Archaeologists investigating the burial site of 57 Irish workers by a railroad outside Philadelphia say they are close to making several more shock discoveries in the gruesome case. They may prove that all 57 men were murdered rather than victims of cholera.
In June, 1832, a group of 57 Irish immigrants from Donegal, Tyrone, and Derry arrived in Philadelphia. They were brought to Chester County by a fellow Irishman named Philip Duffy as laborers for the construction of the Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad, Pennsylvania’s pioneering railroad. Within six weeks, all were dead of cholera and possibly violence, and were buried anonymously in a ditch outside of Malvern.
So far the forensic team have found that at two of the men were bludgeoned to death after forensic examination revealed severe head trauma. And although many of the rest of the bodies are in poor states of preservation, experts working on the dig believe that they are close to making another big discovery.
According to an archaeologist working on the dig, work on the dig is progressing at a slower rate than hoped for because of the site’s steep face. The source explained that the team were having to comply with rigorous safety requirements and that this was slowing progress, but added that they were under pressure to finish the dig by the end of the year because of pressure from residents to complete the excavation and move on.
Nevertheless, the team are using advanced technology and believe that more bodies will yield further information about the plight of the Irishmen.
Official records from the time said that the men had died of cholera, but the evidence so far points more towards a mass murder.
The two causes could be connected, though, think investigators. At a time when medical knowledge was primitive, the cause and transmission of cholera were still unknown, and many choleric patients were killed as a pre-emptive step, in a misguided attempt to prevent the spreading of the deadly condition. The local vigilante police force may have been responsible.
The deaths and the archaeological investigation have already shed light on American life at the time of the Industrial Revolution, and on the abuse of Irish workers that was rampant at that time.
The men buried by Duffy’s Cut were from counties Donegal, Tyrone and Derry, were well built from their gruelling lives of physical labour, and subsisted on a basic diet of potatoes and other basic foodstuffs, not even being able to afford sugar. The information has been derived from detailed forensic and dental investigation of the best preserved bodies.
Investigators believe that there are dozens of similar sites dotted around America dating from the same time. And thanks to modern technology, like subterraenean radar, finding them is now easier than ever before.
Although precise details of the expected find were not divulged, it’s expected that the team’s next discovery will take place sometime over the summer.