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Penn Anthropologist Thinks Cholera Fear Led To Main Line Murders 180 Years Ago

(Some of the human remains found at Duffy's Cut.  File photo)

(Some of the human remains found at Duffy’s Cut. File photo)

John Ostapkovich John Ostapkovich
John Ostapkovich brings humor and wit, and a wealth of experience...
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By John Ostapkovich

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The remains of five Irish immigrants unearthed a decade ago near Paoli, Pa. were today transported to a cemetery for burial this coming Friday.

But the story of what happened to these unfortunate souls in 1832 has taken a very nasty turn.

Only six of the 57 bodies from Duffy’s Cut have ever been recovered.  Nothing was left of a seventh but a coffin-shaped outline.

Physical anthropologist Janet Monge of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology has been studying the remains, and will continue to study samples.  She says the early theory that they died of cholera is only half true.

They died, she says, because nearby townspeople had cholera and didn’t understand it.

“Can you imagine being hit by a cholera epidemic, where you know somewhere between about 50 and 60 percent of the people that are alive at the moment will be dead, and in just a couple of days?”

And her theory is: the cholera epidemic hits, so you blame the immigrants (see related story).

“You make a posse and you go get them,” Monge surmises.

The remaining bodies appear to be under or close to train tracks to Harrisburg — ironically the very rail line the immigrants were building.

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