Name Variations Alias WILSON
Father William WINTER b. m. (1) 18471 d. 1867
Step-father James WILSON b. m. (2) 1869 d. aft. 1875
Mother Caroline Elizabeth SPICER b. 18262 m. (1) 1847 (2) 18693 d. 18754
Sister Annie Marie WINTER b. 18495 m. (1) 18666 (2) 18797 (1) Charles F. RUDBECK (2) George J. SHERGOLD d. 19168
Inmate Louisa WINTER b. 18529 m. none (see below) d. 189010
Sister Sarah WINTER b.185511 m. 188312 William DENHAM d. 191413
Brother George WINTER b. 185914 m. none - d. 186315
Husband L. C. FREEMAN16 b. m. d.
Child unidentified17 b. 188118 m. none - d. 1881
Daughter Florence May19 WILSON b. 188320 m. 190621 Francis James MARA d. 197322
Relationship Name Age Height Hair Eyes Complexion Build Distinguishing features
Father William23 32 5' 6" brown brown
Mother Caroline24 30 5' 1½"
Inmate Louisa WILSON25 35 5' 8" or 9" dark curly shabbily dressed

Louisa's past before her admission to the Newcastle Reformatory was sad. On 7 January 1869, about a year before she arrived in Newcastle, she was admitted for a second time to the Randwick Asylum and was recorded there as a protestant.26 Details recorded at the time of her admissions to Randwick were unclear. Louisa and her sister, Sarah, appeared in the Randwick Asylum register on page 234. No admission date was shown but two comments – 'omitted being entered when admitted 9 November 1859' and 'sisters to Geo. Winter who was subsequently received' – were recorded beside their names. George's admission occurred on 4 August 1863. These records suggested that the sisters had been in the asylum for four years, had never been discharged and it was only the subsequent admission of George that caused their presence to be documented but this is uncertain. It is thought that an earlier discharge would have resulted in an earlier rectification of the asylum's error. Some other as yet unlocated record must exist, as the authorities appeared confident with the admission date of 1859. The Randwick records for the three siblings indicated that they had been left at the asylum by their mother, Caroline, who was described as a 'worthless character' in the register. Caroline and her children had been abandoned by their father and the 1863 admission of George indicated that their father had 'gone to sea.'27

The admissions of Louisa and Sarah to Randwick occurred approximately three months after the birth of George in the Sydney Benevolent Asylum. Caroline, at the age of 34 was admitted on 26 July 1859, almost certainly to deliver George, who was likely the unidentified person with the surname Winter recorded the following day.28 The actual admission records of the Benevolent Asylum would almost certainly provide more details but they have not been viewed. One online tree has indicated that George's birth occurred on 25 July 1859 but transcription or administrative errors probably would account for this two day difference.29 George died at Randwick of dysentery on 10 October 1863 but both girls were apprenticed from the asylum. Sarah was sent to the Clarence River on the NSW north coast. Louisa was apprenticed to Mrs STENHOUSE on 30 December 1868. About a week later, on 7 January 1869, she was readmitted to Randwick and remained there until she was apprenticed for a second time at the age of thirteen, to Mr P. H. SHEAFFE, of Milton, on 6 August 1869. This was almost certainly a reference to Percy SHEAFFE who lived at Yatteyattah near Ulladulla on the south coast.

No correspondence exists in the CSIL index before 1872 for Louisa but she was fifteen when she was admitted to the Newcastle Reformatory. She had been tried on 4 April 1871, at Ulladulla Police Court and was likely to have arrived in Newcastle shortly after this date. No court or arrest report has yet been found in Trove or the Police Gazette for this court appearance. The letter The Return of Girls Admitted to the Reformatory Since its Formation documented that Louisa had been charged with being an idle and disorderly person but identified nothing concerning a crime.30 The question must therefore be why Louisa entered the reformatory as with this crime she should have been admitted to the Industrial School. Her admission was completed by the new superintendent George LUCAS who had been at the school for no longer that a fortnight when Louisa arrived. He may not have questioned any admission inaccuracies as was done by his predecessor, CLARKE, at the time of the admission of Ellen YOUNGMAN. Louisa was the last girl admitted to the reformatory before it moved to Biloela so within a month had moved to Cockatoo Island, Sydney, with the school.31 She was to remain on the island for twelve months.

On 18 September 1871, Louisa appeared as a witness in the trial of Mary Ann MEEHAN.32 At the Criminal Court in November Louisa stated:

I am an inmate of the Reformatory School at Biloela, and my age is 15 ; I was in the room when the fire was burning; I saw the fire; I saw prisoner set the door on fire; she took the straw out of the bed and set fire to the door; she pushed against the door; the fire was lit with matches which were brought from the kitchen by me; we always have matches in case any of us are taken ill.33

Mary Ann asserted that it had really been Louisa who had smuggled into the dormitory the cross-cut saw and the axe used in the attempted escape. No court appearance or any trial for Louisa charged with any involvement in this incident has been found so it is unknown whether she really was involved with setting the fire. One Darlinghurst record for this time period has been identified but it is not certain that it is a reference to the Newcastle girl as this inmate was recorded with an alias of MORAN and this reference seems to have been a link to a Mary WINTER alias MORAN who was a Catholic. Her admission number was 4026 and was linked to an earlier admission, 'see No. 2261'. Tracing backwards to the earlier number has proved very difficult.34 This one gaol admission occurred after the arson incident and may have been punishment for Louisa's involvement as this Louisa was released from Darlinghurst at the same time as the rest of the rioters35 but she was not listed with them in the gaol admission record.

Dates for Louisa's discharge from the reformatory vary. LUCAS's letter on 15 April 1872, reported that she was discharged on 8 April 1872, after serving her sentence of twelve months.36 This date differed slightly from the date of discharge recorded in the August 1874 list which documented a discharge date of 3 April 1872.37 Where Louisa remained for the a month in Sydney after her discharge but on 22 June, the Empire reported her second admission to Biloela – this time to the Industrial School. Louisa was reported to be fifteen and she had been arrested for protection.38 The date of Louisa’s second discharge from Biloela hasn’t been found but by April 1875, she was an inmate in the Female Refuge in Pitt Street where on 10 April, she assaulted another inmate named Fanny RICHARDS. Louisa had refused to leave the garden of the institution when requested to do so by the staff member, Hannah BUCKLAND, so Fanny took her hand to lead her inside and Louisa violently assaulted her. Louisa was handed over to constable MURDOCK and was taken to court. The case was remanded for a week to allow Fanny to recover enough to attend and Louisa was eventually sentenced to four months in Darlinghurst for assault.39 She was released in August that year.40 Louisa was admitted to the Sydney Benevolent Asylum on 18 May 1881 and discharged a month later. By this date Louisa was pregnant and the records of the Ladies' Committee at the Benevolent Asylum stated:

L. C. Freeman potographer [sic] of Castlereagh st is stated to be the father of the expected child.

No record of any birth has been found and, if the child was still-born, it is unlikely that a registration would have been made. Nearly two years later, on 17 January 1883, Louisa delivered her daughter, Florence May WILSON, at Clayton Street, Balmain. The birth was illegitimate and Louisa appeared on the registration as Louisa WILSON. No older children were recorded on the registration. Florence's father was unidentified on the registration.41 When Florence married in 1906, she identified that her father was William WILSON.42 It is unknown whether a man named William was Florence's father and Louisa had assumed the surname of her step-father, James WILSON, or whether, after her mother's death in 1875, Louisa also began a relationship with James.

From about 1881 Louisa adopted the surname of her step-father, James WILSON and it is believed that she spent some periods in gaol but no records for either Louisa WILSON or Louisa WINTER have been positively identified as another woman of this name may have lived in Sydney. On 30 July 1884 a Louisa WINTER was admitted to Darlinghurst for drunkenness but because drunks were rarely identified in newspaper reports, no further confirmation can be made. It is likely that Louisa was the thirty-five-year-old Louisa WILSON. She was described in the Police Gazette of 1886 and an arrest warrant had been issued for her for riotous behaviour in George Street on 4 August 1886.

Louisa died in Prince Alfred Hospital, Camperdown, on 27 August 1890, of chronic Brights Disease. Her death was recorded as Louisa WILSON and her residence was recorded as Darling Street,43 Balmain.44 Her parents, William WINTER, master mariner, and Caroline SPICER, and her place of birth, New Zealand, were confirmed on the registration. She was reported to have been a resident of NSW for twenty-three years. The registration confirmed that she was Florence's mother. Louisa was buried in the Old Church of England Cemetery, Rookwood, in Zone B, Section RR, Grave Number 1953. These records confirmed that she was 38. The Rookwood Cemetery Inscriptions CD located Grave 1953 in the grass between the headstones of Henry ROESSLER and Verona HAND. Probate for the estate of Louisa WINTER (or WILSON) was administered in 1891.45


Ages for Louisa recorded by various institutions are inconsistent and it is quite conceivable that she had forgotten or didn’t know her exact year of birth. Records from Newcastle and Biloela show that Louisa had at some time adjusted her age and Randwick records indicated that calculation errors had been made there by admissions staff. Louisa's first admission to Randwick on 7 November 1859, was not recorded and the original document noting her details – if one now survives – has not been located. She was recorded as eight when the clerical omission was discovered by Randwick authorities;46 was fifteen when she was admitted to the reformatory in 1871 and was again recorded as fifteen over a year later when she was admitted to the industrial school. Louisa was actually about eighteen at the time of her first admission to the reformatory and twenty when she was admitted to the industrial school so she had been illegally arrested by authorities on both occasions. She had been born in Auckland, New Zealand, on 11 October 1852, and was baptised on 31 October at St Paul's, Church of England, Auckland.47


Original St Paul, Auckland and Auckland Waterfront with Māori waka [1852]
Oil painting by Samuel Stuart rephotographed by J. D. Richardson
[Courtesy http://www.aucklandcity.govt.nz/dbtw-wpd/heritageimages/index.htm]

Louisa's family has been identified by using the births of her known siblings, Sarah and George WINTER. She was the daughter of Captain William WINTER, master mariner, and Caroline Elizabeth SPICER, the daughter of Thomas and Mary SPICER, who had been baptised in Sydney in 1826. The couple had married in Sydney on the 21 January 1847.48 Caroline’s father, Thomas, was an auctioneer and she was a beneficiary in his will when he died49 later that year. After the birth of one child, Caroline and William arrived in New Zealand in about March 1850, and were required to remain there for at least the next eighteen months.

There is little doubt that WINTER was the Captain William WINTER who was sentenced to eighteen months' hard labour in Auckland Gaol on 1 June 1850, for an assault upon his supercargo, Alexander WHITE,50 when he came to the defence of WINTER’s wife during an argument aboard the Eagle at sea on 5 March 1850.

BRUTAL ASSAULT – We lament to have to report a most brutal assault committed by Captain Winter of the schooner Eagle, now in harbour, on board that vessel, on the morning of Tuesday last. It appears from the information of Alexander White, a seaman of that vessel, (taken by the resident magistrate on Wednesday, in the hospital of the Albert Barracks, where he now lies, it is much feared, in a very dangerous state from the effects of wounds received), that on the preceding day, a disturbance had occurred between Captain Winter and the supercargo ; that the wife of Winter came on deck, stating that she feared her husband would make some attack upon her – and that on her refusal to obey his command to go below, and the supercargo refusing to have any further conflict with him, he (Winter) turned round, and after much abusing him, struck the informant with his fist, who retorted by knocking him down. On rising from the deck he said, "I'll soon fetch something that will settle you ;" and running down below, returned with a large carving-knife, with which he twice stabbed the informant – the first blow taking effect between the fourth and fifth ribs, and the second in the chest. He was on this, after a considerable struggle, in which he appears to have received some severe handling, secured ; and on being brought yesterday before the resident magistrate, was remanded to a future day. – Southern Cross, March 8.

New Zealand historical deaths suggested that WHITE survived as no deaths for this man were registered.

Louisa's father William WINTER was still alive in February 1859 when he placed an advertisement51 in the SMH stating:

CAUTION. – All Persons are hereby warned not to give any credit to my wife, CAROLINE ELIZABETH WINTER, as from and after this date. I will not be responsible for any debts she may contract. WILLIAM WINTER. Sydney, 2nd February.

Some descendants believe that William died in 1859 but Randwick Asylum admissions confirm that this was not the case and state that he had abandoned his family. The February 1859 newspaper advertisement was the last confirmation of William in NSW yet found. It seems almost certain however, that he continued to sail and work on vessels between New Zealand and Australia. William almost certainly died on 8 December 1867, during a gale off Arorangi,52 when he was working as the mate aboard the Clyde. He and the owner, Captain IRVING, were washed overboard and lost.53 Reports stated that:

William Winter, the mate, was well known and leaves two children at this port.54 He was previously in the cutter Hercules, and commanded the first vessel despatched to the Kaipara to load timber, on Messrs. Brown, Campbell and Co.'s account.55

Whatever William's fate, from 1859, Caroline and her children appeared in the records of the institutions of Sydney. Court appearances showed that Caroline was vagrant in 186256 and she soon resorted to prostitution and theft to survive. She and a child – probably George – were in Darlinghurst gaol in 186257 and this admission date may match the first entry into Randwick for Sarah and Louisa. The last court appearance confirmed for Caroline was on 27 October 1863,58 but only one gaol record has been confirmed.59 As Catherine WINTER, Caroline married James WILSON in Sydney in 1869. It is uncertain whether this was an inadvertent error or a deliberate decision on Caroline's part. It may be that she was uncertain whether William was dead and even though he had abandoned her and her children ten years previously she may have been concerned that she was committing bigamy. After her marriage Caroline cannot be identified in any court appearances as Caroline WILSON. By this date there are appearances by another woman of this name and of a similar age who was an immigrant. Caroline died in October 1875. Her death was registered as Caroline WILSON and was verified by two funeral notices.60

THE FRIENDS of Mr. JAMES WILSON are invited to attend the Funeral of his deceased WIFE, Caroline ; to move from his residence, Flood's-lane, off Elizabeth-street, THIS AFTERNOON, at half-past 2 o'clock, to Necropolis. W. J. DIXON, Undertaker.
THE FRIENDS of the late Mrs. CAROLINE WINTER are invited to attend her Funeral ; to move from her late residence, Flood's-lane, off Elizabeth-street, THIS AFTERNOON, at half-past 2 o'clock, to Necropolis. W. J. DIXON, Undertaker.

No identification of the death of James WILSON has been confirmed. The fifty-six-year-old man61 who died at Balmain East in 1891 may identify his death.62

Updated May 2017

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