The Wiradjuri tribe called the Ten Mile Creek, “Thug-wug-minnia-binnis” or “Thug-wug-mungyel- bingyel”, meaning “jumping waters” or “something to do with rock wallabies”. Explorers Hume and Hovell were the first Westerners to disturb their hunting and fishing land, when they crossed into the region from Tumbarumba in 1824. The Rev John Joseph Therry was the first person licensed to settle in the Holbrook area, being granted the “Billy Bong” lease in 1837, which covered an area including what is now Holbrook.
The first to settle on the present site of Holbrook were John and Elisabeth Mitten who squatted on the north bank of the Ten Mile Creek in early 1838, later running the Woolpack Inn. In 1840, Johann Christopher Pabst, a German shepherd, was granted the licence of the Woolpack Inn. Travelers passing through the area referred to the hotel as “The Germans” or “John the German’s.” The township of Germanton was gazetted in 1876.
During the gold rush to the Kiandra diggings in the 1860s, the Pabst family kept a store and sold bread to the travellers near the site of the Holbrook Hotel. With an influx of new settlers in the late 1860s, the Pabst family opened the Germanton Hotel in 1868.
Holbrook’s unique link with submarines began during World War I when town leaders decided Germanton was no longer an appropriate town name. About that time, Lt Norman Holbrook’s name hit world headlines for a daring underwater raid. In December 1914, Holbrook took a British submarine on a hazardous journey into the Dardanelles to torpedo and sink the Turkish battleship “Mesudiye”.
Back in Germanton, Cr John Ross’s suggestion that Holbrook be a fitting name for the town was greeted with great enthusiasm and the first meeting of the newly named Holbrook Shire Council took place in August 1915. During the years following the name change, Commander Holbrook made a number of visits to the town before his death in 1976. In 1982 his widow, Gundula Holbrook donated his medals to the town, which were subsequently donated on loan to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra for preservation.
The unlikely link between the inland farming town and the RAN Submarine Squadron was developed by Holbrook between 1986 and 1992 when submariners were given Freedom of Entry to the shire.
In 1995 the Navy gifted Holbrook the fin of the decommissioned HMAS OTWAY. Subsequently, several thousand dollars was raised along with a generous gift from Gundula Holbrook to purchase the OTWAY. An official dedication of the Submarine Memorial was staged in 1997. Located nearby is a 1/5 scale model of a World War I B11 Submarine, a statue commemorating Commander Holbrook, a life size Mark Viii Torpedo, Duck’s Arse and a replica of the AE2, an Australian submarine from WWI.
In 2013 Holbrook was the last town on the Hume Highway to be bypassed. Convenient on and off ramps built at either end of the township make Holbrook an easily accessible stopover for the weary traveler, with its relaxing parks, ample car, RV and van parking, EV charging and petrol stations, supermarkets and excellent eateries.