This Scot was a stone cutter, firefighter &
gunpowder-protector in the War of 1812
Reproduced from Howard Pyle’s “Last Important Painting Du Pont Powder Wagon Carrying Powder to Commodore Perry in 1813” by McIntyre and Company (1913).
By Amy Grant
Alexander Napier was proud of his Scottish heritage. He was also a staunch patriot of his adopted country, and served as a soldier and a first responder.
Born in Montrose, Scotland in 1773, Alexander and his family emigrated to Philadelphia when he was just 10 years old. Instead of becoming a weaver like his father, Alexander became a stone mason.
Known for marvelous stone carvings
Alexander’s marble yard was located at the southwest corner of Broad and Market Streets. He was renowned for his carvings of fireplace mantels and tombstones. Plus, he was a member of the prestigious invitation-only Masonic brethren (lodge No. 114) as well as the Stone Cutters Company.
Alexander found happiness with Ann Kingston, whom he married in 1796. Their daughter Elizabeth was born a few years later. This joyous occasion was soon marred by tragedy. Little Elizabeth succumbed to “hives” at six months of age. Very likely she died of yellow fever, since she was buried with other victims of the epidemic in an unmarked grave.
A volunteer firefighter
Alexander’s grief did not stop him from being a civic leader. He served as a firefighter with the Diligent Fire Company, headquartered a few blocks from his stone yard. Since Philadelphia didn’t have an organized fire company, volunteers like Alexander risked their lives to save people in perilous situations. Alexander’s fire hat was painted yellow, and featured an image of a hand-pumped fire engine with a sunburst in the background. He wore it proudly on the job and in the many parades of the period.
Alexander also served this country in the War of 1812 as Lieutenant Commander under Brigadier General Thomas Cadwalader. Stationed at Camp Du Pont near Wilmington, the men guarded a critical gunpowder mill.
Proud of his Scottish heritage, Alexander was a member of the Scots Thistle Society, an immigrant benevolent society providing aid to members suffering economic hardships. He was also a member of the Caledonian Society, a Scottish club that produced and commercialized the Caledonia Games, one of the first American athletic events.
In 1819, at just age 45, Alexander died of tuberculosis – “a long and severe illness which he bore with christian fortitude.” He’s buried in a plot next to his parents. The marble slabs covering both graves were undoubtedly carved in his stone yard. Today, they still serve as examples of exemplary craftsmanship.
to the memory of
stone cutter of Philadelphia
Native of Scotland born in Montrose
who departed this life
January 6th 1819
aged 45 years 10 months
and 6 days.
O ye whose cheek the tear of pity stains
Draw near with pious reverence and attend
Here lie the loving husbands dear remains
The tender father and the generous friend
They pitying heart that felt for human woe
The dauntless heart that fear’d no human pride
The friend of man to vice alone a foe;
For even his failings leaned to virtues side.
Also Eliza daughter of
Alexander and Ann Napier
who departed this life
November 4th 1708
aged 5 months.
Type of Marker: Ledger Stone
Recommended Treatment: Consolidation, previously cleaned by MC, previously conserved by MC
Historic Integrity: Intact
Structural Integrity: Good
Material Integrity: Fair
Legible Inscription: Poor
Inventory Number: 321
Plot Number: 617
Historic Number: 103
Ledger Book Number: 373
Cemetery Section: 5
Marker Height/Length (in): 72
Marker Width (in): 36
Marker Thickness/Depth (in): 2