The mass grave that Watson and his colleague are now almost certain they have unearthed is at Duffy’s Cut outside Philadelphia, scene in recent years of a painstaking excavation aimed at recovering the remains of dozens of Irish immigrant railroad workers who perished, or were killed, at the site in the 1830s.
“This is incredible,” said Watson.
What was incredible was the discovery of the remains of two more individuals to add to the finding of the remains earlier this year of a young man that Watson and his team believe was an Irish immigrant named John Ruddy
“We have found out some amazing things about the first man from our specialists,” said Watson.
“He was about 5’6,” 18-20 years of age and heavily built from a life of labor. He had a bad ear infection; and he was missing his left front top molar, an inherited condition that will make it easier to identify collateral descendants.
“Most importantly, however, he had two skull fractures roughly contemporaneous with death, and which might have even
been the cause of his death,” said Watson.
The remains of the two new men, including two skulls, were found just about five feet from Ruddy. Ruddy was discovered on March 20, so the distance explored then gives an idea of how careful Watson, from nearby Immaculata University, and his colleagues, are working the ground.
“One of the men is facing Ruddy while the other is facing away, Watson said.
Watson said that when work resumes at the site next week it will aim to further uncover what he believes is the “portal” into the mass grave.
He added that in recent days the Duffy’s Cut site had received some distinguished visitors including Irish ambassador to the U.S., Michael Collins, and Stephen Brighton from the University of Maryland who has been leading the excavation of a 19th century Irish village outside Baltimore that was known as “Texas.”
Prior to the landmark March 20th discovery, Duffy’s Cut had already given up a treasure trove of artifacts including belt buckles, coins, eating utensils, buttons, pickaxes and various kinds of spikes and nails. A portion of rail track was found during an earlier phase of the dig.
Duffy’s Cut covers roughly an acre.
Watson believes that some of the Irish workers at Duffy’s Cut might have been buried alive during the stage of cholera known as cold cholera. At this point in the disease’s lethal progress, it is possible to appear dead, though the individual is still alive
Watson’s team has uncovered records for the arrivals of eight ships in Philadelphia at the time, all carrying immigrants from Ireland. Most of them were natives of counties Tyrone, Derry and John Ruddy’s native Donegal.
“These men all died over a period of two to two-and-a-half weeks,” Watson said in an earlier interview.
He said that attempting to verify that cholera was a factor would pose difficulties.
“The foul play part will be easier,” he said.