THE IRISH AMBASSADOR to the United States is set to attend a fundraising event near Philadelphia next week to help raise money for an investigation into the Irishmen who died in the infamous Duffy’s Cut tragedy.
Fifty-seven men – many from County Donegal – died at a railway roadworks 30 miles from Philadelphia in 1832.
Organisers of the Feb 25th event are holding a $25-a-ticket beer and brew for a Celtic Cross to be placed in a local cemetery, and to pay for continued DNA tests on discovered remains of the men.
Michael Collins, the Irish ambassador to the United States, and Neol Kilkenny, the consul general of Ireland to the U.S., will be guests at the event.
Since the incident came to light over a decade ago, professors at Immaculata University have tried to document the incident. It was thought the men perished from cholera – now tests show many could have been murdered.
The immigrant laborers at Duffy’s Cut sailed from Derry to the United States in June 1832. They were hired by contractor Philip Duffy off their ship in Philadelphia to work on the Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad.
The men were hit with cholera at the site in August shortly after starting work. It was reported that eight died, and the incident was forgotten. A report by the Columbia railroad that was later suppressed showed 57 died and were buried on-site.
Details from the reports indicate some of the men may have died violently to keep them from leaving the work site for fear that cholera, which was little understood at the time, would spread.
The Archeology Department of the University of Pennsylvania has been studying the remains. The information was enough for law enforcement authorities in Chester County, who are among volunteers on the project, to declare the site a crime scene. The declaration gives the scientific and historical investigators certain legal rights.
Through DNA and a unique genetic defect involving the lack of a molar, investigators have determined the identity of one victim from his skull. Bone material from other remains is being tested. Blood samples Irish residents of Tyrone, Derry and Donegal, where the men were from, are being collected to try to make DNA matches to determine the identities of more victims.