Evidence Found Should Have Exonerated Moses McDonald!

Kathy Uriguen, a descendant of William McDonald, was upset after reading on this web site of the 1812 execution of our ancestor Moses McDonald.

She felt compelled to research it further.  She Googled Moses McDonald and found two additional accounts of the execution that are now included at the bottom of this page. It is the nature of the Internet that the more often a topic is searched, the more articles become available. So keep searching! These articles include additional, very significant details as well as substantiating what we already knew.   We knew:

  1. On Sunday, the 15th of December 1811 grocer James Jelly reported his market had been forcefully entered very early that morning and large quantities of food removed.
  2. Three men were indicted for housebreaking theft, Moses McDonald, John Gray, and Alexander Gibson.  Moses plead not guilty, John plead guilty to a lesser offence, and Alexander fled.
  3. There were three witnesses who testified for the prosecution at Moses McDonald’s trial, James Jelly, his wife, Cathrine Clerk Jelly and John Gray.
  4.  Moses McDonald signed a statement that he was not aware of the break in to Jelly’s store, but he did help Gibson move a large amount of food items into a warehouse and was“paid”by receiving food items he thought were being sold on the “black market”.
  5.  Based upon their testimony the jury found Moses guilty of theft by housebreaking“by a plurality”(not unanimous as required by USA law) and sentenced to hang (capital punishment for theft was common in 1812 Scotland). Co-Defendant John Gray was “transported” or deported from Scotland to a British colony and Alexander Gibson fled and remained a wanted outlaw.
  6.  We knew Moses’ sister was at the execution and rushed to help Moses when the rope broke.  She stayed with him in the church as they waited a half hour until another rope was obtained.

A Descendant of Moses McDonald Found Evidence That He Was NOT GUILTY!

It was difficult for all of us to accept the account of the horrible execution of our ancestor, but Kathy Uriguen did something about it that will continue to benefit all descendants of Moses McDonald.  The additional articles that she found mentioned several significant details previously unknown.  Most significant was that on the 9th of September 1812, just 4 months after Moses had been executed for the crime James Jelly had reported, James Jelly and his wife were arrested for fraudulently reporting theft from their store!  Many of the items reported stolen had been recovered hidden in a warehouse.  Evidence was also found that many of the items reported stolen had been sold by James Jelly on the black market (just as stated by Moses McDonald).  The profits were used to purchase considerable prime property in Greenock in his wife’s name.  James Jelly had been a respected landowner in Greenock until the discovery of his fraud.  A public trial would have cast a shadow upon the Glasgow judicial system and upon the community of Greenock.  So James Jelly agreed to forfeit his property and was “transported” (exiled) from Scotland to a British colony.

These documents also indicate a reward was posted for information leading to the arrest of those who committed the theft.  Moses’ wife testified in his defense and Moses provided signed testimony in which he admitted helping move merchandise to a warehouse on a Sunday afternoon and was paid in food items which were found in his possession due to an “anonymous tip”.  The additional information that James Jelly and his wife were found in possession of  items they reported stolen and that they had sold other merchandise reported stolen is direct evidence James Jelly and his wife gave perjured (false)statements that led directly to the conviction and execution of Moses McDonald.

Moses was tried in Glasgow and the sentence specifically ordered to be carried out in Greenock.  The magistrates of Greenock petitioned against having the execution of Moses McDonald there in 1812 and stated their firm conviction that “every beneficial consequence to that community which could be contemplated as the result of a public execution…will be equally, nay preferably, prompted by a commutation of his punishment from death to transportation”. The articles also state that Greenock had never had a public execution by hanging and several companies of soldiers were sent to preserve peace in Greenock during the execution.

We learn from these additional sources that Moses’ father, brother, and sister were with him in the procession from the Tollbooth (jail) to the Midkirk (Middle Church) where the execution occurred.  We don’t know if they traveled from Ireland to be with Moses or if they also lived in Greenock.  We do know they were there for Moses’ widow and orphans after the execution.

We learn from a pamphlet written by a minister who visited Moses McDonald in his cell that his wife, Mary Glass McDonald and three children were there with Moses.  Since James was the oldest and the youngest was a baby it is most likely James was one of those that visited his father.  So he did know his whole life that his father had been executed for theft as a public example.  None of James children mentioned that he ever spoke of it.  It is difficult to comprehend the burden this was to James.  But when he met his father, in the next life, James finally learned the truth.  His father had been falsely accused and executed for a crime he did not commit.  Moses’ experience in this life can be viewed as tragic, but also viewed as fulfilling a Divine purpose.   James grew up with the knowledge his father had been executed.  But what he did with that knowledge; what he made of himself, his family, and what he gave to his posterity are Eternal lives.  James McDonald recognized the Fullness of the Gospel, embraced it, and learned he was able to share those blessings with his father.  It is recorded on earth, and in heaven, that James was baptized in his father’s behalf on July 28th 1844  in the Nauvoo Temple.  James’ son John McDonald completed the temple ordinances for Moses and Mary Glass McDonald in the Manti Temple December 13th, 1888.

In the Spirit of all God’s children having access to saving ordinances the temple ordinance work was completed for James Jelly b. 1771 in the Idaho Falls, Idaho Temple in 1982 and Los Angeles California Temple in 1993.  Temple Ordinances for his wife Cathrine Clerk b. 1787 were completed in the Ogden Temple in 1996,their sons William and John completed in the Houston Texas Temple in 2012, and their oldest son James completed in the Nauvoo, Illinois Temple2 in 2016 completing the temple ordinances for the Jelly family of Greenock.