Whitefield, the last of the Settlements

This Page is dedicated to the First Settlers who built this "Out-Post" of Bangalore, and who have gone before us, but have left us a legacy of a Peaceful little township called "Whitefield"... this is an extract from the writings of one of the Original Settlers .... Mr. Peck, probably the School Headmaster as some of the descriptions in the article are very much those of one who is trained in the art of Teaching and explaining, the page is also dedicated to his family.... and so goes the story .... written in the setting around the first decade of 1900 .... and you can link to some photographs at the end of the page.

On the 27th April, 1882, His Highness, Chamaraja Wodeyar, the Maharaja of Mysore, granted 3900 acres of land to the Eurasian and Anglo-Indian Association, Mysore and Coorg, (E&AI), for the establishment of Agricultural Settlements at Whitefield, Glen Gordon and Sourmond, in the Mysore State (now Karnataka State). The Association was then about 170 strong, and with Mr. Standish Lee, late of the Mysore Government Service, as President and Dr. Saurmond and Dr.Duckworth as Vice Presidents and a Committee of 30 Members, to whom the honour is due for the formation of the only settlement in India that European and Eurasians can call their own. The late Mr. D.S.White the then President of the E & AI Association, South India Ltd., also took a lively interest in it and helped in its advancement which at the beginning was very uphill work.

The Whitefield Settlement was managed by the E & AI Association, Mysore and Coorg, Ltd., which now consisted of over 200 members, with Mr. R.T. Tocher, B.A as President, Messrs. J.H. Stephens, W.J. Johnson and J. Hamilton, Vice -Presidents, and a Committee, 25 in number, having their head quarters in the Civil and Military Station of Bangalore.

The Whitefield Settlement has been in existence for over 25 years, and its present permanent residents numbered about 130 in 1907. Their increase has been gradual, but the number of visitors who flock into the place during the summer months so that house accommodation could not be obtained by all those who were desirous of spending the hottest months of the year in this sanatorium. In the first decade of the 1900's there were about 45 houses of which 18 were on the Village Site and the remainder were on farms scattered throughout the Settlement, which is not less than 3 miles in length and about 2 miles wide, and contained about 2000 acres of land fit for cultivation. The soil is red sandy loam, suitable for horticulture and garden cultivation. Many of the settlers possess good mango orchards and the fruits commands good prices and a ready sale in the market, and Whitefield has already become famous for its mangoes. Other fruit and timber trees are also grown. Several of the settlers have casuarina plantations, which they find profitable, and one of them had a woodyard for the sale of fuel for domestic purposes; others sell full grown trees for railway contractors and others by the thousand at times for good prices.

A fortune was in store for anyone with experience to start a kitchen garden the produce of which would have found a ready sale on the Kolar Gold Field, only about 30 miles distance by rail; of course, a little capital would be required at the start, around Rs.3,000 to Rs.4,000. An experienced florist would also do well; no better roses and other flowers are to be found than those grown at Whitefield. In those days, they even commanded high prices at Madras and elsewhere. Every year, an increasing extent of land is being brought under cultivation, and it would be more satisfactory if the number of settlers interested in agriculture were larger, but the progress and interest taken in horticulture was satisfactory to some extent.

Owing to the inexperience of the early settlers, wells were sunk in unsuitable places and many of them failed, but since then men of experience and professional knowledge have sunk wells in proper places; and the then Mysore Government have constructed a good well and they are contemplating the construction of another where a never-failing supply of excellent water is to be found; but even now during the hot months of the year, between March to May, a scarcity of water is sometimes felt; at other seasons of the year the supply is ample. Towards the south of the Settlement, in the valley land, water is found at a depth of 4 feet from the surface, at all seasons of the year, so that the water supply of the Settlement is gradually solved.

In starting the Settlement at Whitefield, it was the aim of the promoters to try to induce and help the poorer members of the community to till the soil, to acquire a knowledge of various trades, to foster intellectual ability and to further honest and healthy ambition, in fact, to try and raise the status of the domiciled European and Eurasian community, both materially and intellectually impressing on their minds the dignity of labour and self-help. It was thought that intelligent people such as they represented, without preconceived notions or prejudices, would be more likely to adopt scientific agriculture than the poor ryots of the land. But agriculture requires steady and patient industry, moderate aspiration and prudent habits, to which people accustomed to varied pursuits are not trained without considerable difficulty. It is only by greater intelligence and the application of science and machinery to the pursuits that anything more than the moderate returns which rewards the industry of a ryot can be expected.

The land scheme as first started at Whitefield may be thus briefly described. Allotments of land from 2 to 20 acres were made only to members of the Association possessed of capital, pensions, or other private income and enough energy to pursue an active life and to carry on agricultural operations , helped by their wives, children and male and female apprentices. The second class of settler had only sufficient income to carry on a small industry on the acre or so of land around his cottage, or independently of it. Other settlers without means had to work as farm servants or domestic helps. From the above it will be seen that the Whitefield land scheme was not meant to be a pauper colonising scheme. Paupers and persons temporarily without means were given the option of working under other settlers who had to feed, clothe and pay them for work done. More than this the Association was not prepared to do, as the Association is not a charitable Organisation. The fundamental rules of this scheme only allowed land to be given to members of the Association who possessed capital, pensions and energy to carry on agricultural pursuits. The reasons for these restrictions are based on the soundest principals of political economy and on the conclusions arrived at by great European economists.

In 1887, Dennis Fritzpatrick ( later became Sir), the then Resident in Mysore, desired to form an opinion as to what assistance could be given to the Whitefield Colonial School, in order that technical and agricultural instruction might be imparted to the children of the settlers. In his report to the Government of Mysore, he said he doubted whether the cultivation of ordinary crops would ever become an important source if profit to the settlers and held that their main hope of success lay in the breeding of pigs and poultry, in the manufacture of ragi flour and of preserves, jams, jellies and pickles and possibly, after a time, in dairy farming. He was of the opinion that for pesioners and others having small independent means of their own, an opportunity here offered of settling down in a healthy place possessing a good climate, with the prospect of obtaining by industry and good management, a considerable access to their income. As for the settlement of artisans and agricultural labourers in Whitefield, he did not think such men could compete with the locals. He observed that, on the whole, though the settlers were not likely to be effect all that was originally hoped for, they had made a good beginning, and had already served, to some extent, a useful purpose which within certain limits might be improved and extended. He considered that the Government of Madras and Mysore might properly aid the cause of education in Whitefield. He also observed that the idea of forming a self-contained community, possessing its artisians and excluding competition, was altogether chimerical.

H.E. Lord Connemara, when Governor of Madras (1890), visited Whitefield, and his opinion on the place and the aims and objects of its people was summed up as follows.. "That the present aid which is given to education may be continued, even extended, should occasion require; that Whitefield is worthy of support and encouragement, in as much as it affords an opportunity to European and Eurasian pensioners of obtaining land on favourable terms in a village where they can cultivate it amongst their fellow countrymen; that it is most improbable that any but capitalists can work these holdings at a profit; that such profits are to be expected chiefly from fruit growing, abori-culture and the like pursuits, while in respect of crops it is most improbable that the Settlers will ever be able to compete with ordinary local ryots; that there is little or no hope that the children of these Settlers will ever make their living on these lands in the absence of capital such as their fathers possessed; and, that the idea of self-contained European village possessing its own artisans, tradesmen and agriculturists, independent of outside help, must be abandoned". Finally, His Excellency thought that a useful lesson might be learnt by observing its success or failure and the evidence collected which cannot but be of use to a Government which had set before it the solution of the Eurasian problem.

Two years later, General Sir Harry Prendergast, then British Resident in Mysore, visited the Settlement and expressed himself pleased with all he saw. Since then there were regular visits to Whitefield by the Bangalore District Officials and high dignitaries from the Madras Presidency. Certainly, it had greatly improved since Lord Connemara's visit in 1890. From the top of 'Hamilton Hill' he could see the village School, the Church and a dozen cottages, more or less; but now from the same place one can count a School house much enlarged and more pretentious, two neat little Churches, a Post Office, the 'Whitefield Store' the 'Waverly Inn' and 45 houses with gardens and many fine orchards.

Up to the year 1893, the Eurasian Anglo-Indian Association of South India helped the Mysore and Coorg Association in the formation of Whitefield, with money, which has been repaid, but since the latter Association since the latter Association has been able to get the Settlement on by leaps and bounds, without any help from outside. The greatest harmony and good will prevails between the two Associations, and in fact, many persons are members of both Associations.

The Whitefield Railway Station is on the Madras-Bangalore line, distance 204 from the former and 12 from the latter place. The Settlement itself lies to the south of the Railway Station or to the right of the line from the right of the line from the Bangalore side, and measures about 3 miles in length by 2 miles in breadth. The first house in the Settlement in its Northern boundary is half a mile from the Station and the last house on its Southern boundary is about 3 miles further on. A fine road, with a good avenue of trees runs through the Settlement, from the North to the South, dividing it into two parts and thence to Sausmond, 5 miles further on, the same road leading to Bangalore which is 10 miles off.

The Village site forms a large circle 1500 feet in diameter with about 25 houses on the circumference and the School, Schoolmaster's quarters, Post Office, Play Ground, and Lawn Tennis Courts in the centre of the circle. The Protestant and Roman Catholic Churches are near at hand and so are the Whitefield Stores, Waverly Inn and The Refreshment Room. Outside the circle there is a place for football and a Cricket ground. A Circulating Book Club is in existence and a Parsonage is being built for the Protestant Church. The other houses, to the number of about 20, are scattered throughout the Settlement. Mr.J. Hamilton, Vice-President and Agent, is in charge of the Village site and of all the public buildings thereon. The Village is to the right of the public road, which forms a tangent to the circular village, at a point a little more than a mile and half from the Railway Station. The entrance to the Village is at this point, and close to the Protestant Church. There is still plenty of room for fresh settlers, the whole extent of the land being upwards of 3000 acres. The Village is prettily laid out and its appearance is very striking as it is approached through a pass between "Hamilton Hill" on the left and the "Kaolin Hill" on the right.

With regard to its climate, Whitefield possesses a very agreeable and bracing temperature; the air is cool, pure and refreshing, with fine open country for miles and miles around, people who have visited the Settlement , especially during the cold season, have always spoken in the highest terms if its climate.

Several of the Settlers work at the Kolar Gold Field while their families remain in the Settlement, and as it is not far off they take a run into the place periodically. Others again earn something by growing fruit and timber trees, the rearing of poultry and sheep-farming ought to pay well. The cost of living is somewhat cheaper than in Madras or Bangalore. Supplies are in plentiful. Hawkers, bakers, butchers, sellers of fruit, milk, eggs butter, poultry, game, fish etc., go round from house to house, if paid punctually then, a servant can at any time go by rail to Bangalore market and be back in a hour or two. Trains leave Whitefield for Madras, Bangalore and Jolarpet three or four times a day.

The Whitefield Store, kept by Messers. Hamilton, Strange & Co., is a surprise to all who come to visit Whitefield from outstation. The Refreshment Room and Waverly Inn are in the Same building. The Inn at present has only accommodation for two families and half a dozen single people, and so it is generally full. The Refreshment Room provides dinners, tiffins, etc., for casual visitors, and it is largely patronised by Cricket and Football teams and others. The Refreshment Room is also used of an evening by the residents who wish to read the papers or to have a game of chess, draughts or cards. It is at the Store and at the Refreshment Room that the important questions of the hour are discussed, and a pleasant half hour or so can often be spent there listening to the Whitefield politicians.

It must not be supposed that all the members that all the members of the Anglo-Indian community at Whitefield are on the same dead level socially, physically, morally and mentally. Some are as good as the best in the land, while others are lower down in the social scale in more respects than one. In Whitefield on can choose his own company and still be on good terms with all. However, it is found that 'birds of a feather flock together'.

The Whitefield School has been in existence for about 24 years and teaches upto the Lower Secondary Examination. The premises have been extended to about double the original size with quarters for the Head-Master and a splendid playground. Visitors in those days who required house accommodation, picnic parties and others who may wish to be conveyed to Whitefield from the Railway Station and back, should address Mr. D. Strang. Of course the mile and half journey from the Station can be made either by bullock cart or jutka, the former by pre-arrangement, and the latter at the Station, for which the charge is 8 annas.

Some of the thoughts that ran through the minds of the early Settlers were ...

In conclusion, it only remains for the reader to surmise that there in Whitefield, a small body of persons who have formed themselves into what is known as the "Whitefield Association", and although earlier they had ties with the Mysore and Coorg Association, now they were independent in structure and working. In his concluding paragraphs, M.Fazlul Hasan, in his article 'Balmy Whitefield of Raj days' which appeared in the Deccan Herald, Saturday, April 29, 1989, writes about the situation of Whitefield .... "but this English myth of a secluded European and Eurasian existence in an essentially Indian environment, which survived two world wars and the uncomfortable days of the Indian struggle for independence, could not continue for long. This reality became manifest when the British left India after the country achieved Independence in 1947. The Europeans who lived in Whitefield felt India for Great Britain and most of the Anglo-Indian population migrated to Australia. Though Whitefield has now lost its romantic appeal, it remains a legacy of the British rule in India".

Eurasian & Anglo Indian Association Mysore & Coorg Limited, also names of Owners of Houses and Land within the Settlement of Whitefield in the first decade of 1900:

European and Eurasian Tenants & Sub-Tenants of the Jdidar of Puttandur Village outside the Whitefield Settlement in the first decade of 1900: