Who lived here?….Part 1 – John Kelly

Ancestor Detective was asked to research the previous owners of a little cottage in Primrose Street, Violet Town after the current owner discovered that the cottage was built in 1895 and once owned by a German family. She became intrigued about how a German family came to be living in a small rural town. Ancestor Detective traces the families who owned the property and writes of their lives living in Violet Town.

Violet Town is 174 kilometers (or 108 miles) north east of Melbourne in Victoria and at the base of the Strathbogie Ranges. Originally names ‘Violet Creek’ the inland town was one of the first to be surveyed in 1838. The town is renowned for being a stop over for Major Thomas Mitchell who on his Australia Felix exploration camped on the banks of what was then called Violet Creek and became Honeysuckle Creek. At the time Major Mitchell noted that the swamps and marshes had a profusion of wild violets and he named the district Violet Ponds.

Settlement in Violet Town was slow initially but once the first hotel, the Royal Mail Hotel, was built by Thomas Clarke. With this development and the movement of people using Sydney Road, later called the Hume Highway, as a thoroughfare between Melbourne and Sydney that land started to sell.

John Kelly was born in about 1832 to Samuel Kelly and Jane Satermaite (Saterwaite) in Melbourne. In 1872, aged 30 years, John married Mary Jane Block, aged 18 years at the time and the daughter of Samuel Block and Margaret Kincaid. Not long after their marriage, John and Mary would settle in Violet Town where their first son, Samuel John Kelly, was born in 1873. Mary Jane would go onto have eight more children consisting of five sons and four daughters.

Public Records Office Victoria, 1882, Certificate of Title

Around this time on 10 December 1878, the notorious Kelly gang held up the bank in nearby Euroa. In the ensuing weeks that followed, local Police and residents scoured the land surrounding Euroa and Violet Town for the gang members but were unsuccessful in finding the bush ranges. I was during this time that newspaper articles were reporting that the Kelly gang were housed up in Violet Town, much to the disgust of locals who argued that Violet Town was one of the most honest communities in the colony and to accuse townsfolk of harboring the fugitives was outrages.

It makes you wonder with the Kelly gang in the local area and known to have stopped by in the town of Violet and nearby Euroa, whether there was an association with John Kelly. We may never know?

The Leader, 18 December 1880

In 1882 for fifteen pounds a local store keeper, John Kelly, became the first owner of the allotment 11, section 19 in Primrose Street, Violet Town. The block of land being two roods and eight perches (or half an acre). In his publication, What it was like then, Darryl Parker describes that bark huts were built to house the growing population and it is likely to be the first home to be built on the lot 11.

Public Records Office Victoria, 1875, Violet Town Parish Map

In the late 1880’s John Kelly became the local publican of the Traveller’s Rest Hotel in Sydney Road, Violet Town for some time. In February 1887, an advertisement instructing the offer for sale by auction two shops, dwelling houses, and allotments of land situated in Cowslip Street, Violet Town and the property of Mr Kelly.

Euroa Advertiser, 4 February 1887

Again in July 1898, John Kelly advertised for the let or sale of the Traveller’s Rest Hotel. The advertisement described the property to be located on Sydney Road near the railway station and consisting of a three parts furnished hotel, stablings and outbuildings, two and half acres to 12 and half acres of land.

Euroa Advertiser, 1 July 1898

While no advertisement of sale references lot 11 in Primrose Street, Violet Town a record of title the Certificate of Title for the property transferred ownership to Maria Tuckett on 1 October 1884.

The Kelly family remained in Violet Town until about 1894 when there youngest child, Theodore Phillip Kelly was born. Soon after the Australian electoral roll finds the Kelly family living on a farm in Boho not far from the township of Violet Town. Up until his death on 13 August 1911, John Kelly resided in his farm in Boho. In his final will and testament, John Kelly left considerable farming property along with stock, farming equipment and dwellings to his wife Mary Jane Kelly.

Mary Jane Kelly died in 1923 leaving her estate to her sons, Joseph Edward and Theodore Phillip.

In the next edition of Who lived here, Ancestor Detective introduces Albert and Maria Tuckett as the next owners of lot 11, Primrose Street, Violet Town.


Violet Town Centenary Celebrations Committee, 1949, Violet Town Centenary Celebrations, Matthews Publishing Company, Melbourne.

Parker, Darryl, n.d, What it was like then, Parker, Darryl.

Birth Index. Australia. Victoria. 1842.  KELLY, John. Australia, Birth Index 1788 – 1922.

Marriage Index. Australia. Victoria. 1872.  KELLY, John and BLOCK, Mary Jane. Australia, Marriage Index 1788 – 1950.

Birth Index. Australia. Victoria. 1854.  BLOCK, Mary Jane. Australia, Birth Index 1788 – 1922.

Euroa Advertiser, 26 February 1909, Sticking up the Euroa Bank, Euroa, p. 2.

The Leader, 18 December 1880, To The Editor of the Leader, p. 6.

Australia Birth Index. Victoria. 1873.  KELLY, Samuel John. Australia, Birth Index 1788 – 1922.

Public Records Office Victoria, 1875, Violet Township Map, County of Moira.

Euroa Advertiser, 4 February 1887, Fortnightly Stock Sale Day, Euroa, p. 3.

Euroa Advertiser, 1 July 1898, To be let or sale, p. 3.

Public Records Office Victoria, 1884, Certificate of Title Lot 11 Primrose Street, Violet Town, Melbourne.

Death Index. Australia. Victoria. 1911.  KELLY, John. Australia, Death Index 1787 – 1985.

Public Record Office Victoria; North Melbourne, Victoria; Victorian Wills, Probate and Administration Records 1841-1925; KELLY, John.

Death Index. Australia. Victoria. 1923.  KELLY, Mary Jane. Australia, Death Index 1787 – 1985

Public Record Office Victoria; North Melbourne, Victoria; Victorian Wills, Probate and Administration Records 1841-1925; KELLY, Mary Jane.

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With a love of genealogy and research, I started my blog Ancestor Detective. My passion for this field continues to grow and I am starting to pursue a part time career in delving into the lives of other peoples ancestors.

2 thoughts on “Who lived here?….Part 1 – John Kelly”

  1. Nice research – you have found out a lot about this property. Love all the documents and maps. And intriguing details – bark huts and then the Kelly name. Although, of course, there are many Kellys! I have some from County Cavan, Ireland, later Canada.


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