The first record of Lee Soon in Australia is to be found in the Ballarat Star Newspaper, dated early December 1867, in which his intention to apply to the justices sitting at the court of petty sessions, to be held on January 2nd 1866, for a certificate authorising the issuing of a publicans licence to open a house situated at the Chinese township of a Golden Point. This was to be known as the Golden Point Hotel. In 1870 he applied for and was granted naturalisation, of which a copy of the correspondence and certificate are available.
On the 4th October 1871, Lee Soon married Elizabeth Houston at Ballarat. Elizabeth was the Daughter of a pastry cook named John Houston, who was also Chinese but who had changed his name upon being baptised, and Mary Houston,( nee. Naylon) of Irish Descent.
Elizabeth was born in Corio Street Geelong on the 24th December 1856 showing she was not quite 15 years of age when she married Lee Soon, disputing the age of seventeen which is shown on the marrage register. It appears this was an arranged marriage, which was customary amongst the Chinese at the time. This was later born out by their daughter who told her Children that her mother had been sold into marriage.
On the 2nd of August 1872 Lee Soon appeared before the courts on a chage a perjury for which he was found not guilty. At that time Lee Soon and Elizabeth were living in a house in Young Street, China Town.
Their first Child was born on the 8th December 1873 and named Levina Muade. Their Second child was born on 2nd June 1875 and was named Sydney James. In 1887 Lee Soon was listed as operating a gaming house, gambling being a favourite pastime of many Chinese at that time.
In 1878 Lee Soon became the publican at the John O'Groates Hotel and it was during this year their third child, James Houston was born. After the birth of James, Elizabeth was very weak and confined to bed. Each day , Catherine White, a family friend whose husband George is shown as a witness to the marriage of Lee Soon and Elizabeth, travelled the two-mile distance to nurse Elizabeth and James. As she could not continue to do so, it was agreed she would take James home to her house where she could tend to him whilst Elizabeth recovered.
James was described as a feeble child and Catherine tried to feed him a mixture of milk and maizena in order for him to gain some form of nourishment. On the 5th October 1878, James at the age of one month, died at the home of Catherine and George White. An inquest into the cause of death found he had died as a result of the administration of improper food through the ignorance of his nurse, Catherine White. (a copy of the inquest findings are available.)
It is assumed the family remained at the same location until 1881 when Lee Soon was listed as the manager of a wine shop some ten doors down the street. The premises comprised a shop and dwelling in which the family resided until the death of Lee Soon in 1883 as a result of heart disease. Lee Soon was buried in the Chinese section of the New Ballarat Cemetery where his grave can still be found today.
Lee Soon was descibed as being a well-groomed man, dressed in suits and wearing his hair in a ponytail, which was the custom of his native land. It is believed Lee Soon was a gambling man as it would seem there were periods during his life in Ballarat when he was quite wealthy, buying his wife jewellry etc. and running his own businesses, then later working for others.
Lee Soon and Elizabeth also adopted two children, a boy found on the steps of the Barkly Hotel and therefore named Barkley and a girl named Ethyl. Nothing is known of Barkley but it is known that Ethyl remained in contact with the family in later years.
After the death of Lee Soon, Elizabeth remarried a Chinese market gardener named Ah Lee and moved to Dimboola where they worked allotment 11. Elizabeth died in May 1904 at the age of forty-one and was listed as being buried in the Dimboola cemetery although inspection of cemetery records shows no record of this.. At this time, Ethyl was listed as the only dependant as the other children had all left home.
Ah Lee remained in contact with his stepdaughter Levina, occaisionally travelling to Melbourne to visit her and her family. On these occaisions, Levina would meet Ah Lee in Melbourne and they would travel to her home by horse and buggy. Whilst they were travelling through populated areas, Ah Lee would hide under a blanket for he was obviously Chinese in appearance and fraternisation with the Chinese was frowned upon by society of the time.