Uncovering the Dark History and Tangled Connections of Laurel Hill and Duffy’s Cut

The History of Duffy’s Cut

In the early 1830s, the Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad began construction of a rail line that would connect Philadelphia to the Susquehanna River. To help with the construction, the railroad hired a group of Irish immigrants who had recently arrived in the United States. These workers came from rural areas of Ireland and were largely unskilled laborers.

The workers were housed in a makeshift camp near the railroad, known as Duffy’s Cut. The camp was named after Philip Duffy, one of the contractors who hired the workers. But living conditions at Duffy’s Cut were harsh, with poor sanitation, inadequate food and water, and overcrowding. Within weeks of their arrival, many of the workers had fallen ill with cholera and other diseases.

The Massacre at Duffy’s Cut

In August 1832, a wave of cholera swept through the camp at Duffy’s Cut, killing many of the workers. In response, the railroad company hired a group of local vigilantes to “quarantine” the camp and prevent the spread of the disease. However, it soon became apparent that the vigilantes had other motives.

On August 20, 1832, a group of vigilantes descended on the camp at Duffy’s Cut and massacred the remaining workers. The exact number of victims is unknown, but estimates range from 57 to 69. The vigilantes buried the bodies in a mass grave, hoping to cover up the atrocity.

Uncovering the Truth

For many years, the massacre at Duffy’s Cut remained a forgotten chapter in Pennsylvania history. In the 21st century, however, a group of researchers and archaeologists began to investigate the site and uncover the truth about what happened there.

The investigation has been slow and painstaking, as researchers have had to dig through layers of soil and debris to uncover the remains of the victims. In addition to the physical evidence, researchers have also relied on historical records and eyewitness accounts to piece together the story of what happened at Duffy’s Cut.

The tangled web of Laurel Hill

As researchers continue to investigate the massacre at Duffy’s Cut, they have also uncovered a web of connections between the site and another location in Pennsylvania: Laurel Hill Cemetery. Many of the vigilantes involved in the Duffy’s Cut massacre were buried in Laurel Hill Cemetery, located just a few miles away.

Today, Laurel Hill Cemetery is a popular tourist attraction known for its beautiful architecture and tranquil setting. However, the cemetery’s connection to the massacre at Duffy’s Cut serves as a reminder of the darker aspects of Pennsylvania’s history.


The history of Duffy’s Cut and Laurel Hill is complex and convoluted, filled with tragedy, violence, and cover-ups. As the investigation into the Duffy’s Cut massacre continues, it serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of uncovering the truth about our collective past. By acknowledging and exploring the darker chapters of our history, we can gain a deeper understanding of who we are and how we got here.

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