John Sullivan : Great Minds

John Sullivan Esq (1788-1855) was an officer of the Madras Civil Service of the East India Company. He was the Principal Collector of Coimbatore District from 1815 to 1830, when the Nilgiri hills were a Taluk of that district. While the Collectors before him dreaded to explore the lofty hills, Sullivan ventured to ascend the hills to establish the first Hill Station of the British India. On first seeing the uplands of Nilgiris, Sullivan compared them to Switzerland.

The agrarian changes and the host of ‘English’ vegetables, tea, trees and fruits that he introduced; the roads and other amenities he created; the reforms in the administration that he made and the special attention that he accorded to the indigenous people continue to benefit the district and its population even after two centuries. 

Sullivan’s love for the Nilgiri hills never diminished even after the death of his wife and eldest daughter within a week in 1838. His descendants continued to serve the Nilgiris till the 1930s.

The only unfulfilled wish of John Sullivan, the founder of modern Nilgiris, was that he wanted to spend his last days in the warm slopes of Melur in the Nilgiris.

He died in 1855 in London and his grave remained undiscovered for 144 years till a Ooty man found it in 2009.

Nilgiri Documentation Centre

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