History of Mussoorie: Captain Frederick Young of the East India Company, 1823

The year was 1823, and an Irish Born Captain of the East India Company was in the mood to hunt. It was in that summer that he chanced upon hills to the north of Dehradun. The man was Captain Frederick Young, popularly known as the founder of the Sirmoor rifles, which later became the first Gurkha Regiment in the Indian Army. He fell in love with the scenic beauty and the cooler weather of the hills he hunted upon, and decided to build a house there. It was precisely at that moment of time that the city of Mussoorie was founded. The history of Mussoorie is less than 200 years old, but has much to offer to those really keen on knowing more about it.

The Gurkha Regiment under Captain Frederick Young.  Source: adventuresinhistoryland
The Gurkha Regiment under Captain Frederick Young.
Source: adventuresinhistoryland

Did the Captain, who later moved back to his own home in Ireland, ever think he would become a (forgotten) part of Indian history? Captain Young’s enthusiasm to hunt became the foundation of one of the finest Indian hill stations. In less than 200 years since Captain Young first set foot on these lands, it has now become one of the most popular names in the foothills of the Himalayas.

Before the year 1823, only the shepherds and their cattle were known to wander these hills. There has been no other major event associated to the history of Mussoorie prior to 1823. It was considered uninhabitable by the locals, and it wasn’t until Captain Young arrived there, that even more members of the East India Company began to appreciate the beauty of the valley. The city itself is named after ‘Mansoor’, (Coriaria nepalensis) the indigenous shrub that grows all over Mussoorie.

The Mansoor Shrub and the Masuri Berry. Source: FlowersOfIndia
The Mansoor Shrub and the Masuri Berry.
Source: FlowersOfIndia

Captain Frederick Young left the city he founded in a few years. He married Jeannette Bird in 1825, and passed away over 50 years after he founded Mussoorie in 1875. Captain Young, in the short time that he lived in Mussoorie, became the first man to grow potatoes in the valley. For over a century after his death, potatoes were the primary crop in the Mussoorie valley. He has since been an important part in the history of Mussoorie, but has been a largely forgotten name in the city.

It was following his departure that another man, one who will perhaps never be forgotten in the books of history decided to build a house in this city. Who is that man we’re talking about? Click here to find out and read more about the second turning point in the history of Mussoorie.

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