August 25th, 2010

Cliffs of Moher

Random: Irish Need Not Survive

I saw this striking historical story just a few minutes ago. It kind of ups the ante on just how bad it could be for Irish coming to America in the earlier 19th century, and makes me all the more grateful that my ancestors made it to Wisconsin without such incident.

Pennsylvania Ghost Story Leads to Murder Mystery
David Lohr

(Aug. 25) -- Anthropologists and historians in Philadelphia's tony suburban Main Line are unearthing a mass grave containing the remains of dozens of Irish workers who died nearly two centuries ago.

The find, called the Duffy's Cut Project, started out as an investigation into local folklore and ghost stories. It has since transformed not only into a significant historical find but also, perhaps, one of the oldest murder mysteries in the Keystone State.

"All the remains found so far indicate [the men] were brutally murdered," William Watson, head of the history department at Immaculata University in Immaculata, Pa., told AOL News. "Some of them were just bludgeoned [to death]. It's unbelievable."

"Duffy's Cut," as it's known, is a stretch of rail line in Malvern, 30 miles west of Philadelphia. It was constructed for the Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad in 1832. Much of the construction was completed by a group of 57 Irish immigrants from Donegal, Tyrone and Derry, Ireland, who arrived in Philadelphia in June 1832 aboard the ship John Stamp.

"They came here to partake of the American dream," Watson said. "No doubt, they thought they were going to get some good work, and they were hired right off the docks by a fellow Irishman named Philip Duffy, who came in around the War of 1812. He basically brought them out here to complete the most expensive and difficult mile in the entire Philadelphia and Columbia system."

Within eight weeks of their arrival, all 57 reportedly died during a cholera pandemic. The dead were buried together in a mass grave along Duffy's Cut.

The fate of the men who lost their lives was all but forgotten by the time Watson and his twin brother, the Rev. Frank Watson, were born. By then, the story of the men's deaths had transformed into more of a local legend.

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