The Deaths at Duffy's Cut: Cholera or Cover-up?
The Watson Twins
Rev. Frank Watson, a Lutheran pastor with a doctorate in historical theology, and Dr. William "Bill" Watson, a medieval historian at Immaculata University in Malvern, had long heard rumors of the unpleasant history of Duffy's Cut. Children found antique bottles and old buttons in the area and whispered that it was haunted; local historians knew it as a sad example of an unhappy intersection of unsophisticated19th century medicine, unchecked capitalism, and ethno-religious strife.
In September 2000, Bill Watson and a colleague, Tom Conner, took part in a bagpipe performance for Lancaster's World War II veterans. That night, each of them traditionally clad in a tunic and kilt, they stopped at Bill's office at Immaculata. From a restroom window, Conner and Bill saw a strange sight on the dark campus's lawn: three ghostly figures. The luminous human apparitions disappeared when the men went outside for a closer look.
The Watson twins' grandfather Joseph F. Tripician had trained as a stonecutter in Sicily. After resettling in the U.S., he found a job at the Pennsylvania Railroad and worked his way up to Director of Personnel. During the 1940s, Tripician was the assistant to Pennsylvania Railroad President Martin Clement. The twins would inherit Clement and Tripician's records when their grandfather died in 2002.
Clement, it seems, had lived during his early days working for the railroad with an Irish family named Donahue. The wife's brother, Patrick Doyle, had installed a memorial fence around the site of the lost workers' camp in 1870. Clement led the railroad's 1909 retrospective investigation into the 1832 Duffy's Cut deathsbut the railroad kept it quiet. Tripician, though, retained the files from the investigation, including information about where the Irishmen's mass grave lay.
In 1909, Clement had been able to convince the Pennsylvania Railroad to put up a stone marker to commemorate the lost workers. The Watson brothers traced the rail line until they found the marker. In 2004, in cooperation with the Chester County Emerald Society, the Duffy's Cut Project arranged an official Pennsylvania State Historical Marker for the Duffy's Cut site, at the intersection of Sugartown Road and King Road in Malvern. And then they started looking for the remains of the menand trying to figure out the true circumstances of their deaths.