Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

William Lee (1794–1870)

by Vivienne Parsons

This article was published:

William Lee (1794?-1870), settler, was born at Norfolk Island, probably the William Smith whose birth on 1 April 1794 was recorded there and probably son of the convict Sarah Smith who at her death in October 1804 was described as the wife of William Pantoney, alias Panton. He had arrived in the Matilda in August 1791, after being sentenced at Huntingdon to transportation for seven years on 11 March 1787. For many years William Lee was known as William Pantoney junior; he accompanied Pantoney to Port Dalrymple in 1805 and lived with him at Windsor in 1814. In 1812 William Lee's sister Maria married James Bloodsworth at St Philip's under the name of Maria Pantoney.

In 1816 William Pantoney junior was issued with government cattle and in 1818, under the name of William Lee and recommended by William Cox as a suitable settler, he was one of the first settlers at Bathurst and was given a grant of 134 acres (54 ha) at Kelso. Commissioner John Thomas Bigge presented Lee with a ram as a reward for his industry, and recommended an increase in his grant, which Governor Sir Thomas Brisbane later made, raising it to 300 acres (121 ha). On 26 March 1821 Lee married Mary, the daughter of Thomas and Mary Dargin, at Windsor, and took his bride to Kelso. He became noted as a discoverer of good pastoral land and for introducing fine cattle to the district. He accompanied William Lawson on the first journey to Mudgee. In 1828 he built Claremont, and gradually acquired considerable property in the Bathurst district. He was granted 2430 acres (983 ha) at Larras Lake in 1830, and later took up stations on the Bogan, Lachlan and Castlereagh Rivers. At the time of his death his estate, sworn at £41,000, included 18,509 acres (7490 ha) in the County of Wellington, and land at Lane Cove, Emu Plains, Bathurst, on the Lachlan River and O'Connell plains.

In July and August 1842 Lee occasioned a sharp clash between the squatters and Governor Sir George Gipps, when a public meeting of squatters at Bathurst protested against Lee being deprived of a depasturing licence for the Bogan district. Lee's stockmen had moved from the licensed area to a prohibited area; there the party was attacked by natives who had accompanied them from the Bogan and many were killed. The survivors summoned the police and a massacre of the Aboriginals followed. The squatters argued that Lee's men were forced to abandon the licensed station by drought, that Lee was not aware of the prohibited area, and that he was not given an opportunity of making his defence. Gipps replied that Lee was responsible for the unlawful action of his men and was morally responsible for the slaughter of the Aboriginals, and so refused either him or his son a licence for that district. The Australian, 26 August 1842, accused Gipps of failing to prove a case against Lee, but the Legislative Council rejected the squatters' petition for an amendment to the Crown Lands Occupation Act.

William Lee became a prominent Bathurst figure and in 1856-59 sat in the first Legislative Assembly as member for Roxburgh. He died at Kelso on 18 November 1870, aged 76; his wife Mary died on 15 September 1886, aged 87; both were buried in the Holy Trinity churchyard, Kelso. They had four daughters and six sons, of whom John, Thomas, William and George occupied stations throughout New South Wales. In 1938 a memorial was unveiled to William Lee at Larras Lake.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vol 23
  • G. S. Oakes, Kelso Church and the Pioneers of the West (Syd, 1923)
  • E. H. Brady, Short Chapter of Australian Family History (Syd, 1923)
  • W. Lawson, Bathurst the Golden, 1815-1938 (Bathurst, 1938)
  • E. H. Brady, ‘William Lee of Larras Lake’, Journal and Proceedings (Royal Australian Historical Society), vol 25, part 2, 1939, p 162
  • W. G. Lee, ‘The Unveiling of a Monument to William Lee, of Larras Lake’, Journal and Proceedings (Royal Australian Historical Society), vol 24, part 3, 1938, pp 222-24
  • Sydney Gazette, 22 June 1816
  • Australian, 3, 22, 24 Aug 1842
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 26 Nov 1870
  • Norfolk Island victualling book (State Library of New South Wales)
  • manuscript catalogue under Lee and Pantoney (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

Vivienne Parsons, 'Lee, William (1794–1870)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 24 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (Melbourne University Press), 1967

View the front pages for Volume 2

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Pantoney, William

Norfolk Island, Australia


18 November, 1870 (aged ~ 76)
Bathurst, New South Wales, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.