By Ray O'Hanlon
It was murder, pure and simple. That was the verdict this week of Dr. William Watson, who has been leading the excavation of the Duffy's Cut Irish immigrants site in Malvern, Pa.
The site, which adjoins a present day commuter rail line, is the last resting place of an estimated 57 Irish railroad workers who met their maker back in 1832.
The dig has been going on in what is another summer season with evidence steadily pointing to the hand of others in the deaths of the men who, according to Watson, are buried in a mass grave that has only been partially excavated.
"We have found two more bodies and their skulls show signs of a violent death," Dr. Watson, of nearby Immaculata University, told the Echo Tuesday.
The men suffered very bad blows to the head," said Watson, while one of the skulls had what appears to be a bullet hole.
Watson said that coffins used to bury the men also had far more nails than would be usually needed, this to make sure that efforts to examine the bodies at the time of the deaths would be all the more difficult.
Watson said that the newly discovered remains would be examined by forensic experts in the coming days.
"This is going to rewrite Chester County history," said Watson, referring to the county just outside Philadelphia where Duffy's Cut is situated.
The new bodies were found about 30 feet from where the remains an Irish railroad worker identified as John Ruddy was discovered last year.
Watson said that the discoveries pointed to an historical cover-up.
"This was a case of murder and a cover-up and it is just as ugly as we had theorized. We know there was something. What we have found is the echo of something horrible in the valley 178 years ago," he said.
"These men are crying out for justice," he said.
During excavation at Duffy's Cut, which have been ongoing since 2004, a treasure trove of artifacts including belt buckles, coins, eating utensils, buttons, pickaxes, various kinds of spikes and nails and a portion of rail track have been found at the roughly one acre site.
From the start of his work, Watson, who teaches history at Immaculata, expressed the belief 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.
Beyond that, he has long held the view that some of the men died more suddenly at the hands of local Nativist gangs. That view is now taking firm hold in Watson's excavation team.
Separately, 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.
The latest discovery has prompted considerable media interest in the Duffy's Cut dig.
"We're now expecting CNN to visit the site," said Watson.