The body of an Irish woman murdered at Duffy’s Cut, the Pennsylvania site where 57 Irish immigrant laborers from the 1830s were buried in a mass grave, has been discovered. Many were believed to have been murdered because they contracted cholera.
The woman is believed to be Catherine Burns, a 29-year-old native of Co. Tyrone who traveled with the oldest laborer, John Burns, who was 70, according to Dr. Frank Watson, who is heading up the investigating team.
The discovery of the female remains adds yet another twist to the Duffy’s Cut saga which has brought huge interest from the media in the U.S. and Ireland.
Archaeological researchers are still excavating Duffy’s Cut, the infamous dig-site where Irish railroad workers were found buried en-masse.
The project is headed by Watson and is aimed at excavating the railroad site 30 miles west of Philadelphia.
Fifty-seven Irish emigrants were hired to construct the railway line for the Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad in 1832. The workers originated mostly from Donegal, Tyrone and Derry. They came to work on the state’s new railroad industry.
Within six weeks, all were dead of cholera and violence, and were buried anonymously in a ditch outside of Malvern.
Several reasons as to why the workers died have been put forward. The strongest reason appears to be a cruel mass murder of the workers in an intentional bid to contain the spread of a contagious disease such as cholera.
The bodies have given historical scholars and archaeologists interesting clues as to the diets, ways of life, and other information about Irish emigrant workers in America at that period.
Although it’s not known how many sites like Duffy’s Cut exist around the country, it is thought that there are many more all dating from around the same historical period, that of the start of America’s industrialization.
The laborers at Duffy's Cut sailed to America from Derry in June 1832. They were hired by contractor Philip Duffy right off the ship in Philadelphia to work on the Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad.