Joe Sing had many names in his life. He was born Jo Feng Sheng in China in 1860 and when he came to the United States to find work he became known as Jo Sing. In New Orleans he worked under the name of Joe Hall. Then in Austin, he was known to his customers as Hong Lee.
According to the U.S.census he was in Galveston in 1880 before spending some time in Boston, MA, as well as Shreveport, LA. And in 1894 he was issued a certificate of residence in New Orleans (a document required for a Chinese national to work).
Eventually he settled in Austin and became one of the city’s first Chinese residents. He opened Hong Lee Laundry with his wife, Francisca Moreno, who also worked as a cook for Gov. Ma Ferguson.
Hong Lee Laundry became a successful business that catered to bankers, legislators, and white-collar workers who worked along Congress Avenue.
Because of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 Sing was never able to become a U.S. citizen, and because of the Married Women’s Citizenship Act Francisca gave up her citizenship without realizing it when she married him.
Today, Joe Sing is buried near other members of his family at Oakwood Cemetery Annex here in Austin.