Genocide in Suburban Philadelphia: Duffy’s Cut

1832: fifty seven men are buried.

They were railroad workers, newly arrived from Ireland. It was hard labor, leveling a hill for the Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad. People called this stretch “the hardest mile” due to its tedious, backbreaking load.  They wanted a better life. Instead, within six weeks they all disappeared . . . from their families, and almost from the pages of history. An entire railroad shanty, 57 lives, wiped out.

Residents claimed they had fallen victim to the cholera epidemic that was sweeping the East Coast that summer. But mysteries and inconsistencies remained. A local man with the notorious name “Cromwell” was associated with vigilantes. And cholera has never had a 100% mortality rate.

Recent exhumation reveals one skull riven by ax blade, another shattered by the force of a bullet, lead recovered at the scene. The trees grow tall at the burial site in Malvern, nourished by extinguished life.

Not too long ago signs filled American businesses: “No Irish, no dogs.” We Irish have assimilated so well that many have forgotten our initial despised status. As with many immigrants, the Irish helped build this nation doing the jobs nobody else wanted.  And in Malvern, PA: were murdered.

Raise a loud huzzah to all immigrants (voluntary and involuntary) who have helped build this nation.

And this month, watch the Smithsonian Channel special about The Ghosts of Duffy’s Cut. Tomorrow: Saturday, June 30 at 10 a.m.; Friday, July 6 at 9 a.m.; Sunday, July 8 at 6 p.m.

Read Professor Watson’s book, The Ghosts of Duffy’s Cut: The Irish Who Died Building America’s Most Dangerous Stretch of Railroad. Greenwood Publishing: 2006.

Listen to the song “The Hardest Mile” by Celtic band Dropkick Murphys:

For Further Information

The Duffy’s Cut Project at Immaculata University and Duffy’s Cut Museum in the Gabriele Library.

Duffy’s Cut Facebook Page:

Smithsonian Channel:

Photo credits: (I am believing them that this is public domain. If you think I have used this phot erroneously, please contact me.)


One comment on “Genocide in Suburban Philadelphia: Duffy’s Cut

  1. After watching the Smithsonian special, please note that it is copyright 2006, which is before the first graves were found. Early this year, I heard a lecture by Professor Watson presenting slides indicating the manner of deaths I have described above. One worker, tentatively identified as John Ruddy by a unique genetic variation, has been linked with a possible family back in Donegal (who still carry this mutationn]), pending DNA test results. In March 2012, five bodies were given a mass of Christian burial and reinterred in Laurel Hill Cemetary. Due to structural concerns, not all bodies can be recovered.

    Additional info:

    Main Line News Article:

    University of Penn Museum article:

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