A story from this week has stuck with me, not a big one - after all, it involves immigrant laborers who arrived almost 180 years ago - but perhaps because it still resonates today. It was announced that the excavation of a mass grave along a Pennsylvania railroad in a spot known as Duffy's Cut will be unable to continue after Amtrak, which owns the land, forbade more digging.
The dig wasn't being conducted for archaeological purposes, but to solve a potential murder mystery. Fifty-seven Irish immigrants died there in 1832 while working on the railroad. The cause, ostensibly, was cholera. But the few skeletal remains unearthed by historian brothers Frank and Bill Watson, who led the dig, pointed to something uglier. With the digging stopped, what really happened there may never be known, but the Watsons suspect anti-immigrant vigilantes.
The news reports this week were relatively brief, but a lengthier feature earlier this year in the Wall Street Journal described what the historians found: