The dig for Irish remains at Duffy’ Cut in Pennsylvania has come to an end.
Frank and Bill Watson, the historians who first located the remains of Irish railroad workers, many of whom are believed to have been murdered in 1832, say that the mass grave they have been seeking is unreachable.
It has been located 30 feet underground but too near to an existing Amtrak track to unearth it. It is said to hold the remains of up to 57 Irish emigrants from Donegal, Derry and Tyrone.
The Watsons, believe most of the Irish were likely victims of lynch mobs driven by anti-Irish sentiment which was widespread at the time.
The discovery of the mass grave came when geophysicist Tim Bechtel used updated equipment electrical imaging and seismic surveys, to discover the mass grave 30 feet below the surface.
It's also on Amtrak property. They will not permit any digging because of its proximity to the tracks, spokeswoman Danelle Hunter told Associated Press.
"I don't blame them for not being keen on excavating there," Bechtel said,
The mass remains are of Irish immigrants, mostly from Donegal, who were building the railroad near Philadelphia when they all mysteriously died.
It is suspected some died for cholera and others were murdered because they were suspected of being disease carriers.They were only in the US a few weeks.
Frank and Bill Watson with the help of volunteers and archaeologists proved via DNA and testing that most of the Irish had been murdered and did not die of cholera.
"Since the beginning, we have seen it as our job to get their story out of folklore and into actual history, and we hope we have done that," Bill Watson told Associated Press.
A local monument stated the men had died of “black diptheria” in 1834 but it is known they died two years earlier.
More news from Duffy's Cut on IrishCentral
Soon after they started digging they found the remains of six people and a nearby shantytown.
University of Pennsylvania anthropologist Janet Monge found proof of savage violence done to the remains including a bullet wound to the head of one of them.
Many locals had been sceptical that anything would be found. East Whiteland Township Manager Terry Woodman told AP.
"Some people thought that this was lore, a story that through the telling had been exaggerated," Woodman said. "There was a lot of skepticism."
The rest who were killed were ordered buried in a mass grave and their shantytown burned to the ground.
One victim was identified victim as 18-year-old John Ruddy, based on his bone size and the passenger list of a ship that came from Ireland to Philadelphia shortly before the men died.
The brothers plan to bury the remains found in a suburban Philadelphia cemetery around St. Patrick's Day, March 17.
Dennis Downey, a history professor at Millersville University, said the work done has been invaluable.
"You see industrial history, you see immigration history, you see the broad contours of changing cultural history," said Downey.
Michael Collins, Ireland's ambassador to the U.S., told AP he was deeply struck by the emigrants "arriving here full of optimism and hope only to die so anonymously and tragically."
"Their story needs to be told," Collins said. "So many from Ireland helped to build America but it was not an easy life, or an easy time."
The Watsons believe what happened at Duffy's Cut was not an isolated case.
Their next investigation involves another site ten miles away they believe is another Irish mass grave and two other sites have also been possibly located.
Duffy's Cut documentary:
Christy Moore's song 'Duffy's Cut' dedicated to the men and women who died at Duffy's Cut: