Frederick John Cato

#450, b. 15 May 1858, d. 4 June 1935

Individual's Timeline

Birth15 May 1858Frederick John Cato1
Marriage12 December 1884Frederick John Cato2
Death of Mother1901Catherine Nimmo3
Death of Father1902Edward James Thomas Cato4
Marriage of Daughter1912Frances Gertrude Cato5,6
Marriage of Daughter1917Dora Bethune Cato7
Marriage of Son20 April 1920Edward Alexander Cato8
Marriage of Son1921Edwin Thomas Cato
Death4 June 1935Frederick John Cato

Primary events

Secondary circumstances

  • Occupation: Frederick was a school teacher first in Stawell then in New Zealand, later a merchant.10
  • Residence: In 1878 Frederick John lived in Invercargill, Southland, Otago, New Zealand.
  • Residence: In 1919 Frederick John lived in 'Kawaru' Tooronga Road, Auburn, Victoria, Australia. A short distance northwards in Tooronga road Frederick Cato of Moran and Cato, chain grocers, once occupied the twenty-roomed "Kawarau." It was acquired in 1979 by Stephanie Alexander and made into one of Melbourne's premier restaurants. Behind Kawarau is Bialik College, established by the Jewish Community.

His life was recorded thus ~~ CATO, FREDERICK JOHN (1858-1935), grocer and philanthropist, was born on 15 May 1858 in a tent at Pleasant Creek (Stawell), Victoria, third son of Edward Cato, goldminer and formerly builder, of Surrey, England, and his wife Catherine, née Nimmo, of Glasgow, Scotland. Cato was educated at Stawell State School to the age of 13 and worked in a grocery shop while studying to become a pupil-teacher. He taught at his old school until 1878 before moving to New Zealand where he was eventually in charge of a school at Invercargill. Worried about his health and tired of teaching, in May 1881 he wrote to his cousin Thomas Edwin Moran, who had established two grocery shops in Fitzroy and Carlton, asking him if there were any chance of joining in the business. On 24 July they entered partnership with £411 capital: Moran was to have two-thirds of the shares. In 1884 Cato returned to Invercargill to marry on 12 December Fanny Bethune, daughter of a minister.

The partners prospered. When Moran died in 1890, aged 30, his widow became partner in the business which by then had thirty-five branches. Cato was among the first, in 1893, to introduce six o'clock closing. The business expanded into Tasmania and into New South Wales, where Moran & Cato Ltd was formed in Sydney in 1909. In 1912 it was converted to a proprietary company with the Moran family and Cato as share-holders; Cato became governing director. In 1924 he set up wholesale companies in Melbourne and Sydney. By 1935 there were about 120 branches of Moran & Cato in Victoria and Tasmania and about 40 in New South Wales, with nearly one thousand employees.

Cato had been a founder in 1895 of the Rosella Preserving Co. and became its chairman of directors. He was also a founder in 1911 and chairman of Austral Grain & Produce Pty Ltd, and chairman of Hagita Pty Ltd, coconut-planters of Papua.

An ardent Methodist, Cato fought staunchly for union within the denomination. He was founder in 1913 and long president of the Laymen's Missionary Movement, a pillar of the Auburn Church, president of Queen's College, University of Melbourne, and a member of the Wesley College Council. He donated many scholarships to Church schools and gave extensive properties to the Methodist Ladies' College of which he was a trustee from 1927. He supported the Methodist Boys' Home and Training Farm, Cheltenham, was active in home-mission affairs, and was a generous donor to Methodist missions in Arnhem Land, New Britain and India, which he visited in 1926. He also made generous donations to metropolitan churches of several denominations and to Stawell hospital; parks are named after him there and in Hawthorn. His Methodist endowments probably amounted to some £150,000 and his total gifts to twice that sum, but he 'never gave or helped anyone blindly … He liked to know all about the circumstances and position of those people and causes whom he helped'. A. Wesley Amos commented that 'with the gift came the charm and personality of the giver'.

Cato had long suffered from chronic bronchitis. He died at Hawthorn on 4 June 1935 and was buried in Melbourne general cemetery. His estate was valued for probate in Victoria at £591,176 and in New South Wales at £20,795. He was survived by two of his four sons of whom Edward went into the business and Edwin became a doctor, and by three of his four daughters. The eldest, Frances Gertrude, married Dr Karl Kumm, founder of the Soudan United Mission. Dr Una Beatrice (Porter), his youngest daughter, started the psychiatric clinic at the Queen Victoria hospital and became world-president of the Young Women's Christian Association. The Y.W.C.A. building in Canberra is named after her.
Select Bibliography

C. I. Benson (ed), A Century of Victorian Methodism (Melb, 1935); C. E. Sayers, Shepherd's Gold (Melb, 1966); L. R. East, The Kiel Family and Related Scottish Pioneers (Nunawading, 1974); Argus (Melbourne), 5 June 1935; Age (Melbourne), 5 June 1935; Moran & Cato papers (State Library of Victoria); private information. More on the resources

Print Publication Details: 'Cato, Frederick John (1858 - 1935)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, Melbourne University Press, 1979, pp 590-591.

Other books that refer to Fred and his business and family are: The Victorians ~ Arriving, Page(s): 102; A History of Hawthorn ~ Page(s): 80, 93, 112; The Golden Years of Stawell ~ Page(s): 49; If God Prospers me - A Portrait of Frederick John Cato (by Ann BLAINEY).11

Voter Enrolements

Children of Frederick John Cato and Frances (Fanny) Bethune


  1. Digger - Vic BMD Digger databases on CD, Surname: CATO
    Given Names: Frederick John
    Event: B
    Spouse Surname/Father: Edward
    Spouse Gvn Names/Mother: Catherine NIMMO
    Birth Place: PLEASANT C
    Death Place:
    Year: 1858
    Reg Number: 13559.
  2. International Genealogical Index (IGI), 0970220 - 1553855 Film NONE
    Sheet: 21.
  3. Digger - Vic BMD Digger databases on CD, 1901/818.
  4. Digger - Vic BMD Digger databases on CD, Surname: CATO
    Given Names: Edwd
    Event: D
    Spouse Surname/Father: Cato Wm
    Spouse Gvn Names/Mother: Elizth BURGESS
    Age: 74
    Age Code:
    Birth Place:
    Death Place: Brswk
    Year: 1902
    Reg. Number: 4599.
  5. Digger - Vic BMD Digger databases on CD, Surname: CATO
    Given Names: Frances Gerte
    Event: M
    Spouse Surname/Father: KUMM
    Spouse Gvn Names/Mother: Herman Karl Wm
    Age Code:
    Birth Place: MELB
    Death Place:
    Year: 1912
    Reg. Number: 946.
  6. Find my past web sites, online or, First name(s)      Frances Gerte
    Last name      Cato
    Sex      Female
    Marriage year      1912
    Spouse's first name(s)      Herman Karl William
    Spouse's last name      Kumm
    State      Victoria
    Country      Australia
    Registration number      946
    Record set      Victoria Marriages 1836-1942
    Category      Life Events (BDMs)
    Subcategory      Marriages & divorces
    Collections from      Australia & New Zealand.
  7. Victorian BDM on line, online, Surname: CATO
    Given Names: Dora Bethune
    Event: M
    Spouse Surname/Father: STEPHENS
    Spouse Gvn Names/Mother: Lytton Vernon
    Age Code:
    Birth Place:
    Death Place:
    Year: 1917
    Reg. Number: 4426.
  8. Victorian BDM on line, online, Surname: CATO
    Given Names: Edw Alexr
    Event: M
    Spouse Surname/Father: FELL
    Spouse Gvn Names/Mother: Maria Ctina
    Age Code:
    Birth Place:
    Death Place:
    Year: 1920
    Reg. Number: 4444.
  9. Unknown author, MGC.
  10. Australian Voter Rolls 1901 - 1936, online
  11. Unknown agency, British Biographical Archive, Australasian Biographical Archive Fiche: 49,244 / S 32,102-110

    Name: Cato, Frederick John
    Dates: 1858-
    mentioned: 1935
    Occupations: businessman
    Groups: Salespersons, Traders
    Country: Australia
    Archive: Australasian Biographical Archive
    Fiche: 49,244 / S 32,102-110

    Title of Source: Knox: Who's who [= Short title]
    Who's who in Australia / Knox, Errol G.. - 9th ed. -
    Melbourne. - 1935

    Title of Source: Cyclopedia of Victoria [= Short title]
    The cyclopedia of Victoria : An historical and commercial
    review, descriptive and biographical facts, figures and
    illustrations. An epitome of progress. - Melbourne. - 1903-
    05 (3 vols)

    Title of Source: Henderson: 500 Victorians [= Short title]
    500 Victorians / Henderson, Alexander. - Centenary ed. -
    Melbourne. - 1934

    Name: Cato, Frederick John
    Dates: 1858-
    Occupations: company director; layman
    Groups: Priests, Preachers, Ministers, Rabbis, Crafts and Industry:
    Archive: British Biographical Archive
    Fiche: I 210,22

    Title of Source: Methodists [= Short title]
    The Methodist who's who. - London. - 1915.