Almora


Contributed by Tara van Brederode



Geography of the Region

Almora is located at an altitude of 5,500 feet, on a ridge at the southern edge of the Kumaon Hills of the Himalaya range (Lewis, 1960). Ranikhet, the nearest town, is a summer station for British troops about 25 miles west of Almora (Badley, 1931). Pithoragarh is located in the Shor Valley in the lower Himalaya region, at an altitude of 5,000 feet (Lewis, 1960). It lies in the eastern part of Almora district, fifty-three miles east of Almora, at the intersection of well-traveled trade routes from Nepal to Naini Tal and from Tibet to the plains (Badley, 1931; Lewis, 1960). Pithoragarh is fourteen miles from the border with Nepal, and two weeks' travel from Tibet, which lies to the North (Badley, 1931). "The missionary, who, himself, is not permitted to enter these countries, may sit at the crossroads and give the Gospel and show Christian life to these passersby every day of the year" (Badley, 1931). The lovely Shor valley is about ten miles in length and several miles wide, and is surrounded by high mountains (Badley, 1931). To the north, there is a "fine view of the eternal snows, with Panchuli over 25,000 ft. in the centre" (Badley, 1931).

History of the Mission at Almora
John Henry Budden
In 1850, the Reverend John Henry Budden was stationed with the London Missionary Society at Mirzapur, having come to India from London in 1841 (Badley, 1931, Goodall, 1954). He had visited the Himalaya hills for his health, and there met Captain (later Sir Henry) Ramsay, who was a Christian officer then resident at Naini Tal (Badley, 1931). In 1850, John Henry Budden was offered a missionary position in the Kumaon Hills by Captain Ramsay and Mr. J. H. Batten (Badley, 1931). It was suggested that his salary and a stipend for local expenses would be supplied through a subscription paid by these and other sponsors, if the London Missionary Society gave permission for a mission to be opened in the region (Badley, 1931). Permission was obtained from the Directors in London, and the salary arrangements took effect in January, 1851 (Badley, 1931). Subscriptions soon declined, and the Directors in London had to resume payment of John Henry Budden's salary after just a few years (Lovett, 1899). It was also decided that a school and other mission work should be begun as soon as possible in Almora (Badley, 1931). Two buildings adjoining the Bazar (formerly a mess-room and a billiard room for the regimental officers) were dedicated to the mission work (Badley, 1931). One of the buildings was used as a Mission Chapel, where Sunday services were offered in both Hindustani and English (Badley, 1931).

The other building was used for a school (Walton, 1911; Badley, 1931). The formal opening of the mission work took place on August 7, 1851 (Badley, 1931). The school building was later determined to be inadequate, and another building was secured (Badley, 1931). In 1851, the mission scholars numbered 87, under Mr. Rebsch, who served as schoolmaster and mission assistant until the end of 1851 (Badley, 1931).

In 1852, an Indian headmaster was appointed for the Almora mission school (Badley, 1931). In 1871, the mission school was relocated to a more spacious building in the center of town, on a site formerly occupied by the palace of the Almora rajas, and later by Government buildings (Badley, 1931). In 1886, the high school became known as Ramsay College and was affiliated with Calcutta University (Lovett, 1899; Badley, 1931).

Mrs. John Henry Budden, assisted by her daughter, Mary Budden, and by Mrs. Mather of the LMS in Mirzapur, started a Girls' School (Badley, 1931). When Mrs. Budden died in 1859, her daughters continued the work of the school (Lovett, 1899). By 1909, the girls' school, which was then supervised by Mary Budden, had 117 scholars (Walton, 1911; Badley, 1931). Mary Budden also established a Hospital for Women (Badley, 1931). Other mission work in Almora included boys' and girls' orphanages and a refuge for homeless women (Walton, 1911).

The mission also supervised a leper asylum, which had been established by Sir Henry Ramsay, then a Civil Officer, in 1840 (Badley, 1931; Hollister, 1956). The leper asylum in Almora was one of the oldest institutions of its kind in India (Lewis, 1960). In November, 1851, John Henry Budden assumed the care of the 31 patients in the asylum; by 1854, a new building had been acquired and there were between 30 and 50 patients (Badley, 1931; Hollister, 1956). By 1866, the number of patients had grown to over 100, who occupied nine rows of five houses each, with a nearby store, school, and other outbuildings (Badley, 1931). In 1869, the practice of removing apparently healthy children from their parents was begun; these children were raised in a separate orphanage (Badley, 1931; Hollister, 1956). In 1864, the first conversion of a leper was recorded; between 1864 and 1927, over 700 lepers were converted to Christianity in the Almora mission asylum (Badley, 1931). By 1899, the asylum occupied six acres and could house 130 patients (Lovett, 1899).
Budden Memorial Church, Almora

John Henry Budden went to England in January, 1860 (Lovett, 1899). While there, he published five books in Urdu and Hindi, which he had previously prepared for Indian converts to Christianity (Lovett, 1899). John Henry Budden was described as "an able preacher, educationalist, and writer" (Badley, 1931). Among these five vernacular works was Mumuksh Brittant, or Indian Pilgrim (Badley, 1931).

John Henry Budden retired from active service in 1887, and died at Almora on March 18, 1890 (Lovett, 1899). The church at Almora was named the Budden Memorial Church, in remembrance of his years of service there (Badley, 1931). The work of the mission station at Almora continued, largely under the supervision of John Henry Budden's daughter, Mary Budden. In 1891, the year after John Henry Budden's death, there were 706 Christians in the province of Almora (Walton, 1911 Badley, 1931). Most of the Christians who identified themselves as Congregationalists were converted through the efforts of the LMS, which began work in Kumaon forty years earlier under the direction of John Henry Budden (Walton, 1911). In 1909, the total number of Christians connected with the Almora mission was 455 (Walton, 1911).

In 1895, with the threat of funding problems and imminent LMS withdrawal from the region looming over the mission at Almora, the female missionaries at Almora voluntarily went on half salary (Goodall, 1954). Additional attempts to economize were made, as is demonstrated by one missionary's writing, "We can live on less. It will chiefly mean economy in dress and the elegances of life, the same black bonnet and serge dress year in year out, but it is worth being considered a dowdy old maid if we can supply the funds for fresh missionaries. I am not in favour of a costume and have told Miss [Mary] Budden so" (Goodall, 1954, p. 33).

In 1909, the LMS outstations numbered ten; these included both hill stations and stations in the Milam valley (Walton, 1911). In several outstations, elementary schools and dispensaries, staffed by medical attendants, were in operation by 1909 (Walton, 1911).

In the Kumaon Hills, relations between the American Methodist Episcopalian Mission and the representatives of the London Missionary Society date back to visits made by representatives of the Methodist Mission from Naini Tal to John Henry Budden (Hollister, 1956, Lewis, 1960). In 1925, the LMS, which decided to concentrate its resources in Southern India, discontinued work in the Almora region, and offered to allow the mission's work to continue under the auspices of the Methodists (Hollister, 1956). On January 1, 1926, the Methodist Episcopal Church took over the Almora mission, the schools, and the leper asylum (Badley, 1931).

History of the Mission at Pithoragarh
According to John Henry Budden, "in 1857, some agents of the American Methodist Episcopal Society having escaped from the mutiny in Bareilly came to Naini Tal and commenced a mission there for the Society" (Badley, 1931). The American Methodist Episcopal Mission continued its work in the Almora district in April, 1871, with the opening of a dispensary in Dwarahat (Walton, 1911). Also in 1871, a mission school at Pithoragarh was opened jointly by the LMS and the Methodist committee (Badley, 1931). In 1873, a medical mission and dispensary were opened in Lohaghat (Walton, 1911). In the early 1870s, John Henry Budden and his son, Hanson Odell Budden, made a walking trip from Almora to Pithoragarh on the Nepal road (Badley, 1931). Upon arriving at Pithoragarh, John Henry Budden realized that the town, located at a busy crossroads, was in a strategic location for a mission (Badley, 1931). He planned to place a preacher there, but the LMS authorities refused to permit him to develop the station (Badley, 1931). John Henry Budden then offered the station to J. M. Thoburn of the American Methodist Episcopal Mission (Badley, 1931). Thoburn, anxious to reach out toward the border with Nepal, accepted the offer and sent out a call for a young American doctor to come open the mission station (Badley, 1931). The young doctor, Richardson Gray, responded to the summons and went to India in 1873 to prepare the mission (Price, 1907; Badley, 1931). A hospital was built, and an extensive medical mission was begun (Walton, 1911).

In the mid-1800s, the journey from America to India took more than four months, and missionaries were often told that their appointments were for life (Price, 1907). Few entertained hopes of returning to America (Price, 1907).

While preparing the Pithoragarh mission station, Dr. Gray visited often at the home of John Henry Budden in Almora (Badley, 1931). There he "found among the four daughters of the family, one lovely one who was willing to share his life and work, and in due time, the young doctor and Miss Margaret Budden were married and went to make their home in Pithoragarh, beginning their work in 1875" (Badley, 1931, pp. 376-377).

Early on, the Pithoragarh mission consisted of a small church and hospital, located at the heavily-traveled crossroads (Badley, 1931). By 1931, the small church had been enlarged twice and was in need of further renovation and enlargement (Badley, 1931). The people of Pithoragarh were glad to see the mission begin work in their town, as prior to the arrival of Dr. and Mrs. Richardson Gray, there were no schools in the valley, and very few of the inhabitants could read or write (Badley, 1931).

While Richardson Gray practiced medicine and preached at the new mission station, Margaret Budden Gray invited the women of the village "to come to her veranda and there taught them to mend their clothes while she gave them Christian teaching" (Badley, 1931, p. 378). After a while, some of the mothers in the village became willing to allow their unmarried daughters to live near Margaret Budden Gray in order to learn to read, write, and sew (Badley, 1931). This was the beginning of a Girls' Boarding School, which by 1931 had over 100 girls enrolled (Badley, 1931). Many of the pupils subsequently went to Almora for higher education (Badley, 1931).

In 1877, Annie Budden came to Pithoragarh to visit Margaret Budden Gray (Badley, 1931). She became interested in the Girls' School, which then consisted of four girls, and remained in Pithoragarh to run it (Badley, 1931). Shortly thereafter, a widow named Sarli, who had two sons and two daughters, came to the mission (Badley, 1931). Her daughters joined the four pupils already attending the Girls' School, and her sons were the first two pupils enrolled at the Boys' School (Badley, 1931). Sarli told Annie Budden, "If only I had a few fields to cultivate, I could feed myself--my only ambition is for these children" (Badley, 1931). Sarli became the first inhabitant of the Widows' Home, to which widows and "cast-off wives," including homeless and mistreated women, came to do work on farm land which was procured for their cultivation through a gift of money from America (Badley, 1931).

In 1884, Richardson and Margaret Budden Gray went on furlough to America (Badley, 1931). Annie Budden became a missionary in the Methodist organization and continued the work of the mission at Pithoragarh (Badley, 1931). She inhabited a home on a recently purchased piece of property called Bhatkot (Badley, 1931). Also in 1884, Annie Budden went on furlough, returning to the work at Pithoragarh in 1886 (Badley, 1931). In 1885, at the request of the missionary stationed at Pithoragarh, the Mission to Lepers purchased land for an asylum, which by 1909 was home to seventy patients (Walton, 1911). By 1895, the station was without a doctor, but the fundraising efforts of Miss Annie Budden resulted in the opening of a small hospital and dispensary, staffed by a woman who had been trained by Dr. S. S. Dease, Dr. Richardson Gray's successor (Price, 1907).

Annie Budden was described by one of her co-workers, Lucy W. Sullivan, as "a woman of deep consecration to Mission work," with "unusual executive ability" (Badley, 1931). She opened numerous outstations throughout the district, procured land, supervised the construction of houses, and located preachers and their families to occupy them (Badley, 1931). In 1902, Annie Budden went on furlough to America, and Lucy Sullivan supervised the work at Pithoragarh in her absence (Badley, 1931). In 1903, on Annie Budden's return, the work of the mission was divided between the two women (Badley, 1931). Lucy Sullivan supervised the institutions, and Annie Budden devoted herself to the evangelical work, which was enhanced by her fluent command of the "pahari" language (Badley, 1931). In 1910, Annie Budden moved to Champawat, thirty-four miles south of Pithoragarh, and developed a new summer station (Badley, 1931). In October, 1921, she died (Badley, 1931).

Conclusion
By 1909, the mission work at Almora and Pithoragarh (under the supervision of the LMS and the Methodists) was run by seven European missionaries (three men and four women), among them Mary and Annie Budden, daughters of John Henry Budden (Walton, 1911). Mary Budden served under the London Missionary Society from 1888 to 1917 (though her involvement in the mission work began much earlier, during her early years at her father's mission in Almora), and was still living in Almora district in 1927 (Badley, 1931, Goodall, 1954). Mary and Annie Budden attended the India Mission Jubilee of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Southern Asia, held at Bareilly, India, from December 28, 1906, through January 1, 1907 (Price, 1907). They were housed together in a tent for the Jubilee celebration (Price, 1907). Annie Budden delivered a "most interesting and helpful" paper on Evangelistic Work at the meeting of the Women's Foreign Missionary Society (Price, 1907). During one of the meeting days, there "came a breeze from the Himalayas, a class of Miss [Annie] Budden's boys from Pithoragarh, who had walked ninety miles, over mountains and through valleys, to reach their nearest railway station, for the journey. Led by a blind boy, they sang a song" (Price, 1907, p. 54).


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