Frederick E. Wilson was only 25 years old when he deserted the British Indian army in Mussoorie. As per some sources, he had killed a fellow Soldier in a duel and that caused him to flee. For reasons unknown, he escaped towards North and entered the Kingdom of Tehri Garhwal where he asked the King to grant him some employment. But the King who was an ally of the British, would have nothing to do with him lest his British friends be unhappy to find out that the King was sheltering a fugitive from their Army. Left with no further recourse it is said that Pahadi(Mountain) Wilson went even deeper into the Mountains till he came to the Valley of the Bhagirathi at a place called Harsil and decided to set himself up over there far away from the civilisation.
He married a local lady Raimata of the Mukhwa village and soon the local Villagers accepted him into their Society. One would imagine that he acted like some important official and the local Villagers were scared of the Gora Babu(White Gentleman), but were generally very nice and accommodating with him. All except the Priests of the local Temples who thought of him as some kind of Missionary out to convert the people. But far from a Missionary Pahadi Wilson had Royal ambitions and wanted to make a lot of Money. However as the time quietly passed, when he couldn’t bear a child from his first marriage, he married another Pahari girl named Gulabi from the same village. She was the mother of his three sons, Nathaniel (Natthu), Charles (Charli Sahib) and Henry (Indri).
Wilson started his entrepreneurial journey using his exceptional hunting skills. Over time, the forests were heavily plundered. The population of the Himalayan Musk Deer suffered greatly as it was recklessly hunted. Musks and furs were smuggled out of India. However, what caught his attention were the abundant Deodar trees that were left untouched! To extract timber, Wilson had to acquire a license from the Raja of Tehri. But the Raja refused to grant Wilson the same. It then just happened that the British were laying Railway Lines across the country and there was a great demand for Timber Sleepers of Sal for the Railway tracks. And this was where the Raja struck Gold. He gave Wilson the License and both made a fortune later beyond their wildest imaginations. Wilson set up sawmills along the Bhagirathi and vast amounts of Timber were floated down the Ganges towards Haridwar.
Pahadi Wilson was truly a Raja now, and the first thing a Raja does is mint coin in his own name. These are great Collector items today. He built a large Palace out of Deodar in Harsil. Sunderlal Bahuguna, the leader of the Chipko Andolan held Wilson responsible for setting deforestation in motion in northern India, and the gradual extinction of the endemic wildlife.
It is said that during the Selku fair (a celebration to embrace autumn and bid monsoon farewell), Rich Wilson who lived like a king and could possibly make anything happen on ground was said to have challenged the power of Someshwar, provoking the prime deity of Mukhba village to walk on Wilson’s seven deadly swords. It is believed that Wilson’s act of challenging the power of the Lord Someshwar angered the deity greatly. Also, as he had almost completely hunted out all the Wildlife and destroyed all the Forests. It is said that the deity cursed Wilson that his bloodline would be wiped out completely after one generation and he would be forgotten.
Pahadi Wilson, in his wealthy prime decided to move out of Harsil to Mussoorie to live among his fellow British gentry as now he was a very well respected part of the Society. With all his wealth, he became one of the biggest landowners in the Mountains. He became friends with eminent people like A O Hume and Rudyard Kipling who’s Novel “The Man Who Would Be King” is said to have been inspired by Pahadi Wilson amongst others. And it was in Mussoorie that Pahadi Wilson passed away in 1883 but not before he witnessed the passing away of 2 of his 3 sons. His only surviving Son went into obscurity and his last known descendant was an Officer (probably a Grandson of his last surviving son) who served in the Indian Air Force but passed away in an Air Crash in 1953. Thus ending the line of Pahadi Wilson.
Maybe it was the curse of Lord Someshwar. The Gods, as it is said, neither forget nor forgive.
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If today is the first time you have arrived on The Road to Nara, you are heartily welcome ~ Namaste
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I will take this opportunity to introduce you to About me and importantly;
As a co-traveller, will take you through the Ten Lessons I learnt from several years on the road, before you coarse on your own Road to Nara.
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You might also like to know about My Little School Project. If you wish to come over for a visit someday, that you must, you will be heartily welcome here
If you would like to contribute to my travels, you can please do so here
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To visit other long-term photographic works, please visit here.
Courtesy : Various Internet Sources