Catherine Moore (née Johnson) was possibly born in September 1770 in the London Parish of St Sepulchre to Robert and Margaret Johnson. She was sentenced to seven years transportation at the age of 17. 

Catherine Johnson and Ann Smith were tried by the London Jury before the Court Recorder at the Old Bailey Sessions which commenced on 18 April 1787, that is, less than a month before the First Fleet sailed for Botany Bay. They were indicted "for stealing on 3rd March last, fifteen yards of printed calico, value 3 pounds, the property of Thomas Ashby and Joseph Osborne, privily in their shop." The shop was at Holborn Bridge. 

This case is rather unusual in that Catherine Johnson, unlike most First Fleet convicts, was defended by counsel. The owner of the shop and two assistants stated that the defendants were looking at "some muslins and prints" and that "they tumbled the things over the counter more than generally is the case and asked for a number of things from the poles." 
After they had gone out an assistant, acting on suspicion, went "to fetch them back." When they came back to the counter Catherine Johnson was observed to drop the calico from under her petticoats on her left side.” It was claimed that Catherine Johnson pressed the owner to let her go and said "it was the first time she was guilty." 

Catherine Johnson in her defence said "when we came home the gentleman said they might be his things but he could not swear to them, and that gentleman that stands up now (presumably Ashby) said hanging was too good for us, and hang us, he said he would, if he could, and he took out a pencil and made a mark." Catherine called two witnesses "who gave here a good Character." Regrettably their names were not recorded, nor what they said. Ann Smith said nothing in her own defence.

The jury found both women guilty. Although the offence was a capital one, the Recorder merely sentenced them to transportation for seven years. It may be that the jury returned a correct verdict, but on the evidence, and in view of the judge's sentence, it seems that there was an element of doubt. 

Catherine and Ann were received on board Prince of Wales on 3 May 1787. They had been sent with 35 other women from London to Portsmouth, where the First Fleet vessels were anchored, to make up the complement for the ship. No mention is made of Catherine Johnson in the records of the voyage.

She was transferred from Sydney Cove to Norfolk Island on the Supply in March 1789. One of the references to her at Norfolk Island is an entry in Lt King's Journal — "Catherine Johnson, a female convict, was punished with fifty lashes on the 7th (Sept. 1789) for abusing the storekeeper and accusing him of theft wrongfully."  Another is in the List of Marine and Convict Settlers on Norfolk Island for about June 1794 and has Catherine Johnstone Married, with 3 children, and Living By Her Own Means (most women on this list had a supporting man's name beside theirs). On the Victualling List male convicts, female convicts, children, etc are all listed separately and family groups have to be assumed or proved from other records. Listed is Elizabeth Johnston for July 1791, Catherine's first child, and is not clear whether she was born on Norfolk Island then, or arrived on Mary Anne having been born in Sydney before Catherine left. William Johnston, Catherine's second child, was born in January 1792 per the list, lending weight to the claim that Elizabeth was born in Sydney and sent to Norfolk Island on Mary Anne in July 1791. Mollie Gillen mentions Catherine left Norfolk Island with three children but there is no evidence of a third child.

Catherine and her two children left the island on Daedalus on the 6 November 1794, some time after her term expired. There is no known mention of her until she is shown in the Muster of 1800 as being a resident of Sydney. 
There is strong circumstantial evidence that the father of Elizabeth and William was Edward Beckford who was Edward Smith of the 1788 Scarborough, sent to Norfolk Island late 1788 and returned to Sydney early 1795. By 1806 Elizabeth was calling herself Elizabeth Beckord and that is unlikely to be due to marriage. And she died in 1874 on Jersey as Elizabeth Beckford Vickery.

The next reference is in St Phillip's Register which shows that Margaret Jane Moore was born to Catherine Johnson at Sydney in August 1804. The entry in the Register above the christening for Margaret Jane is for Thomas Benjamin Hughes born 1801 to Catherine Johnston and John Hughes, and it appears Catherine had both her children christened at the same time. (In the 1800 Muster John Hughes of the Albemarle 1791 is a consecutive name to Catherine's and no further identifiable information about him or Thomas Benjamin has been discovered).

The father of her child, Margaret Jane, Tristram Moore, had arrived in Atlas in October 1802. He had been transported from Ireland as a rebel with a life sentence. He was an apothecary at Sydney Hospital in The Rocks, and was six feet in height, which was rather unusual in for the time. Moore and Johnson were to spend their lives together, although there is no record of them being married.  Could Catherine have married Edward Beckford on Norfolk Island or in Sydney, in an unrecorded marriage, or even John Hughes?

Another child, Mary Ann Moore, was born to them in April 1806, whilst a child, Tristram, was buried at St Phillip's in August 1809. He was recorded christened at St Phillips earlier in 1809, and then buried in the cemetery at the site of the current Sydney Town Hall. 

Meanwhile, Catherine Johnson was to become a landowner. As a free person she was able to buy 100 acres, the property of Charles Cross, which was auctioned "by virtue of execution." The purchase price was 120 pounds to be paid "in storeable wheat or cash" and the transaction was completed in August 1806. One year later the title to this property, which was situated half a mile upstream from the Ebenezer Church, was transferred to Tristram Moore, who with four or five others tried to escape the Colony by boat in February 1807. 

Before moving to the Hawkesbury Catherine appears to have had the wealth to trade property and likely mixed in the mercantile life of the Colony between 1795-1814. It is likely from entries in the Old Register and references in the Sydney Gazette that Catherine bought and sold property (including a house to Paul Bushell) in The Rocks between 1802 and 1816 in Cumberland and Gloucester Streets and elsewhere. In 1810 Macquarie regranted her lease on the East side of the Rocks, and later in 1810 she was granted a beer licence at her premises in Bells Row (Bligh Street). The 1810 lease possibly became John Verge's property via Elizabeth Cassidy about 1830.

At Wilberforce from about 1814 the apothecary from Ireland and the shoplifter from London settled down to the harsh conditions of Hawkesbury farming. They grew their wheat and maize in the face of the depredations of the aborigines and in spite of frequent inundation from the river. Catherine possibly sought work as a needlewoman to supplement the family income.

In 1828 they had 34 acres under cultivation and were running a horse and 18 horned cattle. Catherine was recorded as housekeeper to Moore at Wilberforce under her own name, and aged 57. Their home consisted of a rough slab hut with a bark roof, "a ground floor" and a crude stone fireplace. It was on the banks of the river safely above flood level. It is marked by a grassy mound that grew over the old rough stone chimney when it collapsed. 

Catherine died on 18 May 1838 aged 67 years and Tristram Moore died on the first anniversary of her death, on 18 May 1839. They left their original purchase, intact, to their younger daughter, Mary Ann. They were both buried at St John’s Wilberforce.



Marilyn Long #7348, FF Catherine Johnson


Ron Withington #5527 FF William Parish & FF Phoebe Norton





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