William Cato

#362, b. 23 July 1797, d. 3 April 1843

Individual's Timeline

Christening23 July 1797William Cato1
Marriage26 September 1822William Cato2
Death of Mother30 November 1839Hannah Cato
Death3 April 1843William Cato3

Primary events

Secondary circumstances

  • Occupation: William was listed as a servant on his 1st son's christening record in 1823. In 1829 he was a locksmith, and in 1843 he was a Storekeeper/Market Gardener.
  • Immigration: In 14 May 1830William Cato emigrated from England This family arrived 14 May 1830 WA travelling steerage with 5 children on the "Rockingham". William and his wife left Swan River 17 Jan 1831 on "Eagle", arriving Hobart on 31 Jan 1831 - number of children uncertain but probably four. William was in Hobart 3 March 1831 (letter re Overseer's position) and letter 31 March 1831 from Josiah Spode recommending William's appointment mentions "lately arrived from Swan River". The reference to “A brother and sister already in Tasmania” is to his sister Elizabeth and brother-in-law Daniel Denny. On 16 April 1831 William and Elizabeth were appointed Overseer and Sub Matron of Cascades Female Factory and on 26 May 1835 Elizabeth was appointed Midwife in Medical Dept. They held these postions until they were dismissed in March 1841 over a bribe of a chicken and finally left 13 June 1841 .They then went to live at Bridge Road Richmond in a building owned by T Burgess ? Elizabeth's father. Ad in Hobart "Town Courier" 11 Nov 1842 says William was a carrier.

Census details

  • William Cato and Elizabeth Burgess were named in the census taken in Australia in 1841 (TNA copy).. The address was listed as Bridge Street, Richmond, Tasmania, Australia. In an unfinished house owned by BURGESS, most likely a relative of Elizabeth's. Married couple and 2 children one male aged under 7 and one female between 7 and 14. All were born overseas, and the family business was a shop.
Some aspects of William Cato's life. Overseers of the Female House of Correction.4

Some aspects of William Cato's life. William & Elizabeth CATO - Thier time running the Cascades Female Factory (Information on William & Elizabeth Cato supplied courtesy of John Kumm, a great great great grandson.)

William Cato arrived in Hobart Town in March 1831. His wife and surviving children had preceded him by some three months. He immediately applied to Jeremiah Spode, the civil servant in charge of the dispersal of convicts, for the position for himself of Overseer and for his wife Elizabeth as Deputy Matron at the Female House of Correction, Hobart.

The appointments were made on 16 April 1831. In May 1835, Elizabeth was also appointed as mid-wife for the Cascades Female Factory.

During his time as overseer, William outlined the nature of duties, which provides an interesting insight into life at the time in the Cascades Female Factory:

5 am Ring bell

5:30 am Tubs out of wards

6 am Muster. Wool weighed out, yarn weighed in

7:30 am Rations weighed out for breakfast

8 am Breakfast served

8:30 am Prayers, after which women go to work. Women in cells attended to, women at work supervised

10:30 am Rations for dinner weighed

12 noon Dinner served

1 pm Women to work – attendance on them, arrival of rations. Rations weighed out for supper and supper attended to. Tubs, wool, etc. occupy the whole of the afternoon, and muster in the evening.

Many of the women coming to Cascades Female Factory were pregnant on arrival, and it was Elizabeth’s duty to deliver and care for their babies and supervise their children. The only playing-space available to the children was a wet flagged yard, sunless for four months of the year, and the children’s wards were overcrowded.

Governor Franklin on his arrival in Tasmania seemed to look less favourably on the administration of the Female Factory than had Governor Arthur, and an enquiry into conditions in March 1838 reported unfavourably.

In April 1841, the Catos were suddenly dismissed from their positions on the grounds that they had accepted parcels brought in from outside by prisoners. The 'parcel' named was a fowl that was discovered 'plucked and trussed' in Elizabeth’s kitchen.

Source: Porter, UB (Ed.), Growing Together, Queensberry Hill Press, 1981.
Brushes with the LAW

***** Police Office March 19th 1841
Sir, A few days hence a letter from a Female Convict now confined in the Female House of Correction at Hobart Town having fallen into my hands in which the requests certain articles to her tent undercover to Mrs Cato for her ... accomanied by a fowl for the ... of Mrs Cato ! directed Mrs Swift to forward the parcel under cover to Mrs Cato for the Prisoner and likewise to send a fowl / as detired in the letter fit herself a note was written to Mrs Cato requesting her acceptance of the fowl and that she should had over the contents of the parcel to Gwen Watkins the Prisioner.
On Wednesday last I proceeded to the House of Correction and after searching the Ward in which the prisoner was confined I asked Mr Cato if he had recieved any parcel for the Female alluded to he replied he had and this it was then in the same state as when received by him.
I proceeded to Mrs Cato's rooms and then was given the parcel by Mrs Cato it had been opened and a letter addressed to Watkins I found had been removed, Mrs Cato told me and likewise Mr Cato the contents of the letter was in horible and indecent that the had thought fit to burn it, I must here remark that not an indecent allution was introduced into that letter, I then questioned Mrs Cato as to whether there was anything else but what she had handed to me she replied 'yes a fowl but 'Cato and I though that is was a pity it should stink and so I had it plucked' I found the fowl ready to be placed at the fire it was trutsed as well as plucked. I subsequently told Mrs Cato that I was aware if the contents of the letter and she them modified greatly her terms of the indelicate langu contaned
Under the circumstances I must say that I think Mrs Cato's conduct requires investigation, it becomes no longer an enigma now to me that Females almost prefer the Factory to asigned service as it is my belief that anything may be introduced into the Female House of Corection so long as Mr Cato remains in his present situation.
I have the honour to be sir your obidient servant
John Price
The principal superintendant

Bottom of letter Mr Hutchinson will be so good as call upon Mr & Mrs Cato for their explanations of the circumstance March 24th 1841

Female Houce of Correction 1st April 1841
Agreeable to your desire I have called upon Mr and Mrs Cato for an explanation of the circumstance stated in the letter of the Police Magistrate to you, and beg to imform you that Woman (Watkins) never received any authority from them to make use of Mrs Cato's name Your very obedient Servent
John Hu

[William Cato1.FTW].

Brushes with the LAW

***** A report appeard in the Hobart Town Gazette - A SUCH SPECIMEN OF PENAL DISCIPLINE. THE FEMALE FACTORY.

A very awkward discovery has been made of " the doings" at this receptacle for vice. A married woman who was in confinement for gross misconduct, wrote a ltter to her para- mour, requesting money, and other articles, prohibited by the gaol regulations, and desiring him to address the things under cover to Mrs Cato, and to be certain he sent a fowl for Mrs. C, as that lady was in delicate health, and would then be suro to let her have th:e other things; this letter having fallen into the hands of Mr. Price, he speedily took steps to ascertain how matters were going on, and the result fullv proved the system of bribery and extortion which had been carried on in the factory. The matter we hear is now before His Excellency the Lieutenant Governor, and we think if Mr. Price would cause further enquiry, he would leam that bribery and extortion are engines used even by the lowest turnkey in the Factory. He would find that the price of changing a pound note is 5s; the price of a pipe of to bacco, 2s; tho price of a tea-spoon-full of tea, and the same quantity of sugar, 2s; and the charge for a light for a pipe, 6p; and other luxuries at an equally moderate rate; at all events luxuries of all sorts are to be obtained in the Factory, if the funds are forthcoming. The woman did not share the fowl with Mrs.

C, as Mr. Price arrived just as it was being put down to the fire, and spoiled the cookery. According to the Factory scale, a two-penny lucifer box is worth 50s; a lb. of tea, about £12 to .£10 ; whilst a bag of sugar would almost pay a passage to England.-Corres- pondent of the H. T. Adverti.

Research Notes

  • Research note 01: The Methodist Church may have records that would throw some light on Elizabeth's parentage?.

Children of William Cato and Elizabeth Burgess


  1. International Genealogical Index (IGI), P003601 1562-1812 0845460 Film 6905873 Film.
  2. Website Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com) "Original Doc accessed."
  3. Digger - Tas BMD Digger databases on CD, Surname: CATO
    Given Names: WILLIAM
    Event: Death
    Father/Spouse Surname:
    Mother/Spouse Given Names:
    Day: 03
    Month: 4
    Year: 1843
    Age: 46
    Sex: M
    Spouse Age:
    Spouse Sex:
    Registration Place: HOBART
    Registration Number: 1507/1843
    Reference: RGD 35.
  4. Conclusion of, Tasmanian Field Trip, April 2000.
  5. International Genealogical Index (IGI), c025782.