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1832: Duffy's Cut - 57 Irish immigrant PA railroad workers murdered or dead from cholera

Discussion in 'Historical Cold Cases - Pre 1950' started by Akoya, Nov 4, 2017.

  1. Akoya

    Akoya Bronze Member


    History professor works to uncover mysterious Irish immigrant deaths

    POSTED: JUN 09 2017 11:07PM EDT

    It was a stain on local history when 57 immigrant workers died during an alleged Cholera outbreak, but it was even worse when historians found out it wasn’t illness- it was a massacre.

    On Friday, a local professor told Fox 29's Bill Anderson that they want to tell the true story of what happened to the Irish immigrants at Duffy’s Cut on the main line, so that the people who lost their lives can get the respect they deserve.

    “In 1832, his was the biggest industrial endeavor in Pennsylvania," said history professor Dr. William Watson. "The Philadelphia and Columbia railroad.”

    “Nearly 200 years ago, 57 Irish rail workers came to this main line site looking for work and filled with hope.”

    According to Watson, the story is that Cholera broke out in Philadelphia around the same time as their arrival and then made its way west. By the end of the summer, they were all dead.”

    Watson says the 57 Irish immigrants working at the site, called Duffy’s Cut, were thrown in a mass grave and virtually forgotten until historian Dr. Watson discovered the truth.

    “This land at the time was owned by the family that ran the east white land horse company which was the local vigilante group and it was like the perfect crime," he said.

    The times were strongly anti-Irish, and it was routine to be exploited, attacked and beaten. Dr. Watson believes that’s what happened to many of the 57 workers.

    “They were foreigners, Irish Catholics, probably Gaelic speakers," said Dr. Watson. "It was the easiest thing in the world to contain the epidemic and get rid of a group that they really didn’t want out here in their midst. So murder? Murder!”

    Proudly stating their Irish heritage, Dr Watson and others now dedicate large parts of their lives to finding the remains of those who tragically had theirs taken.

    “It pisses me off that this happened here, it could’ve been me in here or my son. All of us believe that,” said Dr. Watson.

    Now at the site of the apparent massacre, they brought out new radar technology allowing them to look for remains in a way that was previously impossible.

    “All this science going on here today is hopefully going to right a historical wrong," Dr. Watson said.

    The remains of seven people have been recovered so far.

    As the radar helped them identify and mark possible sites of additional remains, Dr Watson and the workers seemed to feel at least a small sense of accomplishment from giving respect to those who died without it.

    “No one else is here to advocate for these guys except for us," said Dr. Watson.

    And although heritage and pride drive them, there is also a feeling of their work benefiting us all.

    “Its very timely, this stuff is happening today," said Watson. "These guys were killed for who they were, that’s going on everywhere.”

    They plan to keep going until the people at Duffy’s Cut can finally get appropriate recognition.
    spike likes this.
  2. Akoya

    Akoya Bronze Member


    MARCH 2, 2012
    Duffy’s Cut Revisited


    “Four Irish boys fed this tree root,” Profesor Bill Watson of Immaculata University tells me. I stare at the gnarled tree roots of the massive 180- year old poplar tree and try to wrap my head around this fact. “If we chipped away at the soil that clings to the wood, we’d probably find bits of bone,” he continues. “There’s men in there.”

    Parts of their bodies helped to actually nourish and grow this tree. It twisted itself amongst the last remains of the murdered boys who were brought here to build this infamous stretch of RR called “Duffy’s Cut ” in Malvern, PA. The core team of students with me today have been coming to this site for years with their professor to dig and search for the bodies in the mass grave that was missing for 180 years. Many of them are political science majors or history and they have dedicated nearly every Friday to digging. It has changed their lives and even influenced their direction in life as Kris Panos is perhaps considering a career in archeology someday. The level of their commitment and dedication to this project is limitless, for they glean their passion and energy from their professor, Dr. Bill Watson, who is working to tell the true story of Duffy’s Cut to the world.

    The story of the seven Irish lads whose remains have been recovered from Duffy’s Cut is told at Immaculata’s Library where a museum is dedicated to the project. It is open to the public and available for viewing anytime the library is open (ask for the key)

    duffyscut.immaculata.edu/Cached – Similar

    Museum. Come and Explore The Duffy’s Cut Museum at Gabriele Library. Open during regular library … more info from Immaculata University Communications …
    . Progress is underway to keep the library staffed and open on a regular basis.

    Dr. Watson takes his shovel and digs around at the burn site/shanty area- where the Irish RR workers’ camp was located. He fingers bits of white pottery in the soil and hands them to me…a small connection to their hard life. Back at the museum, there is evidence of brute impact on all the seven’s skulls- axe gashes, bullet holes etc. (141 coffin nails were found around the bones of John Roddy, that’s how badly his murderers did not want his remains and what they did to his body be discovered- but 180 years later- the truth is finaly coming out). The boys’ remains will be reburied in a the West Laurel Cemetery on March 9th in Bala Cynwyd and the proper honor will be finally shown to them. All except one Irish boy, John Ruddy, from rural County Donegal. He is the only one who was identified because he had a strange anatomical malformation in his skull- a missing molar. This was traced to his ancestors back in Ireland today, who also have that same missing molar. DNA testing is further proving his existence and his remains will be flown back to Donegal, Ireland. This discovery was made by a Lancaster forensics dentist, Matt Patterson, who tells me the best preserved DNA is located in the pulp and core of the tooth. The remains of the 7 boys were found by another Lancaster man, Tim Bechtal, of Enviroscan, who has a sub-surfacing business that uses ground penetrating radar and pulses in the ground to find things that don’t belong- like the remains of forgotten Irish souls. All of these folks have been volunteering their time ot the project…This story grows in importance for me as I learn more and more and gather information to craft my own articles about Duffy’s Cut.

    spike likes this.
  3. Akoya

    Akoya Bronze Member


    More Bones Turn Up As Researchers Dig at Duffy's Cut

    Last week, historians unearthed what they believe are pieces of yet another skeleton at the Malvern burial site.

    By Aimee Herbert (Patch Poster) - Updated Sep 21, 2011 3:40 pm ET

    The story of Duffy's Cut began with Phillip Duffy, a contractor who hired 57 Irish immigrants to work for him. When they arrived in June of 1832, the Irish men traveled to Malvern and set up camp in the middle of the woods, expecting to build a railroad. But what they got instead, according to historians, was disease and a violent end that they never could have imagined.

    Doctor William Watson, history chair at Immaculata University, his brother Rev. Dr. Frank Watson and volunteers have worked to exhume the graves of the men that were murdered there almost 200 years ago.

    The Watson brothers first took an interest in the story in 2002 when they received a Pennsylvania railroad file from their grandfather. Their grandfather told them that he had gotten it from the man who created it: Martin Clemmen.

    "I saw something that started this in 2000," said Dr. William Watson. "I had no explanation to it until I saw the file two years later. I saw three glowing shapes that looked to me like neon light in the shape of men, in the same month that the houses went up where the men are actually buried. I didn't know about any of this until I saw the file, after I saw the ghosts, and realized now there's an explanation to what I saw."

    In the file from the Watson brother's grandfather, it actually includes information on "fiery figures".

    The brothers went to the site in 2002 in hopes of "recovering a memory in the family," said Frank Watson.

    "So, when we started working down there, we had different theories as to where we were going to look and for what. We knew the shanty was in a separate area from where the burial was, and we actually started with all different resources. The shanty is where they lived and where they died, and we actually started to find artifacts there. Mostly through the Greater Philadelphia rescue dogs; they helped us to find an ash pit, which became the beginning of the discovery of the shanty. After we started finding these artifacts, we knew we had to get some science to start to help us find the burial place."

    Research on the history of the Irishmen lead the brothers to believe that, when the cholera epidemic hit the camp, the workers actually sought help in the community, but were turned down and quarantined in the camp.

    "We know that the first few men fled when cholera hit the camp, and they were forced back into the camp," William Watson said. "Our sources are what led us to the spot where we are digging, because we had to rule out certain spots in the valley as to where they were. Finally, with the radar we got in 2007 [and] 2008, we were able to rule the areas out. In March of 2009, we were able to actually put Xs on the map were the bodies were."

    Back in 1832, the press was told that there was only eight or nine men involved in the building, but what they were actually doing was covering up their murder. The eight or nine men were those that were brought back in coffins, who no one could deny that something had happened to them. They were murdered out in the community somewhere, and brought back in sealed coffins. What raised suspicion to the brothers was how many nails were used to seal the coffins. "They were put in a coffin and then sealed with more nails than needed," said Dr. William Watson. "The first guy (we found) had 141 nails to seal his coffin. That's ridiculous. Most of the coffins back then had around 50 nails. The horse company is covering it up because it was murder, and back then they would have been hung for murder."

    With a team of doctors, historians and forensic dentists, the brothers were able to identify the first man they found as John Ruddy, who was just 18 at the time of his death. Forensic studies were able to tell his age by the way his skull had fused, but how they identified the man by name is an amazing feat of science.

    "He's missing his top-right front molar," said William Watson. "And the forensic dental team said that this is a one-in-a-million anomaly. We now have a guy that traveled here from Northern Ireland, Liam Ruddy, from the same place, who came over and he's missing his top-right front molar. If this molar is a one-in-a-million anomaly, and there aren't many people in this part of Ireland named Ruddy, then he's going to be a collateral descendant."

    The brothers even went and pulled the ship registers from vessels that came to America around that time. One ship, identified as "The John Stamp" ship, had a number of laborers on it when it arrived in Philadelphia in June of 1832. The Watson brothers did a full genealogical search on the names of those passengers in hopes that some of them were the men at Duffy's Cut.

    "We know that a vast majority of these guys disappeared from history after they landed here in Philadelphia," said Frank Watson. "This gave us our basis to say we knew the ages (of the men), where they came from, what they brought with them and if they traveled together."

    The team used the Greater Philadelphia Rescue Dogs to find evidence of a fire, and what they actually found was a 30'-by-30' burn field about two to three inches below the surface in the shanty area. Even some of the pipe stems that they have recovered from the site have fragments of pewter and other metals burned on them from a fire. According to William Watson, the blacksmith was the one who was ordered to set the camp on fire after the last man had died.

    "Malachi Harris, the blacksmith, was charged with burying the men. There's evidence in the ground of the story that was told about his role: He was supposed to have burned the shanty and buried the bodies."

    After finding clues that led them to believe they were close to finding another buried man on the site in 2009, the team was waiting to find evidence of that.

    On Friday, Sept. 16, they found it, in the form of his bones. Working slowly and carefully, the team started to unearthed the man's vertebrae, then his teeth, which led to his jaw bones, and then his skull. A tree had grown over him, and the roots had scattered in bones and cracked his skull into pieces.

    Exploring the story of Duffy's Cut began as a curiousity and grew into a mission. The work they're doing has led to other the possibility of taking on similar projects. They have been contacted about exhuming three other mass grave sites in the area. One in Spring City, another in Downington and a probable third one near Berwyn.

    "These guys are anonymous in the history books," said William Watson. "These are actual individuals of importance; this was the second railroad in North America, and the first in Pennsylvania.

    "They wanted their slice of the American dream," said Frank Watson, "and they ended up in a ditch outside of Philadelphia."

    Immaculata University has a museum of artifacts from their dig in their library that's available to the public.
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  4. Akoya

    Akoya Bronze Member

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  5. Akoya

    Akoya Bronze Member

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