Catherine Morton and the scandalous affair at Beechworth

In a previous post, I recounted the story of the attempted rape of Catherine Morton. It’s an interesting story and I felt that I should document my sources

I found the story online at in the Tasmanian Daily News of 24 Feb 1858

A shorter version of the article originally appeared in The Age of 18 Feb 1858. Both articles were based on an article from the Ovens Constitution, a Beechworth newspaper, which was taken over by the Federal Standard in Chiltern in 1859.

Unfortunately the archives of the Ovens Constitution do not appear to be available.

The case went to trial pretty quickly, and both The Age and the Ballarat Star reported the outcome almost identically

mard sentencing The Age 20 Feb 1858

with Mard being sentenced to five years forced labour on the colony’s roads.

One detail that might seem strange to us is that Mard was able to cross examine Catherine Morton. This is because trial for rape and assault were heard as if they were civil cases and the perpetrator was able to cross examine the victim.

Many women found the whole procedure terrifying, and did not want to confront the perpetrator. However Catherine Morton, like Rebecca Dickinson half a world away and twenty years later, seems to have been made of sterner stuff.

As was common in such cases, Mard seems to have tried to blacken Catherine’s name by claiming that he had previously been intimate with her – clearly the jury, who probably had some knowledge of both individuals knew the story to be rubbish and dismissed it.

A note on other sources:

In my original post I mention using the Ovens directory to trace individuals and their businesses.

The Ovens directory for 1857 can be viewed online and downloaded from the State Library of New South Wales via

There is also an html transcription of the directory online at

About dgm

Former IT professional, previously a digital archiving and repository person, ex research psychologist, blogger, twitterer, and amateur classical medieval and nineteenth century historian ...
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1 Response to Catherine Morton and the scandalous affair at Beechworth

  1. Pingback: Chloroform | stuff 'n other stuff

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