A small sign welcomes visitors to the Duffy’s Cut Museum room in the Gabriele Library at Immaculata University. Staff photo by Jim Callahan – Daily Local News
Artifacts recovered from archeological the dig in East Whiteland for clues into the fate of Irish railroad workers the Duffy’s Cut Museum room in the Gabriele Library at Immaculata University.Staff photo by Jim Callahan – Daily Local News


EAST WHITELAND >> An arts focused symposium developed after the discovery of Duffy’s Cut, the burial site of about 57 Irish immigrant railroad workers who died in 1832, will be held at Immaculata University Oct. 11.

The Irish Network of Philadelphia and the school’s history department are sponsoring events involving music, literature and dance that have commemorated the tragedy.

“Some of the areas where the Duffy’s Cut story has found a voice is the arts, so we are hoping to offer a full day of live Irish music, including songs inspired by this event,” said Bethanne Killian, chair of Irish Network Philadelphia. “In addition to live music, there will be movie screenings, dramatic reenactments, and Irish dancing.”

Over the past 15 years the university’s history department has collected numerous documents and stories about the fate of Irish immigrant track workers who were building the Philadelphia and Columbia Rail Road through Chester County in the summer of 1832.

The Gaelic-speaking workers were recruited off the docks of Philadelphia in June after immigrating from Ireland. After an outbreak of cholera, some died, but others were said to have been killed to prevent spread of the disease.

Sets of eight skeletons, including one woman, have been discovered. Some signs of violence documented by the archeology department of the University of Pennsylvania. One man was shot through the skull.

If documents and stories uncovered by Immaculata’s History Department and associates are true, the remains of 50 more buried could be near the site.

Immaculata Professor William Watson said organizers are still lining up logistics to find the mass grave where remaining victims are believed to be buried underneath about 50 feet of rail embankment that has built up over the past 180 years for the main east-west rail line across Pennsylvania.

The symposium is to raise awareness and funds for the effort, said Watson.

“We are calling it “Duffy’s Cut and the Arts — A Symposium,” said Killian.

The Irish Network is still developing the final schedule but it will be available by emailing Killian at bethannekillian@comcast.net. Other public announcements are to follow.

“Our vision is to demonstrate the impact this important project has had beyond the world of academia and the passion that is evoked by this American immigrant story,” said Killian. “ Because there is still much work to be done (excavation, DNA testing, historical and genealogical research) by the Duffy’s Cut team, we are hoping to raise both funds and awareness to allow them to continue their work,” she said.

Besides various artistic performances, panel groups will include a discussion by The Pennsylvania Railroad Technical and Historical Society on the significance Duffy’s Cut in the context of railroad history, said Killian.

The Pennsylvania Railroad was the successor railroad to the Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad. The railroad did its own investigation in the early 1900s into stories about the 1832 incident that became a foundation for the Immaculata investigation 90 years later.

Reach the author at JCallahan@dailylocal.com .

To view the article, click here.