Jacob Moode, Daniel Gridley, and Daniel Murray were among the small number of soldiers left garrisoned at Pittsburgh’s Fort Fayette after General Anthony Wayne had moved from there to Legionville in final preparation for what would become the decisive Battle of Fallen Timbers.
On the evening of May 8, 1794, Moode was found in his room beating a drunken Murray. When a sergeant ordered the two men to the guardhouse, Moode refused, saying he would kill Murray if made to go. The sergeant sent only Murray.
Despite their fight and Moode’s threats against Murray, the men continued to bunk together. When Murray returned to their room later that night, Moode and Gridley beat him to death.
Later the following morning, Moode and Gridley left the garrison. Soon after, Murray was found dead in their room. Moode and Gridley were arrested while eating breakfast in a nearby tavern; Moode was in possession of a bloody walking stick.
Jacob Moode was convicted of first-degree murder on June 4, 1794, and sentenced to death. His was the first first-degree murder conviction under the state’s new statute specifying degrees of murder.
Gridley was convicted of second-degree murder on June 7, 1794, and sentenced to five years of hard labor.
Jacob Moode’s death warrant was issued on January 13, 1795, for execution on March 7, 1795. His pardon request, which was heard by Governor Thomas Mifflin on January 30, included a letter from Moode’s former commanding officer, Henry Shrupp, stressing his distinguished Revolutionary War service and his suffering as a soldier. Moode had served in von Heer’s Troop of Light Dragoons, a forerunner of the military police. After a short time in civilian life, he re-enlisted. He lost his vision after he returned to service.
Mifflin, who as governor had sole and unchecked pardon authority at the time, pardoned Moode on February 16, 1795, “[o]n condition of his leaving the state forthwith, not to return.”
Daniel Gridley was pardoned by Governor Mifflin on July 27, 1796.
It would be more than twenty years before another death sentence was imposed in Pittsburgh. In the interim, with Pennsylvania still at the forefront of penal progressivism, several nearly successful attempts were made to abolish the death penalty. Had that occurred, Pennsylvania would have been the first English-speaking jurisdiction to take that step. Instead, Michigan holds that honor, abolishing its death penalty in 1846.
Fought against Native American tribes on August 20, 1794, the Battle of Fallen Timbers forced historically eastern Native American tribes further west by securing American claims to Western Pennsylvania and the Northwest Territory.
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