucky Schriver
for The Frostburg Express
Rubbing Elbows With The Rich and Famous
The publication of Charles Lyell's Travels In North America in the 1830s, which included the eminent geologist's observations on the Western Maryland coal fields, was the spark that ignited a century-long coal boom that attracted the attention of some of America's most prominent families.
In the 1830's, a number of scientific writers such as Julius Timoleon Ducatel and Philip Tyson published information pertaining to the coal deposits in the Georges Creek region of Western Maryland.
In February of 1834, the Maryland General Assembly established the Maryland Geological Survey, and J.T. Ducatel and John Henry Alexander were appointed geologist and topographical engineer, respectively. Philip Tyson would later become Maryland's agricultural chemist, and he and John Henry Alexander were the principals in the founding of the Lonaconing Iron Furnace.
Relying on this geological research, Matthew St. Claire Clark, representing the Maryland Mining Company, purchased 650 acres in what is now Eckhart, Maryland from John Eckhart in 1835. The Maryland Mining Company, chartered in 1828, would become the prototype for the large mining companies that eventually dominated the coal industry in Allegany County.
August Belmont, Edward Cunard, William Aspinwall
With the decline of the iron industry in Lonaconing in the mid 1850's, the focus shifted to coal production. The Lonaconing Ocean Coal Mining and Transportation Company was chartered in 1853. Three years later the charter was amended, and the company was renamed The Ocean Steam Coal Company. Among the directors of the company were August Belmont, Edward Cunard, and William Henry Aspinwall.
August Belmont's son, August 2nd, later built Belmont Park in New York, the site of the third segment of horse racing's Triple Crown.
Edward Cunard was the son of Sir Samuel Cunard, founder of the Cunard Ship Line. The ship line, presently a subsidiary of Carnival Cruise Line, still operates its fleet of luxury ocean liners. The Carnival Cruise Line is now a Fortune 500 company.
William Henry Aspinwall acquired one of the three ocean mail contracts that were awarded by the federal government in 1845. Aspinwall's assigned route from the Atlantic coast to California and the Oregon Territory was the least lucrative of the three contracts. Aspinwall's prospects brightened considerably with the advent of the California Gold Rush in 1848. In 1855, Aspinwall built a railroad across the Isthmus of Panama to facilitate the voyage to the west coast. Aspinwall's Pacific Mail Steamship Company used Georges Creek Big Vein coal exclusively to power his ships, even going as far as carrying Western Maryland coal around Cape Horn to supply his refueling stations.
In 1860, the Ocean Steam Coal Company, Cumberland Coal & Iron Company, Frostburg Coal Company, and the Mount Savage Iron Company combined their holdings to create the Consolidation Coal Company, which would become the most dominant company in the history of Western Maryland coal mining. Today, this company is Consol Energy, another Fortune 500 company.
Warren Delano, maternal grandfather of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and FDR’s father, James Roosevelt, were members of the board of directors of the Consolidation Coal Company. Future president of the United States Franklin Delano Roosevelt was fond of spending summer days with his uncle, Warren Delano 2nd, at the Bruce House estate in Mount Savage. Built by Andrew Bruce in 1780, the deed to the Bruce House estate was transferred to the Union Mining Company in 1864. FDR's nephew, Warren Delano 3rd, was a member of the board of directors of the Union Mining Company, near Mount Savage, until the time of his death in 1920.
Born in Cumberland in 1874, Henry Shriver was the son of Henry and Sarah Van Lear (Perry) Shriver. Henry was listed as being a mining engineer in the 1900 census, and was the superintendent of the Union Mining Company near Mount Savage. He later became president of the First National Bank in Cumberland. Henry Shriver’s brother was Robert Sargent Shriver, Sr., whose son later married Eunice Kennedy, sister of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. The Shriver family played a prominent role in the development of the exclusive Dingle neighborhood in Cumberland. The father, brother, and nephew of Robert Sargent Shriver, Sr. are all buried in Rose Hill Cemetery in Cumberland.
Numerous companies in the nineteenth century, with connections to some of America’s most prominent and wealthy families, valued the high quality of the coal that was picked and hauled by our local miners. Generations later, we have the satisfaction of recalling how the lives of our ancestors were distantly intertwined with those of the rich and famous.
The Coal Miner Memorial Statue Fund is accepting contributions for the placement of an educational memorial near the crossroads of state Route 36 and the National Road in Frostburg. A bronze statue will honor all of our Georges Creek miners and name those who perished while mining.
Tax-deductible donations can be mailed to the
Foundation for Frostburg CMMSF
P.O. Box 765
Frostburg, MD 21532.
We welcome updated information and encourage your participation.
Contact Polla Horn at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bucky Schriver at email@example.com
to share your thoughts and stories. Be on the lookout for future “Miner Recollections.”