Census 1860 : State Prison : Details of the Women’s Cases

I was able to find mentions in The Hartford Courant (which is available online) of five of the twelve female inmates. Most of these were brief and sometimes tantalizing mentions.

I was interested to notice that Jane M. Brown, the woman imprisoned in 1859 for adultery, was described by the paper on July 20, 1859 as being a colored woman from New Britain, who pleaded not guilty. Her U.S. census entry when she was in prison in 1860, in contrast, said she was white (it also gives her age, 41). The newspaper’s next item on the case, on July 23, reported that “[t]he jury could not agree in the case of Peter Thompson, charged with adultery with Jane M. Brown, and the case was continued to the next term.” This is, however, the last mention of the case that I could find. But: Peter Thompson was not in prison in 1860, while Jane was.

Of Hellen Hays, a 22-year-old white woman in the 1860 Census, the newspaper reported that one Ellen Hayes was arrested in Bridgeport for passing counterfeit money, and sentenced to two years in the state prison (April 4 and 15, 1859).

The case I really want to find out more about, after the tidbits I did find, was that of Nancy M. Pinto. Imprisoned in 1858 for manslaughter, she was aged 31, and a black native of Connecticut. According to the Courant issue of September 30, 1858,

Tuesday morning John Pinto and Nancy Mary Pinto were brought before the Police Court of New London, charged with the murder of Manuel Antone, on Friday morning last. After hearing considerable testimony, Nancy Mary Pinto was bound over to take her trial at the next term of the Superior Court. John Pinto was discharged.

On November 22, the paper reported that Nancy was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 8 years in the state prison. Antone was a Portuguese sailor, according to the short paragraph, and the crime occurred “at a dance-house in New London.” I wanted more lurid details, but I haven’t been able to find any New London papers for the right year online, and apparently the Courant didn’t think it interesting enough to report more. (On June 30, 1864, though, the paper reported that her petition to the legislature for release from state prison, which would have been two years early, was denied.)

Then there is the sad case of Rebecca Smith, imprisoned in 1859 for manslaughter; she was a white woman aged 25. According to the newspaper, she was the wife of Joseph E. Smith and was charged with infanticide in Darien (and jailed in Bridgeport); she pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to five years (October 23, 1858 and February 12, 1859).

I was surprised to find nothing about the woman imprisoned for abandoning a child, and nothing about the two imprisoned for second-degree murder. The rest were all theft cases – most of them wouldn’t be very interesting even if they were in the paper, I expect.

But then there’s Abby Jane Wade. Stay tuned for more about her next week!

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