EAST WHITELAND, Pa. (CBS) – An exclusive Eyewitness News report now reveals investigators have unearthed new evidence indicating that many of the 57 Irish immigrants now believed buried in graves along Septa and Amtrak Main Line tracks in East Whiteland, Chester County, in fact, were murdered.
A skull X-Ray, seen for the first time ever on CBS 3, clearly shows bullet fragments in the skull of one of the 57 workers who arrived in Philadelphia from Ireland in 1832 hoping for a better life building the railroad at a spot called “Duffy’s Cut.”
But, within six weeks, all 57 were dead, buried in a mass grave, that their killers apparently hoped would go undiscovered forever.
But nearly 10 years ago Dr. Bill Watson and his brother Frank discovered secret files from the Pennsylvania Railroad in the attic of a home where a family member formerly lived. The Watsons, and a dedicated team of volunteers and researchers, many from Immaculata University nearby, painstakingly excavated the site until now they have unearthed 7 bodies. All, according to Dr. Watson, show signs of being shot or having their skulls shattered by blunt objects.
In an exclusive interview, the researchers tell Eyewitness News they believe that vigilantes, terrified that the Irish workers would spread cholera, which was already spreading among the immigrants, murdered the Irish workers as they desperately attempted to escape the railroad work camp to seek medical treatment.
Even more ominously, the Eyewitness News investigation shows, for the first time, dozens of nails used to seal the lid on each workers coffin-the large number of nails a clear indication the killers never wanted their terrible secret uncovered.
Investigators hope soon to resume digging in an effort to find the bodies of the 50 remaining workers.
They are also using DNA extracted from the remains looking for a match with families now living in Ireland. If the match is found, the bodies will receive a proper burial in the land they left so long ago.
Researchers also hope to erect a Celtic Cross in West Laurel Hill Cemetery where some of the workers may find their final resting place. To raise money, members of the Duffy’s Cut Project will hold a Beef and Beer Benefit at Immaculata University this Friday from 6 to 9pm. For more information on tickets and donations contact the University.
Finally, with then discovery of the bullet fragments, the graves of the 57 workers are now more than an historic site-they are, officially, a crime scene-possibly the location of the largest mass murder in Main Line history.
Reported by Walt Hunter, CBS 3