My 3rd Great Grandfather James Patterson Darnley, Shot & Killed

My 32nd entry in Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” family history blogging challenge.

My 32nd ancestor is my 3rd great grandfather, James Patterson DARNLEY.

While working on the recent blog post about my 2nd great grandmother Catherine DARNLEY (1878-1928), I started spending a bit more time researching her parents, and was shocked to stumble upon this death certificate for her father, James Patterson Darnley. Third great grandfather Darnley died 18 March 1908, in Greensburg, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, from a homicidal gun shot wound to the abdomen!

James Patterson Darnley Death certificate, courtesy of
Death certificate, courtesy of


Hoping that a gun shot wound death would be covered in the local newspapers, I hopped on over to and struck gold.

Third great grandfather James P. Darnley was shot and killed by three “foreigners” (“Italians”) who jumped up from behind an embankment with the intention of robbing Darnley on his way home  (to the Hempfield Slope mine area) around midnight. Third great grandfather Darnley was accompanied by his son, son-in-law, and another man. According to the Indiana Democrat, “Darnley rushed at the thug with his [own] revolver” before getting fatally shot.

James Darnley: Held Up and Shot

Article from Mar 25, 1908 The Indiana Democrat (Indiana, Pennsylvania)
James Patterson Darnley. Altoona Tribune (Altoona, Pennsylvania), 20 March 1908, Page 6. Courtesy of
Altoona Tribune (Altoona, Pennsylvania), 20 March 1908, Page 6. Courtesy of

Even his hometown paper carried the news.

Article from Mar 20, 1908 Cumberland Evening Times (Cumberland, Maryland)

No Justice

Fourteen months after the shooting, the man arrested and tried for the murder of James Patterson Darnley was acquitted by a jury. The verdict was reported in two different area newspapers, but those newspapers seem to disagree on whether there were one or two men tried and acquitted.

Murder of my 3rd great grandfather, James Patterson Darnley.

Article from May 22, 1908 The Daily Courier (Connellsville, Pennsylvania)

Trial of my 3rd great grandfather’s (James Patternson Darnley) murder.

Article from May 26, 1908 Altoona Tribune (Altoona, Pennsylvania)

About James Patterson Darnley

I have only just started researching this part of my family, but from what I gather so far, James Patterson Darnley was born in Bothwell, County of Lanark, Scotland on 21 July 1856. His parents (according to the death certificate) were James DARNLEY and Annie BODMAN of Scotland. Third great grandfather James arrived in the U.S. with his father in 1865, at the age of 9 or 10.

It appears that his father married a Margaret in 1868, after father and son arrived in the U.S. I do not yet know if third great grandfather James’s mother Annie died, or if his parents divorced. I don’t even know if his parents were married.

At the time of his death, Darnley was married to Sarah Ann LLOYD (b. 1859) and lived in Greensburg. He was employed as a miner (I would assume at nearby Hempfield Slope Mine). Sarah and James were married in 1878. They appear to have spent most of their marriage together, raising their children, in Lonaconing, Allegany County, Maryland.

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0 thoughts on “My 3rd Great Grandfather James Patterson Darnley, Shot & Killed”

  1. Sharon Szymankiewicz

    Hi Colleen, My name is Sharon Darnley Szymankiewicz. When I read this article I talked with my Dad about it. He said this was his Great Grandfather. My father’s name is Jerry Darnley. He grew up in Bellaire, Ohio. He said he always wondered why his Grandfather hated Italians. He said he would hear his grandparents talk about someone being shot and he never knew who they talked about, plus he was very young when they talked. His Grandfather was James Patterson Darnley and his Grandmother was Sarah Mannion. They had several kids and my father was raised by them on their farm in Bellaire. I know some of his Aunts and Uncles lived in Wheeling, W. Virginia. I thought you would be interested know there is family in Buffalo, NY

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