Officer Patrick Doherty


1859 – 1915

Patrick H. Doherty photograph © 2001 Beau Doherty.

Patrick Doherty was born August 10, 1859 in Wareham, Mass. (vital records), and died June 28, 1915 in Fall River, Mass. His obituary, however, states he was born in Peoria, Illinois. He married Nora E. Coughlin, daughter of Thomas Coughlin and sister of Fall River Mayor John Coughlin, and Margaret Foley. She was born in Fall River, Mass., and died May 28, 1933, of myocarditis, in Fall River, Mass.

His first job was on the Fall River line before being appointed to the police force on Dec. 30, 1885. On August 4, 1892, he was summoned to the Borden household of Fall River where he found the murdered bodies of Andrew J. Borden and his wife Abby Durfee Gray Borden. Soon after, their daughter Lizzie was accused of the crime. Patrick was the nineteenth witness to take the stand at the trial of the century and below is a summation of his testimony:

Page 590

Dr. Bowen met me at the screen door, and he said, “I am glad to see you.” I said, “Doctor, what is the matter?”. . . I went into the sitting room where Mr. Borden was. . . . Dr. Bowen removed the sheet and I looked at the body, and we had some conversation, Dr. Bowen and I. . . .Well, the blood was fresh, in my estimation. I think it was fresh, what I saw. . . . I went up stairs.

Page 591

Went into the front chamber on the north side of the building where Mrs. Borden was lying. . . . Dr. Bowen pointed out the body and I went over, and the body was between the dressing case and the bed, and I wanted to see the head, and there was no room for me to go between the body and the bed or body and dressing-case, and I pulled the bed one side and walked up, and I stooped down and looked at the head, moved one of the hands to look at the head, and she was cut. I told Dr. Bowen that she had been murdered too.

Page 592

I saw [Mrs. Borden’s head] was cut and hacked, and was lying in a pool of blood. . . . [The blood] seemed to be hard, seemed as if it had been there some time. . . . I saw blood spots on the pillow shams and a bunch of hair on the bed, black hair. . . . I think it was about on the middle of the bed, right on the spread. . . . It appeared to be a piece of hair which had been severed, I think. . . . it was half as large as my fist, I should think. . . . I left it right there.

Page 593

I did not observe a sewing machine; it seems that I saw a chair. I think I did. . . . She [Mrs. Borden] was lying face downward, her head to the east, with her hands something like in this position. (Clasping hands above the head.) . . . She was close to the bed. I think her feet projected a little below the foot of the bed. . . . It was [her head], I thought, pretty close [to the wall], probably six or seven inches, it seems to me now. I moved one of the hands to look at the head and I had room to put my hands between hers and the wall. . . . It seemed to be this way [her hand was outstretched]. (Indicating)

Page 595

I said, “Miss Borden, where were you when this was done?” She said, “It must have been done while I was in the barn.” “Was there a Portuguese working for your father over the river?” She said, “No, sir, Mr. Johnson and Mr. Eddy worked for my father.” “Were they here this morning?” “No, sir, Mr. Eddy is sick. They would not hurt my father anyhow.” I asked her if she had heard any noise or outcries, or screams and she said, “No, sir. I heard a peculiar noise.” “What kind of a noise, Miss Borden?” “I think it was something like scraping, scraping noise.”

Page 596

I went up the back stairs to the attic. The work-girl was with us. She showed us her room and a couple of other rooms,—one had a bed in it. We looked round there, and we worked our way down, every room that was opened we looked in, and we got down into the cellar. . . . We went down cellar, we went into two or three dark places, wood or coal rooms or something. We separated. I got over near the sink and I noticed a pail and some towels.

Page 598

I looked round,—after she [Lizzie] concluded to open the door I went just beyond the threshold and looked round and out again. . . . I went to the door, went to open it. I opened it two or three inches and she said “One minute”, and shut the door on me, and it was a minute, I should think, before she opened the door for me, fully a minute.

Page 599

Just glanced around, that’s all. . . . I thought she had a light blue dress with a bosom in the waist, or something like a bosom. I have a faint recollection; that is all I can say about it. I thought she had a light blue dress with a bosom in the waist or something like a bosom, and that is about all the description I can give. . . . I thought there was a small figure on the dress, a little spot like.

Page 600

Friday morning Lieut. Edson and myself went in the kitchen. Miss Borden came out from the sitting room, and she said “Maggie, are you sure the cellar door was fastened?” and Maggie made a reply “Yes, marm.”

In 1893, Mayor Dr. John Coughlin reorganized the Fall River Police force and Patrick became a Captain. He became immensely popular in Fall River as a Captain because he was the only officer assigned at one time or another to all four stations.
During his tenure he served on the Executive Committee of the Massachusetts Police Association. One description related to his popularity claims he was “Humane on spirit and action, calm and cool in judgment, courteous in his bearing and dealings with the humblest as well as with the most influential, he exercised discretion and judgment in the performance of his duty, which won him the respect and admiration of all he came in contact. Reading human nature with rare skill, he applied his fund of common sense with extraordinary results, particularly in the solution of domestic difficulties”.

It was said that many couples owed their happiness to Captain Patrick H. Doherty, who helped them out of their troubles, and kept them out of court

Patrick died on June 28, 1915 of chronic chithetital nephritis(vital records, Fall River). His funeral was large, with over 70 carriages. Representatives from the Elks and the Knights of Columbus, along with members of Police stations from as far away as North Adams, Mass. attended.

Patrick H. Doherty photograph © 2001 Beau Doherty.

The Children of Patrick H.

and Nora Doherty:

John W., worked in the Public Building Department (obituary). b. 1877; d. Feb. 2, 1948, Fall River, married Kathryn O’Reilly.

Marguerite Doherty Warren wife of Dr. Thomas F. Warren

Helene C., worked as a clerk in the children’s dept. at McWhirr’s (famous Fall River department store); b. 1894, Fall River; died of multiple burns on Oct. 15, 1948 (vital records, Fall River)

Grace, b. 1900, Fall River; died of a cerebral hemorrhage June 3, 1964

Robert L., b. 1898, Fall River; died of epilepsy in his 18th year March 30, 1916

Frank P. (husband of Kathleen Kiley), b. 1902, Fall River; died on March 27, 1969 of coronary occlusion (vital records, Fall River)

Charles T., b. 1910, Fall River; died in Taunton State Hospital March 30,1956 of congestive heart failure (vital records, Fall River).

NOTE: The photograph and biographical information of Patrick Doherty was graciously provided by Beau Doherty, whose great granduncle was none other than Patrick H. Doherty.