A group of 19th century Irish immigrants may have been the victims of one of America’s worst ever mass murders, according to expert historians.
It’s thought they may have been hunted down and murdered because they had taken the jobs of local people or driven down wages.
The research involves 57 Irishmen who were hired straight off the boat by Philip Duffy to work on the construction of the new United States railway lines. All 57 died within weeks.
Until now, it was believed that they perished after an outbreak of cholera at the place they were stationed, known as Duffy’s Cut in Philadelphia.
Now new evidence has come to light which suggests that many of them may have been brutally murdered.
A dig at Duffy’s Cut, has discovered a human skull with a bullet hole. The skull had also been broken by a heavy strike from a hatchet or similar weapon.
Duffy’s Cut was a labour site in the 1800s, where many Irishmen worked building railway tracks. Historian twin brothers Bill and Frank Watson have been studying the site and have so far found the remains of at least seven people.
The Watsons first took an interest in Duffy’s Cut, when they came across a 100 year-old document that had been in the possession of the Pennsylvania Railroad president’s assistant, their grandfather.
The document referenced the employment of 57 Irish labourers at Duffy’s Cut, but there were only records of the deaths of eight men.
Bill Watson spoke about the possible reasons that there are no records of the deaths of most of the labourers: “It’s not just cholera. We have no idea what percentage of these guys were murdered. But if we have 57, it’s the worst mass murder in Pennsylvania history.”
It’s thought that there was an outbreak of cholera at the site, and the labourers were quarantined to prevent the disease spreading any further. However, with the prospect of being left to die as effective prisoners, some of the men broke free only to be hunted and attacked by angry locals.
There was already a resentment towards Irish settlers from the local residents. The mass influx of cheap labour had driven down wages as the Irish were willing to work for very low pay. This made the Irish unpopular with some.
It is thought that the locals, driven by a mob mentality, cruelly hunted and murdered the Irish labourers that broke from their quarantine.
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