“the cut”

As I said in 2013 when I first wrote about Duffy’s Cut,  given the clouds of mystery and intrigue still surrounding Duffy’s Cut, I think the foggy afternoon  I photographed the historical marker was perfect.  You can never truly move forward into the future if you can’t honor the past, or that is just my opinion as a mere mortal and female.

I have written before about Duffy’s Cut and thanks to my friend Dr. Bill Watson at Immaculata, I have been blessed to have been to see  Duffy’s Cut twice.  And no, you can’t just go, you need permission. There is private property of homeowners and AMTRAK involved, and those who show callous disregard for either put the project at risk.  So please, don’t just go exploring.  Dr. Watson and his brother Rev. Watson and their team have worked so hard.

My last Duffy’s Cut adventure was about a year ago.  I was invited to accompany them on a brief dig last summer. I was with the Duffy’s Cut team and teachers attending the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)  Duffy’s Cut Teachers Institute. Everyone was so warm and welcoming to a non-educator. It was an experience I will never, ever forget.

Earlier this year, a new film on Duffy’s Cut was released.  “The Cut”  by Irish American Films. I was originally supposed to attend the premiere of the documentary film at Immaculata, and this was yet another thing my blasted knee at the time did not allow me to do.

But I bought the DVD and it has sat on my desk, haunting me until today.  Amazing.  It is amazing. So very good and true.

In the very beginning of the film they discuss the “Irish Need Not Apply” of it all. I have personal family memories attached to that.  When I was little my maternal grandfather (whom I called Poppy) would tell me stories of how the Irish were persecuted at different times in this country (John Francis Xavier Gallen was Irish and born in the late 19th century) . When he was a little boy, my great grandmother Rebecca Nesbitt Gallen was in service and was the summer housekeeper to the Cassatt Family in Haverford. If I recall correctly, he lost a lot of family during the Spanish Flu Pandemic of the early 20th century, but I digress. Poppy would tell me of anti-Irish sentiment and tales of “Irish need not apply”.

I remember feeling wide eyed and incredulous as a child hearing that.

“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child”

~1 Corinthians 13:11 

Yes, it was kind of like that.  Because today I heard that phrase again, in The Cut, as an adult.  And I recall the wonderful (and recent) series by Sam Katz, “Philadelphia: The Great Experiment” (which you can watch in it’s entirety online at 6ABC).    Sam Katz also discussed the plight of the Irish immigrant in his series.

Today as I watched this brilliant documentary that is so honest and true, I was struck by it all again.  I was also struck by the parallels  into the world today in which we live. Power, political power, the almost obfuscation  of the law, prejudice, religious persecution.  Here we are, residents of a country where out very forefathers fought and bled and died for our rights, our inalienable rights, and look how we treat one and other? And even in 1832, when the Revolutionary War wouldn’t have been as distant a memory, let alone the War of 1812, right?

This area in 1832 was farming and countryside and rather rural.  These Irish rail workers were discriminated  against, abused, persecuted, and ultimately murdered. And one who was complicit? A fellow Irishman named Philip Duffy.  He was by most accounts a bully who exploited these men and women who had traveled thousands of miles to a different country in the hopes of a better life.  Of course by the very nature of how Duffy treated these workers, he was was also a big coward, wasn’t he? The Philip Duffys of this world persist throughout history, don’t they?

This documentary also delves into the politics and political climate of the time, which seemed somewhat chaotic.  I have to ask have we evolved enough from then? It seems like history is so often doomed to repeat itself unless we take the steps to be part of the change, right?

I am the child of immigrants, including Irish.  I am not related to any of these workers (at least that I know of), but this inconvenient history of Duffy’s Cut hits me at the core of my being every time I read about it.  These dead men could have been my ancestors, or yours, or anyone’s. These men and women mattered. All Americans are the descendants of immigrants. It is how the U.S.A. was founded, remember?

I was struck by an interview of Walt Hunter, Duffy’s Cut Board Member, supporter and long time KYW TV 3 reporter in Philadelphia.  He spoke about having a certain feeling when onsite at Duffy’s Cut.  I totally get it, I have felt it twice.  It’s a feeling, a knowing, an awareness that great evil happened there.

You can buy a copy of “The Cut” through Irish American Films.  I strongly recommend it.

Also Dr. Bill Watson and his brother , Rev. Frank Watson can always use our continued support of this magnificent and historically important archaeological project.  Donate to The Duffy’s Cut Project.   You can donate via the Duffy’s Cut website, just look for the little round button partway down the front page of the website with the PayPal icon. Or click here to see the Duffy’s Cut Donation Page. You can also donate via Square and checks are graciously accepted.

Donations can be made directly to Duffy’s Cut Project by check or money order and mailed to:
Duffy’s Cut Project
C/O William Watson
21 Faculty Center
Immaculata, PA 19345-0667

 

This history of Duffy’s Cut is so important.  Yes it is ugly and brutal and raw.  It is a true tale of the horrific things human beings do to one and other.  But this was so awful that I totally understand why people literally tried to make this whole part of American history, local Chester County history, disappear. To the descendants of anyone involved, I am truly sorry.  It doesn’t matter that it was 1832, it’s so ugly.  But the dead will not rest until the workers are all discovered and honored.  And that will be a good thing.

Please support Duffy’s Cut.

Recent Duffy’s Cut in the media articles include:

 Promising discovery in 1830s deaths of Irish rail workers on the Main Line
Updated: JULY 13, 2017 — 3:45 PM EDT by Genevieve Glatsky, STAFF WRITER (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Daily Local: Duffy’s Cut: Search continues for 19th-century railroad workers’ graves in Malvern

By Bill Rettew, brettew@dailylocal.com
POSTED: 06/10/17, 5:30 AM EDT

CBS3 KYW: Brothers Work To Recover The Rest Of Duffy’s Cut Remains

Delco (Daily) Times Local filmmakers create Irish-American programs to celebrate culture

By Peg DeGrassa, POSTED: 03/06/17, 9:16 PM EST

crumbling colonial next to clews and strawbridge in frazer

next to clews and strawbridge

Look at it crumble. Astounding.  Soon the vines that twist and cover will own what I believe to be an 18th century house next to Clews & Strawbridge on Route 30 in Frazer, PA.  Does anyone know anything about this? And is this the ultimate historic preservation in what I assume is East Whiteland? Structures just molder until they completely rot away? So if I am say, “Getting on Board With Bill”, is this what I am signing up for? Should things like this that rot (Loch Aerie, Linden House, Ebenezer AME just to name a few in East Whiteland) be considered accomplishments during his tenure? I am a realist, and I know that not every old house can be saved, nor every truly historic structure, but wow, it just seems like East Whiteland Supervisors need to kick it up a notch, don’t they?  Why can’t they ask all these deep pocketed developers in the Township to assist?

Where is historic preservation in East Whiteland? I mean other than what Immaculata has accomplished for Duffy’s Cut that is?

just dumb

truck 2This morning if you were on 352 at the underpass in Frazer you got to witness yet another truck driver get stuck. And it wasn’t some guy renting a box truck from U-Haul or Budget or Penske for the first time, it was a regular truck driver in a huge truck hauling a load – in other words this isn’t in my opinion to be filed under beginner’s bad luck.

Every time I see something like this happen I marvel at how these trucks and people driving them don’t seem to know how big they are by themselves and if they are carrying a big load, how tall they are in relationship to a tunnel or underpass.  And if they do know how big and tall they are they see the height sign for an underpass that would indicate to a sensible person they might get stuck, why they don’t stop and turn around?

Around 10 am this morning a giant truck hauling giant metal cube things decided height restrictions were for other people at the Route 352 underpass in Frazer.

truck 1

We were in a line of traffic waiting on the Immaculata side of the underpass and we sat and watched the truck approach.  The driver stopped at first as if giving it a good look and then he proceeded.  And got stuck.  The truck stopped.  Then remarkably it tried to go forward as if that would make it better.  Only he wasn’t hauling puffy rubber or foam that would bend, he was hauling these giant metal boxes with what looked like vents cut into them. So he got more stuck.

Finally he stopped trying to go forward and instead started to back up.  Of course it being 352 there was traffic up the rear of the truck but they started to back up and after many minutes of all of us on the road collectively holding our breath, the truck was able to get unstuck and out from underneath the underpass.

I just don’t understand how these trucks think they are going to fit if they are too tall and big going into the scenario?

Here’s hoping Amtrak checked the bridge after.  Every time there is a stuck truck or a hit they are supposed to check the bridge.

duffy’s cut

DSC_0050

2/20/2013 UPDATE:

Main Line Suburban Life > News

Burial in Ireland planned for Duffy’s Cut victim

Published: Wednesday, February 20, 2013

By JIM CALLAHAN
jcallahan@journalregister.com

Duffy’s Cut victim John Ruddy, late of Chester County, is to be buried after services March 2 in County Donegal, Ireland.

Ruddy was one of up to 57 Irish immigrants who died of cholera and probable mob violence at an East Whiteland railroad construction site known as Duffy’s Cut.

Ruddy and the others are believed to have died nearly 181 years ago in the last two weeks of August 1832. Ruddy was 18.

His are the only remains thus far identified from an incident that was successfully hidden from the general public until recent years.

Professor William Watson of Immaculata University released details of the funeral arrangements. Services are set for 3 p.m. at Holy Family Church in Ardara, Donegal. Burial will be in the church cemetery.

PREVIOUSLY:

A week or so I happened to be passing by the Duffy’s Cut historical marker (I got a historical marker approved a few years ago and it is a lot of work to get one of them)  and stopped to photograph it.  Given the clouds of mystery and intrigue still surrounding Duffy’s Cut, I think the foggy afternoon was perfect. I also think that given the development occurring in Malvern (borough and East Whiteland) by developers who don’t truly give a rat’s fanny about the area, the history, or the current residents (they care about building and selling  projects) it is also appropriate to remember the history. You can never truly move forward into the future if you can’t honor the past, or that is just my opinion as a mere mortal and female.

I have always thought the tale of Duffy’s Cut to be a huge part of the history of Malvern. The Duffy’s Cut Project is housed at Immaculata. You can go see it.

The Smithsonian Channel has a special about it – called the Ghosts of Duffy’s Cut.

Duffy’s Cut is a big deal.  What was Duffy’s Cut?

From Immaculata’s web site:

In June, 1832, a group of 57 Irish immigrants from Donegal, Tyrone, and Derry arrived in Philadelphia. They were brought to Chester County by a fellow Irishman named Philip Duffy as laborers for the construction of the Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad, Pennsylvania’s pioneering railroad. Within six weeks, all were dead of cholera and possibly violence, and were buried anonymously in a ditch outside of Malvern.

Two brothers, Frank and Bill Watson have done yeoman’s work on this topic of Duffy’s Cut.  Read about them in the Wall Street Journal:

The Wall Street JournalThe Mystery of Duffy’s Cut

Historians Dig for Truth About What—or Who—Killed Early Rail Workers

April 14, 2011 By PETER LOFTUS

MALVERN, Pa.—Frank and Bill Watson recently led a group hoisting shovels and pick axes into a wooded hollow here in Philadelphia’s suburbs.

“Let’s find some bodies,” said Bill Watson, a professor of history at nearby Immaculata University.

Two children playing nearby scampered away before the men led by the Watsons—twin brothers and historians—started chipping away at a hillside hemmed in by two housing developments and busy railroad tracks.

The Watsons are on a macabre mission that began with a file of railroad company documents left behind by a grandfather and curiosity about what exactly happened at this spot—known as Duffy’s Cut—nearly 180 years ago.

This much is clear: Nearly 60 Irish laborers died here in 1832 as they built a land bridge for what became the thriving railroad that lent its name to Philadelphia’s affluent Main Line suburbs.

Their bodies were believed to be buried in a mass grave next to the railroad line, used today by Amtrak and local commuter trains. Tales of ghost sightings nearby were passed down through generations of area residents.

Cholera seemed the most likely culprit. Newspaper reports from the time reported that the disease killed several of the laborers at Duffy’s Cut. And an 1833 letter written by a superintendent of a precursor of the Pennsylvania Railroad said the contractor who hired the workers, Philip Duffy, lost “nearly one half of his men” to cholera. But early in their research, the Watsons began to suspect there might be more to the story….

In 2009, they began finding skeletal remains of at least four people. While many questions linger, the Watsons have become convinced at least three of them didn’t die of cholera.

One skull has holes with traces of lead on the edges, indicating a bullet’s entry and exit wounds, as well as a narrow slit that appeared to be delivered by an axe or hatchet. Another has a compression fracture suggesting it was caused by a blunt object. The third had dents in the skull indicating violence….

The work at Duffy’s Cut has received media attention in Ireland, and the Watsons have told the story to Irish heritage groups here. Michael Collins, the Irish ambassador to the U.S., has visited Duffy’s Cut twice.

“I was really struck by the human tragedy of all these young people dying so soon after coming here, and family back in Ireland never knowing what happened to them, or even knowing that they were dead,” he said. “Their story needs to be told.”

Unfortunately as of October 31, 2011 from what I can tell the archeological digs stopped.  It seems AMTRAK had enough.  I am not surprised.  I made a bit of a project out of them once upon a time and they are souless money grubbers who are horrible neighbors, charge ridiculous amounts for often dirty, smelly trains and piss poor service, so why would I be surprised history was also not their forte? The short answer is I am not.
I have not found anything more recent than a 2012 YouTube video put out by The University of Pennsylvania. Of course one would think our Congressman Jim Gerlach and our US Senators, State reps, State Senator Any Dinniman, and Gov. Corbett might show an interest in getting whatever that is left to be done gets done?  But until they do, I daresay the ghosts of Duffy’s Cut will wander.

Duffy’s Cut dig ends as Amtrak refuses mass grave excavation

Lynch mobs killed 1832 Irish railroad workers say historians  – VIDEOS

By JAMES  O’SHEA,IrishCentral Staff Writer

Published Monday, October 31, 2011,  7:07 AM
Updated Monday, October 31, 2011, 10:50  AM

PHOTOS – Duffy’s Cut – Irish labourers burial site in Pennsylvania slideshow

The dig for Irish remains at Duffy’ Cut in Pennsylvania has come to an end.

Frank and Bill Watson, the historians who first  located the remains of Irish railroad workers, many of whom are believed to have  been murdered in 1832, say that the mass grave they have been seeking is  unreachable

It has been located 30 feet underground but too near  to an existing Amtrak track to unearth it. It is said to hold the remains of up  to 57 Irish emigrants from Donegal, Derry and Tyrone.

The Watsons, believe most of the Irish were likely  victims of lynch mobs  driven by anti-Irish sentiment which was widespread  at the time.

The discovery of the mass grave came when  geophysicist Tim Bechtel used updated equipment   electrical imaging  and seismic surveys, to discover the mass grave 30 feet below the surface.

It’s also on Amtrak property. They will not permit  any digging because of its proximity to the tracks, spokeswoman Danelle Hunter  told Associated Press.…The mass remains are of Irish immigrants, mostly  from Donegal, who were building the railroad near Philadelphia when they all  mysteriously died….

Frank and Bill Watson with the help of volunteers  and archaeologists proved via DNA and testing that most of the Irish had   been murdered and did not die of cholera.

“Since the beginning, we have seen it as our job to  get their story out of folklore and into actual history, and we hope we have  done that,” Bill Watson told Associated Press.

A local monument stated the men had died of “black  diptheria” in 1834 but it is known they died two years earlier.

Soon after they started digging they found the  remains of six people and a nearby shantytown.

University of Pennsylvania anthropologist Janet  Monge found proof of savage violence done to the remains including a bullet  wound to the head of one of them.

Many locals had been sceptical that anything would  be found. East Whiteland Township Manager Terry Woodman told AP.

“Some people thought that this was lore, a story  that through the telling had been exaggerated,” Woodman said. “There was a lot  of skepticism.”

The rest who were killed were ordered buried in a  mass grave and their shantytown burned to the ground.

One victim was identified victim as 18-year-old John  Ruddy, based on his bone size and the passenger list of a ship that came   from Ireland to Philadelphia shortly  before the men died.

The brothers plan to bury  the remains  found  in a suburban Philadelphia cemetery around St. Patrick’s Day, March  17.

Dennis Downey, a history professor at Millersville  University, said the work done has been invaluable.

So Malvern, as you look at the developer tarting up one end of the town to sell his project, remember what happened in the East Whiteland side of Malvern. Here’s hoping some day the dead there can all rest.  They certainly didn’t get what they deserved coming to America looking for honest work.

snow idiots

I somehow thought in Chester County there would be fewer snow idiots on the roads.  Apparently not.  Just did the four-wheel drive crawl down Route 352 which is a total mess between Immaculata and Route 30.

I passed either three or four cars on Route 352 which were either stuck or spun out.  The road is slick, which by my humble estimation means SLOW DOWN.

I have a special shout out to that hot footed mama in the maroon Honda mini van who was behind me after she came flying out of Immaculata’s driveway: if you wanted to sit in my lap, you should have asked.

Another shout out in general to the folks from Immaculata who don’t seem to understand they are supposed to stop and look, and maybe use a turn signal before entering the roadway on Route 352.

There was another stuck mini van on the hump of the overpass.

People, we all know PennDOT has selective road treating at best in a nuisance storm like this, so please, slow down.

It is slick out there right now.

Road  whiner over and out

chester county vatican?

Ok, I am sorry but it is a little freaky amusing to discover that Immaculata has its OWN zip code.

I used to joke about Hershey’s Mill being the retirement Vatican of Chester County because it is like its own city-state with its own roads, security (complete with sirens), personal entrance to the mall where the Giant is, etcetera.

So I read a blip on Malvern Patch about Immaculata and their acceptance letter tweets and went to check out their twitter page. It says:

Immaculata, PA? HUH?  It might be Malvern, some call it Frazer, but is Immaculata in fact Chester County’s true Vatican? In Chester County do all institutions get their own zip codes? Wow Cabrini College and Eastern University, which are in Radnor and St. David’s PA respectively are going to get jealous and make demands on Delaware County!   Do we think Cabrini, PA and Eastern, PA have nice rings to it?

Immaculata lists their legal mailing address as: Immaculata University | 1145 King Road, Immaculata, PA. 19345

So does that mean that people who live in the residential neighborhoods along King Road adjacent to the school don’t live in Malvern, PA (zip code 19355) they live in Immaculata, PA (zip code 19345)? So does Immaculata have their own post office and police force and fire departments and all the other services that create a city-state, borough, township?  Where is their town hall?  When do they have supervisor meetings?

Is this because Cheyney has their own zip code too?

I find this all VERY confusing.  Hope the schools have paid for this privilege as opposed to taxpayer dollars funding their independent zip code. With the U.S. Postal service in such a shambles is this in fact just a way for them to generate revenue? But again, what about those people near Immaculata, on the same road and in the same area as Immaculata who think they live in Malvern, PA East Whiteland Township?

Are they in fact living in Immaculata, PA?

But hey, maybe if they are handing out zip codes I can apply for one and we can all live in chestercountyramblings, PA?  It might be fun and there would be lots of great recipes and photos of barns!!

Are we to assume vanity zip codes are the new vanity plate?

Happy Friday people!