Martha Mary Curnutt

Martha Mary Curnutt

Tennessee, USA
Death 4 Apr 1887 (aged 74–75)
Missouri, USA
Burial Leasburg, Crawford County, Missouri, USA
Memorial ID 100971113 View Source
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Martha Mary Curnutt was born about 1812 in Tennessee per the 1860, 1870, and 1880 U.S. Census. She was the daughter of John Curnutt. 1850 mo, cole census, she is living with John Curnutt age 62 Va

On 15 August 1839 in Cole County, MO she became the 3rd or 4th wife of Noah Casto who was originally from Pennsylvania. He was an "unnaturally" abusive husband according to court documents. On July 10, 1843, in Barry County, Missouri, Martha murdered Noah Casto, was subsequently convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to be incarcerated in the Missouri State Penitentiary for five years.

Martha and Noah had a son, also named Noah, who was born about 1842. He enlisted in the Union Army during the Civil war and died of smallpox 24 Dec 1863.

In the April 1990 issue of Missouri Historical Review, Gary Kremer wrote the following:

"Martha Casto arrived...August 10, 1843 to serve a five-year sentence from Barry County. Since the prison had no facilities for women, Casto worked outside the walls in the homes of Captain Ezra Richmond and Judge James Brown, the prison lessees. Reportedly, Judge Brown's wife mistreated Casto and she ran away, only to be recaptured and placed in solitary confinement for a short while. Subsequently, she worked again in the lessees' home, but had to return to a prison cell each evening. Shortly thereafter, prison officials discovered that Martha Casto was pregnant, and the following fall she gave birth to a baby which remained in a cell with her.

Not long after the baby's birth, fifty-five persons, including former Governor Lilburn W. Boggs, petitioned Governor John C. Edwards for Casto's release. The pardon petition, dated November 28, 1844, noted that Casto had recently borne a child in the prison, and "that her infant is still well, but that should the said convict be confined in the cells of the prison during the cold winter weather, there is strong probability of its suffering & perhaps freezing with the cold--it not being considered safe to allow fire to be kept in the cells." Governor Edwards pardoned Casto on December 6, 1844."

The daughter born in prison was named Sarah. After Martha was released from prison, she assumed her maiden name, Curnutt. She lived with her daughter, Mary M. Curnutt Nixon, during her later years.

The following account was from the Jefferson City Inquirer, July 20, 1843:

"Horrible. - We are informed by an acquaintance of ours from Springfield, of a horrid transaction which occurred in Barry county one day last week. A man whose name our informant had forgotten, had been in the habit of treating his wife in a manner too brutal and shocking to think of. On the morning of the day mentioned, he told his wife to get up and get breakfast for himself and her two children and then to commence saying her prayers, for she should die, he swore before sunset. She got up and made a fire, and returned to the room where her unnatural husband slept, he was lying on his back in a sound sleep. She took the ax with she had been chopping wood, and with one blow sunken deep into his head, jut through the eyes. She immediately went to the house of a neighbor and related the circumstances as they occurred, given it the reason that she was certain he would kill her that day and concluded that it was his life or hers."

While Martha was in prison, a man wrote a book named "Prison Life and Reflections", by George Thompson one of the prisoners" 1848. There is also a story about Martha while she was there. Since this book is so old it is on Google books and so you can Google the book and read it online. The story starts on page 287.

thank you, Tess 46890960 for this newspaper article

Martha's life was covered in an episode of the TV show "Who Do You Think You Are". The Actress, Cynthia Nixon, was featured in this episode.

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