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Wong Hee, William (1840 - 1913)

13 July 1840
Canton, China
Banyena, Victoria, Australia
Alternative Names
  • Wong Hee (also used)
  • Wong Hee, William (also used)


Wong Hee was born on the 13 July 1840 in Canton, China to Wong Ah Fat and Lim Shee (or Shu). He married and had at least one child in China, a son named War Que .

In 1856 Wong Hee left his family and sailed from Hong Kong aboard an unknown British Ship, arriving in Victoria on 22 July 1856.

Little is known about Wong Hee's early life in Australia or how he amassed the fortune which enabled him to purchase a house in Changarnier Street, St Arnaud, Victoria; 133 acres of very good land at Banyena, Victoria; and another property near Yarrawonga in New South Wales. He also adapted the anglicised name William during this time.

William Wong Hee then met and married Sarah Reeves. William and Sarah resided at several different locations. Their first three children were born at Fiddlers Creek near Avoca. The fourth and fifth at Inglewood Road, St Arnaud where William was a market gardener, and the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth children were born on the property in Banyena. Here William farmed and also had a large market garden. In later years William and Sarah moved into the home at Charngarnier Street, St Arnaud and William would travel by horse and buggy to work on the farm and market garden on a regular basis.

On the 27th September 1882 William Wong Hee became a naturalized Australian. The Certificate states that William had been a resident of the Colony of Victoria for the past 26 years.

Sarah passed away after a long illness on 15th June 1904. William then married the widow Annie Gar Foon (nee Chin See) on the 17 September 1904 at the Church of England All Saints Vicarage in Bendigo. Annie had been living at the Iron Bark camp at that time.

They also lived at Changarnier Street St Arnaud and had one daughter named Violet who died when only ten days old on 22 June 1908. She was buried in the St Arnaud Cemetery.

William Wong Hee died by drowning on 6 January 1913. He was traveling to his market garden at Banyena where he still kept a huge vegetable patch on a bend near the river, just down from his farm house. When he was crossing what was known as 'Wong Hee's Bridge' it collapsed during a flood and he fell into the swollen river. He had been trying to get to the other side to get the harness off his horse and save it from the flood. The bridge was not replaced, and the house is also no longer there although 2 Sugar Gums still grow on the site.

William was buried in the Church of England part of the St Arnaud cemetery on 14 January 1913. He was aged 73 or 74 years. The undertaker J J Kell's records do not provide any other information.

William's house and furniture at Changarnier Street St Arnaud was left to his third wife Annie Wong Hee at the time of his death. Proceeds from the sale of William's Banyena property were sent to his son War Que in Little Canton, China. The Banyena property was sold to the Clifford family who were one of the early families in Banyena, and the land is now owned by the McLennan family. William left the proceeds of the sale of his second property near Yarrawonga, New South Wales to his nephew War Hong when he died.

Banyena is south of Warracknabeal. In its heyday it had a railway station and a couple of hotels. There was also a local hall where regular dances and get togethers were held. There were serious floods at in 1956 and some of the old buildings were destroyed.

Sources used to compile this entry: Birth date taken from Wong Hee's Baptism Record number 2847 in 1912 at Christ Church St Arnaud. War Que is named as son and benefactor in William Wong Hee's last Will and testament. Wong Hee's Naturalisation Certificate records his arrival as 22 July 1856 aboard an unknown British ship. Naturalisation certificate, registration W9/66.

Prepared by: Lynda Rogasch