William Rodolphus Caton, farmer, slaveholder, and Confederate cavalry officer, was born on February 17, 1822, in Tennessee, son of William and Cynthia (Smith) Caton. He married Susan Jane Carter in Henry County, Tennessee, on February 16, 1843. The couple had eight children—four boys and four girls. Shortly after the birth of his eldest daughter in 1844, Caton moved the family to Red River County, Texas. By 1860 he worked as a farmer and reported $8,000 in real estate and $10,000 in personal property, including the ownership of eleven slaves.
When the Civil War began, Caton enlisted on June 15, 1861, as a private in Clarksville Light Infantry of Gould's State Troops. On April 12, 1862, this unit was mustered into service in the Confederate Army as part of the Twenty-third Texas Cavalry Regiment, and Caton was elected captain. This unit was assigned to the Trans-Mississippi Department and saw action in Louisiana and took part in the major engagements of Mansfield and Pleasant Hill on April 8-9, 1864. On October 28, 1863, Caton was promoted to the rank of major and acted as the unit's inspector and mustering officer. On December 31, 1863, he was admitted to a field hospital for apparently being struck by lightning but returned to duty a few days later. Sometime between January 1864 and June 1865, Caton was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel. On June 2, 1865, Caton and the Twenty-third Cavalry surrendered to Union forces.
After the war, Caton returned to Red River County and resumed his vocation as a farmer, reporting $1,400 in real estate in 1870. By 1880 he and his family lived in Franklin County where he operated a sawmill. However, by 1900 he and his wife returned to Red River County where he was a landlord. Caton died on June 11, 1903, and is buried in Red River County, Texas.