Violet Town is a sleepy settlement situated 175km northeast of Melbourne CBD at the shire of Strathbogie. In the 1960’s the locals used to joke that Violet Town will wake up from its sleep only if Aurora crashes. On 7th February 1969, Southern Aurora Overnight Express, a premium train service which used to run between Melbourne and Sydney crashed head on to a goods train approximately one kilometre south of Violet Town and that was the last time locals cracked that joke. Violet Town was the front-page news the following day. Nine people died and 117 injured on that fateful day.
Violet Town is a very strange name for a township and several of its streets carry the names of flowers like, Rose Street, Dahlia Street, Lily Street, Iris Lane, Primrose Street, Crocus Street, Orchid Street, Tulip Street etc etc. In October 1836, when Surveyor General of NSW, Major Mitchell passed through the area now known as Violet Town, the creek was in great abundance of native Violets, and he named it Violet Ponds.
After the Faithfull Massacre of Benalla on 11th April 1938, NSW Governor George Gipps intended starting mounted police stations in north-eastern Victoria which included Violet Ponds. This resulted in the survey of Violet Ponds in 1838, first by S.A.Perry and then by Henry Wilson Hutchinson Smythe. NSW Government surveyed Violet Ponds and named it Violet Creek and the land allotments were sold on 6th January 1840. Initially the Government intended to establish a military post at Violet Creek, but the plan was altered and instead chose Broken River for the military post. Lady Jane Franklin, wife of John Franklin, who was appointed lieutenant-governor of Van Diemen’s Land on 1836, travelled 12 miles of Violet Creek on 11th April 1839. Sir John Franklin asked the Surveyor, the name of the creek and was told, ‘Honey Suckle Creek’. Lady Franklin was invited to name the streets which were then surveyed, and she named all but one, the names of flowers.
Violet Town is the first inland town surveyed in Victoria. Honeysuckle Creek run, which included Stony Creek run of 64,000 acres with 500 cattle and 8,000 sheep was taken up by William Speid, John Birmey and Alex Anderson, in 1839. In March 1842, this was subdivided into Honeysuckle Creek run and Stony Creek run.
Though Honey Suckle Creek run was officially taken up in June 1939, the town remained relatively empty until 1846. In the 1840’s Victorian directories used the name Honey Suckle Creek to denote the settlement. The Royal Mail Hotel by licensee Thomas Clarke was opened in 1846 and the town began to grow. Discovery of Gold in the 1850s in Victoria ensured further growth of the township. In the 1850’s the creek retained the name Honey Suckle Creek and the township was known as Violet Town. In 1858, 1,000 ozs. of gold was robbed from Gold escort at Violet town, but the culprits were never caught.
National School was opened in 1849 and Violet Town State School No 604 in 1875. Hume Hwy which connected Melbourne and Sydney, passed through Violet town until it was bypassed in 1980. The history of Violet town was centred around this road and now it is known as High Street.
In 1873, the North-eastern Railway reached Violet Town, and this gave birth to the timber industry there. Freight trains left Violet Town loaded with timber for Melbourne. The railways also changed the orientation of the town from Old Hume Hwy (Now known as High Street) to Cowslip Street where the railway station is situated. In its early days, Violet Town was part of Benalla Shire. Violet Town Shire came into existence on 11 April 1895. In 1994, Violet Town Shire was amalgamated with the Euroa and Goulburn Shires to form the Shire of Strathbogie.
Cowslip Street remains as the main commercial street of Violet Town. The Boer War Memorial was originally located at the centre of Cowslip Street in 1901 but in the 1960s it was moved to the lawn area. Cowslip Street also contains a WW1 Avenue of Honour to the west.
Today Violet Town is better known as the home of Jesse and Ella Hooper, members of rock band Killing Heidi. Their best-known single Weir was written about the local railway reservoir weir. Another local attraction is Violet Town Community Market which comes to life on second Saturday each month from 8.30 am – 1.00 pm.