Joseph Walsh Lee was born at Bolton in Lancashire in 1829 and his wife, Jane (nee Ogden) was also born there, on 5 June 1828. They married in England in 1851 and arrived in Moreton Bay on the ship Golden City with their children, Margaret and Elizabeth, in 1863. Queensland had been a self-governing colony for four years and the government was eager to establish new industries.
The family settled at Pimpama where Joseph was the manager of the Lancashire Cotton Mills for four years. It was not a successful venture and the family moved to Albion, on the north side of Brisbane, later moving to the property that Joseph had bought at Zillman's Waterholes.
They were very early settlers in the district and he grew cotton and pineapples but his main interest seemed to centre on local and community affairs. He served on the Nundah Divisional Board and later the Kedron Divisional Board. He was president of the Zillmere Horticultural Society which exhibited in the Zillmere School of Arts. He was instrumental in the formation of that Society and the opening of their building in 1890.
In 1875 he was secretary of a school committee which petitioned the Board of Education to establish a school in the district. The petition noted that there were about 60 families in the area with about 110 children, living within 1½ miles radius of a proposed school. His committee had already had two public meetings to gauge interest and knew that the government had set aside land for a school. The committee had also collected money for the school. The petition was successful and the school, known as Zillman's Water Holes State School, opened in 1877.
He was also instrumental in having a road built to the settlement as well as urging upon the government the necessity for a railway line to the north coast, preferably passing through Zillmere.
Jane Lee is credited with having the first flower garden in Zillmere. She grew roses, narcissi, larkspurs as well as annuals and probably exhibited them in the Zillmere Horticultural Society's show.
The J W Lee Park in Holberton Street Zillmere was named in his honour in 2002. His granddaughter, Vivian Heiner, outlined the history of her family, their contributions to the community and the connections with other families.