Rosemont College is pleased to host a special lecture with Dr. William Watson the evening of Wednesday, March 14. Watson, who is chairman of the history department at Immaculata University, has helped lead archaeological and archival efforts for the Duffy’s Cut Project in Malvern since 2002.
In the summer of 1832, Philip Duffy hired 57 Irish immigrants to lay railroad tracks extending 30 miles west from Philadelphia. This stretch would later become part of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s Main Line. Within six weeks, though, all the laborers had died and were buried in a mass grave outside Malvern. It was believed their deaths were caused by the second cholera pandemic, which spread throughout the world from 1829-1849. However, in 2002, Watson and his brother, the Rev. Frank Watson, discovered a file left to them by their grandfather, who had served as a secretary to a president of the Pennsylvania Railroad.
Some research and a visit to the burial site near Sugartown and King Roads led the brothers to suspect that some of the laborers’ deaths may have been caused by violence, not illness. They established the Duffy’s Cut Project to investigate further, and learn more about industry, immigration, and disease in 19th century Pennsylvania. Their findings have received widespread recognition, including from Smithsonian Magazine, CBS News, and The Wall Street Journal.
Dr. Watson will detail these efforts, as well as recent project news, for the Rosemont community in his March 14 lecture. This free event, sponsored by The Bolger Fund for the Promotion of the Study of the History and Culture of Ireland, is also open to members of the public. It will take place at 7:00 p.m. in McShain Performing Arts Center.