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"
Inmate25 Louisa WILSON26 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.27 Her admissions to Randwick were unclear. Louisa and her sister, Sarah, were recorded 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 suggest 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. An earlier discharge would likely 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.'28

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.29 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.30 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, Louisa 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 Newcastle. She was the last girl admitted to the Reformatory and was to remain there for twelve months. Louisa 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 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 indicated nothing concerning any crime.31 There is therefore the question as to whether Louisa should have been admitted to the Industrial School rather than the reformatory. Her admission was completed by the new superintendent George LUCAS who had been at the school for a maximum of a fortnight when Louisa arrived. He may not have questioned any admission inaccuracies as his predecessor, CLARKE did with the admission of Ellen YOUNGMAN. Louisa transferred with the reformatory to Biloela slightly over a month later.32

On 18 September 1871, Louisa appeared as a witness in the trial of Mary Ann MEEHAN.33 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.34

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 but no court appearance or trial for any involvement in the incident has been found for Louisa so it is unknown whether she 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 or MORAN35 and was a Catholic.36 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 rioters37 but she is 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.38 This date differed slightly from the date of discharge recorded in the August 1874 list which documented a discharge date of 3 April 1872.39 Louisa remained for about 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 again recorded as fifteen and had been arrested for protection.40 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 went 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.41 She was released in August that year.42

No gaol records for Louisa WILSON have been positively identified. It is possible but unconfirmed that Louisa was the thirty-five-year-old Louisa WILSON who was described in the Police Gazette of 1886 and for whom an arrest warrant was issued for riotous behaviour in George Street on 4 August 1886. One gaol record for Louisa WINTER for drunkenness has been identified on 30 July 1884, but as drunks were rarely identified in newspaper reports, no confirmation can be made. Louisa was admitted to the Sydney Benevolent Asylum on 18 May 1881 and discharged a month later. She was pregnant and the records of the Ladies' Committee at the 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.43 When Florence married in 1906, she identified that her father was William WILSON.44 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.

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 in Darling Street,45 Balmain.46 Her parents, William WINTER, master mariner, and Caroline SPICER, and place of birth, New Zealand, were confirmed on the registration. The registration confirmed that she was the Florence's mother. She was reported to have been in NSW for twenty-three years. Louisa was buried in the Church of England Cemetery, Rookwood but no burial location has been found on the Rookwood Cemetery Inscriptions CD. Probate was administered in 1891 for Louisa WINTER (or WILSON).47


Ages for Louisa recorded by various institutions are inconsistent and it is 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 indicate calculation errors by others. Louisa's initial admission to Randwick on 7 November 1859, was not recorded and the original document noting her details – if one is exists – has not been located. She was recorded as eight when the clerical omission was discovered by Randwick authorities48 and 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 unknowingly illegally arrested on both occasions. Louisa was born in Auckland, New Zealand, on 11 October 1852, and was baptised on 31 October at St Paul's, Church of England, Auckland.49


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 was identified by matching the births of her 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 was baptised in Sydney in 1826. The couple had married in Sydney on the 21 January 1847.50 Caroline’s father, Thomas, was an auctioneer and she was named a beneficiary in his will when he died51 later that year. Caroline and William had arrived in New Zealand in about March 1850, and were required to remain there for at least the next eighteen months.

WINTER was almost without doubt 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,52 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.

While some descendants believe that William died in 1859, Randwick Asylum admissions record that this was not the case. These records document that he had abandoned his family and from 1859, Caroline and her children appear in the records of the institutions of Sydney. William was still alive in February of 1859 as he placed an advertisement53 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.

This is the last confirmation of William in NSW yet found but it seems almost certain that William continued to sail and worked on vessels between New Zealand and Australia. It is considered unlikely that William was the seaman admitted to Darlinghurst in 1864 and 1865 and who had arrived on the Second Colonies in either 1857 or 1862.54 William's likely death occurred on 8 December 1867, during a gale off Arorangi,55 when he was working as the mate aboard the Clyde. He and the owner, Captain IRVING, were washed overboard and lost.56 Reports stated that:

William Winter, the mate, was well known and leaves two children at this port.57 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.58

Court appearances indicated that Caroline was vagrant in 186259 and she soon resorted to prostitution and theft. She and a child – probably George – were in Darlinghurst gaol in 186260 and this admission date may matche the first entry into Randwick for Sarah and Louisa. The last court appearance confirmed for Caroline was on 27 October 1863,61 but only one gaol record has been confirmed.62 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.63

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 man64 who died at Balmain East in 1891 may indicate his death.65

Updated November 2015

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