Duffy’s Cut project receives national interest

Duffy’s Cut has been the focus of much publicity since human remains were discovered multiple times this past year. Now Smithsonian magazine has shown interest in the mass gravesite of the Irish railroad workers who were murdered and lay forgotten for years. Correspondent Abigail Tucker was kind enough to share a few words on the incredible discovery.

For those who are not acquainted with the entire story, Duffy’s Cut is a mass gravesite of Irish Catholic workers hired from overseas to work under Philip Duffy, a construction contractor of the project, to lay railroad tracks for the Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad in 1832.

Immaculata faculty and visitors examine the mass grave at Duffy’s Cut. The story of the Irishmen recently became the focus of a Smithsonian reporter.

Immaculata faculty and visitors examine the mass grave at Duffy’s Cut. The story of the Irishmen recently became the focus of a Smithsonian reporter.

The story goes that all 57 men died in a cholera epidemic within six weeks of arriving and were buried in a ditch near Malvern without ceremony or proper funeral rites performed. In the fall, Duffy hired more men and the work on the railroad continued. But the 57 men from Counties Donegal, Tyrone, and Derry in Ireland were intentionally forgotten, their deaths covered up and erased from history.

But that changed when Dr. William Watson and his brother, Reverend Dr. Frank Watson, began to dig up the past.

Abigail Tucker, a reporter from Smithsonian, first learned of Duffy’s Cut when the first human remain, a tibia, was discovered in March. She described it as a “fascinating story” and was very interested in the tale. She also believed that this story would catch much interest, not only because of the archeological find itself, but also due to the strong Irish-American presence in the area.

Along with the Watson brothers, other members of the Duffy’s Cut team were present when Ms. Tucker arrived for their presentation, including John Ahtes, M.A., and Earl Schandelmeier, M.A., both professors at Immaculata, as well as the work/study members Bob Frank and Pat Barry, who discovered the first remains in March and the second, third, and fourth sets in July. Among the six men were numerous photocopies of documents, newspapers, and certificates, as well as photos and boxes of artifacts and evidence found during the excavation.

Tucker’s manner was one of wonder and awe as the Duffy’s Cut team told the story of 18-year-old John Ruddy, one of the men brought from Donegal to work for Duffy whose remains were one of the first sets found. Tucker’s expression grew more and more amazed as the team explained how they found the bodies, the condition of the remains, how it was discovered that some had died not from cholera but by violence, and the sheer amount of digging both in the ground and in paper records. Reverend and Dr. Watson’s pride and delight at her interest and queries were clearly visible as they told this long-forgotten story.

This discovery, Tucker said, is the first real evidence that there was truly murder among the workers of Duffy’s Cut. This painful chapter had been intentionally erased and forgotten, but now is beginning to see the light thanks to the combined efforts of Ahtes, Schandelmeier, Frank, Barry, and of course the brothers Watson. When asked for her own opinion, she said that the story was “very sad, but it is wonderful to know that people have been dedicated to get to the bottom of this.”

Author: Co-Editor-in-Chief

Share This Post On