Finding Aid Date
MS Doherty JG
Historical Background: Joseph Gerard Doherty was born on September 11, 1904 in Charlestown, MA to Patrick and Sarah (Quigg) Doherty. Both his parents were born in Ireland. He was baptized on September 15, 1904 in St. Mary’s in Charlestown. He had one younger brother, Francis A.J. Doherty, who also was ordained a priest. He graduated from Boston College High School in 1921 and completed one year of studies at Boston College before entering the Society of Jesus at St. Andrew-on-Hudson in Poughkeepsie, NY on August 14, 1922. His novitiate and juniorate were completed at St. Andrew’s from 1922-1926. In 1926, he entered Weston College and completed his philosophy studies there in 1929. His regency was in Jamaica, where he taught mathematics at St. George’s College in Kingston from 1929-1931. Then he returned to Weston College to study Theology from 1931-1935. During that time, he was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Thomas A. Emmet, S.J. on June 20, 1934 at the Chapel of the Holy Spirit of Weston College. His tertianship was at St. Robert’s Hall in Pomfret, CT during 1935-1936. Following tertianship in the fall of 1936, he was sent to St. Edmund’s House, Christ’s College, University of Cambridge, in England, where he was enrolled as a research student working on his Ph.D. in prehistory (anthropology and archaeology). His studies were financed by Boston College with an expectation that he would establish a prehistory department for Boston College once his studies were completed. His research was conducted at excavations at the prehistoric rock shelter of Ksâr ‘Akil, in the Valley of Antelias, a short distance from the town of Antelias on the coastal road, north of Beirut in Lebanon, then part of Syria, from May 1937 until June 1940, although he was away from the site from January to late June of 1938. Fr. Doherty’s main interest was flint tools. On August 23, 1938, he discovered the skeletal remains of a child who had lived about 35,000 years earlier. This skeleton became known as “Egbert.” The skeleton interested Fr. J. Franklin Ewing, S.J., an archaeologist from Fordham University. Fr. Ewing joined Fr. Doherty at Ksâr ‘Akil in 1939. During this time, in the spring of 1939, both Jesuits also worked on excavations of burial jars in Byblos, Lebanon. In 1940, as funds diminished and World War II seriously affected transportation, Fr. Doherty was recalled to the New England Province. “Egbert” had not yet been removed from the ground. The skeleton was protected by encasing it in cement and left in place. Frs. Doherty and Ewing traveled east via India and the Philippines. Fr. Ewing remained in the Philippines and Fr. Doherty continued across the Pacific Ocean to the West Coast of the United States. From 1940 to 1941 he taught prehistory and anthropology at Weston College. The next academic year, 1941-1942, he taught theology at Loyola University in New Orleans. From 1942 to 1952, he taught theology at Boston College. During this time, from July 23 to September 19, 1947, he returned to Ksâr ‘Akil with Fr. Ewing while the skeleton of “Egbert” was excavated. Following that, as well as teaching at Boston College, he served as the spiritual director for alumni from 1948 to 1952. From 1952 to 1961, Fr. Doherty was the Assistant Director of St. Joseph’s Retreat League for Workingmen and resided at St. Mary’s Church in the North End of Boston. In 1961, he was assigned to pastoral work at Holy Trinity Parish in the South End of Boston. From 1961 to 1968 he was assigned to Boston College High School where from 1963-1966 he taught religion. From 1968-1974, he did pastoral work at St. Mary’s in the North End. From 1974 until 1988 he was assigned to Campion Center in Weston, MA. Fr. Doherty died on June 9, 1988 and is buried at Campion Center. He was 83 years old and had been a Jesuit for 65 years.
Scope and Content: The collection contains correspondence, poetry, writings, memorabilia, photographs, postcards and photo albums. There are letters to and from his family, his Jesuit superiors and prehistory researchers. Much of the correspondence is carbon copies of letters Fr. Doherty sent related to his work at Ksâr ‘Akil from 1937-40. One letter written in 1946 summarizes the “highlights” of his life from the time he left Lebanon in June of 1940 until 1946. Another provides a biographical sketch of Fr. Ewing and is accompanied by a vita and notes. The Ksâr ‘Akil Papers consist of items related to the two “campaigns” of excavation in Lebanon during 1937-40 and 1947. Of note are two papers, “Oriental ‘orizons” and “Northern Lights”, formatted as if newsletters, with chronological entries describing his work and the locale in Ksâr ‘Akil during 1937. There are also reports, fundraising material, an “interview” with Fr. Doherty, and some articles about Ksâr ‘Akil authored by others. The Pastoral Work Papers contain retreat outlines and blackboard lecture notes. The blackboard lecture was a format used at St. Joseph’s Retreat League for Men. The Other Papers are papers, writings and memorabilia from Fr. Doherty’s novitiate and juniorate years at St. Andrew-on-Hudson in Poughkeepsie, NY, his philosophy studies at Weston College, Weston, MA, some ephemera from his travels, and a variety of writings. The Poetry series contains his own as well as the work of others. The bulk of the photographs are from the 1938-1940 when Fr. Doherty was participating in archeological excavations in Lebanon while pursuing his doctorate in prehistory (anthropology and archaeology). There are photographs of excavations of burial jars at Byblos, Lebanon, and the discovery of a circa 35,000 year old skeleton, “Egbert” at the Ksâr ‘Akil site in Lebanon. The photo albums with descriptive captions can be used to identify photographs that were loose.
New England Jesuit Province Archives; New England Province of the Society of Jesus; and Doherty, Joseph G. SJ, "Joseph G. Doherty, SJ Papers" (2015). Finding Aids, Special Collections. 18.