William L. Cate biography

WILLIAM L. CATE, assistant superintendent of the railway mail service and a resident of Fort Worth, is a native of Bradley county, Tennessee, and a son of Andrew J. and Nancy (Simmons) Cate. The father, who was a farmer and mill owner, was numbered among the early settlers of Bradley county in eastern Tennessee, where he located ere the Indians had left that part of the country, and there he spent the remainder of his life, his wife’s death also occurring there about 1885.

William L. Cate spent the days of his boyhood and youth on his father’s farm and in the sawmill, usually spending the winter months in the latter, while his summers were devoted to farm labor. He received a good education as far as the facilities of those days afforded, and in his young manhood began teaching school, being thus engaged in McMinn county when the Civil war was inaugurated. The family were Unionists, bitterly opposed to secession, and were naturally drawn into the strife which that section of the country had to undergo on account of the contending sentiments of its citizens, often neighbors and even families being divided on the great question. Mr. Cate went to Kentucky to enlist in the Union army, joining Company A of the Fourth Tennessee Cavalry, in October, 1862, which was attached to the Army of the Cumberland. His service was of the trying and hazardous sort which most of the Tennessee and Kentucky cavalrymen underwent during the war, extending to nearly all the states of the south, and in the winter of 1864 they were sent on what is known as the General Smith expedition to Mississippi, while in June and July of the same year they went on a similar trip into Alabama, under General Rousseau. Mr. Cate went with the cavalry to Georgia, under General McCook, where he was engaged in the fighting near Atlanta, was captured and taken as a prisoner of war to Charleston, South Carolina, but was released after two months of incarceration and joined his regiment at Nashville, thence being taken to Louisville and remounted, and returned to Nashville just in time to march to Franklin, Tennessee, to take part in that battle, one of the most sanguine of the war, waged on both sides by experienced, seasoned and determined soldiers. At the battle of Nashville, following, he was at the extreme left, and thus did not get into the thickest of the fight. Pursuing Hood to the Tennessee river, Mr. Cate was engaged in numerous minor skirmishes, and after that campaign his regiment was ordered to the Department of the Gulf, going to Vicksburg, New Orleans and thence across the bay to Mobile, joining the expedition against Forts Spanish and Blakely, the destruction of which preceded the taking of Mobile proper. They then campaigned across the country to Baton Rouge, and after the close of the war returned to Nashville, Mr. Cate being mustered out of service at Edgefield, across the river from that city, July 11, 1865. Mr. Cate enlisted as a private in an organized company, was soon promoted to orderly sergeant and later to first lieutenant and captain, each promotion following an arduous campaign. His company was complimented on the battlefield at Sugar Creek, Alabama, December 26, 1864, by the brigade commander for the gallant stand made in resisting the charge of Hood’s retreating army. His army record is one of which he may be justly proud, for it is the record of a brave soldier, faithful to the least as well as to the greatest of his duties, prompt, reliable and self-sacrificing.

When peace had been restored Mr. Cate quietly took up the ordinary duties of life in his old home in Bradley county, farming and teaching school. He remained there about twelve years, being most of the time engaged in teaching in Chatata Seminary. In 1880 he entered the government railway mail service, beginning at the bottom of the ladder in the classification of “helper,” on the Little Rock & Fort Smith Railroad, running between those two cities. He soon became a regular man on the route, and was later transferred to the run between St. Louis and Texarkana, in the Iron Mountain Railroad, while subsequently, in 1888, he was promoted to district chief clerk at Little Rock. From the beginning of his life in the mail service the fast mail was his especial hobby, and after becoming chief clerk he urged this with all his energy. The first regular fast mail on the Iron Mountain was established about 1893. Mr. Cate remained at Little Rock in the position of chief clerk about six years, his jurisdiction being a part of the Eleventh Division, extending over Arkansas and on the Iron Mountain into St. Louis. He was then transferred to St. Louis as chief clerk of the St. Louis & Texarkana Railway post office and other Eleventh Division interests. Remaining in that position about three years, he was then promoted to assistant superintendent of the Eleventh Division and assigned to duty at Fort Worth, which city has ever since been his home. The office of the Eleventh Division at Fort Worth has jurisdiction over Arkansas, Indian Territory, Oklahoma, Western Louisiana and Texas.

Mr. Cate married Elizabeth Julian, and they have four children—Clifford J., Roscoe S., Anna Lea and Rose E. In his fraternal relations Mr. Cate is a member of the Masonic order and the Knights of Honor. He is widely known among the men on this division of the railway mail service, and has many friends among them and also among the people of Fort Worth.

Source: B. B. Paddock, History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1906), Vol. II, pp. 75-76.