Mystery Monday – 1898 Brooklyn Murder of Patrick Gilligan


Family legend tells of the story of my great-grandfather, John Mahoney (1860-1916), being connected to a Brooklyn murder mystery. My father and his siblings would talk about their grandfather having to leave Brooklyn when their mother, Mary Mahoney Doran, was three years old, because of this death in which John Mahoney was implicated.  Since we knew that Nana was born in 1895, we had a very good idea when this crime took place. There wasn’t any secrecy about this event in family stories, just that it happened, and that John Mahoney had to flee Brooklyn because of a man’s death. I don’t think there was a sense that my great-grandfather killed a man, but that he got caught up in events. He was one of the three workmen last seen with Patrick Gilligan before his death.

It took a bit of sleuthing to uncover the multiple newspaper articles about the murder. From the articles my sister, Veronica, and I found, it seems the crime was never solved. I’m hoping to dig deeper to find out more facts.

John Mahoney was born in Ireland on June 10, 1860 to John and Bridget Buckley Mahoney. He emigrated to the United States in 1879 or 1880, most likely with his brothers, Michael and Timothy, and also possibly James. In 1892 he married Mary Catherine Carter in Brooklyn. When my sister successively found the church in Brooklyn that our grandmother was baptized, Saint Bridgid’s Church, at 409 Linden Street, we finally made the right connections to find out about this murder mystery.

The Certificate of Baptism for Mary Mahoney, from 1895 showed that her parents, John and Mary Carter Mahony, lived at 1424 Gates Avenue, in Brooklyn. Doing a search in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle historic newspaper archives from 1841 – 1955, using the name John Mahoney and Gates Avenue, resulted in three articles that matched our John Mahoney perfectly. Below is a section from one of the articles [Source:

Patrick Gilligan’s Death

One Man Under Arrest Now”. “The last man seen in Gilligan’s company last Saturday night was John Mahoney, 38 years old, a stone mason’s laborer, who lives at 1424 Gates avenue. Mahoney was one of a number of Gilligan’s employees. Gilligan was employed by David Quinlan of 75 Sutton street as a contractor . . .”   Publication:Brooklyn Eagle; Date:Nov 6, 1898; Section:None; Page Number:4

We now had a date to do more searching, and we found an article published in the New York Times on November 6, 1898:  “Brooklyn Man Murdered. Body of Sub-Contractor Patrick Gilligan Found in Newtown Creek – Three Men Held on Suspicion. Click on the PDF below to read that article.


Next posting I’ll tell more of the tragic story of the Patrick Gilligan murder, that took place in Brooklyn in 1898.

Mystery Monday is a blogging prompt suggested by Geneabloggers.

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