Monday, 27 January 2014

The American who introduced apples into India

He was not an Indian. Nor was he a European. He was an American. He had come to India to work as a volunteer in a leper home. Yet, he actively participated in the Freedom Movement of India. He was also the only foreigner who signed the Congress Manifesto. Infact, he even attended several Congress sessions, which in those days gave a lead to the people yearning for freedom.
He also fought against bonded labour and compelled the British to outlaw the practice. Today, he is just not remembered for his fight for India’s Independence, but as the man who introduced apples in Himachal Pradesh. Then, these apples were known as Red Delicious American. Now, they are famous as Himachal appeals and they have their own brand in the market.
He was a wealthy American Quaker-who set sail for India aged twenty two. Once in India, he worked with great zeal and enthusiasm and later became a Hindu and even took a Hindu name. 
This man is Satyananda Stokes, who was born as Samuel Evens Stokes.
Born on August 16, 1882, to a distinguished and wealthy Quaker family in Philadelphia, his father was a successful businessman and also the founder-owner of the Stokes and Parish Machine Company, the leading manufacturer of  elevators in the USA.
Samuel could not acquire any professional skill and he appeared totally disinterred in his father’s business.
In 1904, Samuel left for India to work at a leper colony at Subathu in Shimla Hills of Himachal Pradesh. Though his parents opposed his decision, Samuel decided to set sail for India.
In India, Samuel met his calling and he began living with the villagers. In 1912, he married Agnes, a local Rajput Christian girl, and purchased a farm. In 1916, he then decided to improve his farm and he began cultivating a new variety of apples developed by the Stark Brothers of US in 1915.
If the Stark Brothers called their variety of apples grown in their nursery in Louisiana as the Red Delicious, Samuel planted them in his farm at Barobagh in Thanedar in the winter of 1916 and this was the birth of the famous Himachal apples
The apple trees took root and the first apple crop was harvested in 1926. Samuel then encouraged other farmers to take up apple cultivation.    
In 1932, he converted to Hinduism and took the name Satyananda, while Agnes became Priyadevi.
Meanwhile, he had started taking active interest in the freedom movement. He was the only American to become a member of the AICC and alongwith Lala Lajpat Rai, he represented Punjab at the AICC session. He was also the only non-Indian to sign the Congress manifesto in 1921, calling upon Indians to quit government service.
The British put Samuel into jail on charges of sedition. Samuel thus became the only American political prisoner in the freedom struggle. He died on May 14, 1946 in Shimla. Ironically, many  leaders had gathered at Shimla to discuss India’s future constitutional framework with the visiting Cabinet Mission from England.
He was cremated in Shimla and his ashes later taken to Kotgarh.

Though apple growers of Kashmir and Himachal still remember Samuel, the Government seems to have forgotten him. There is no mention of this great man or his contribution in Shimla. Indeed, there is not even a statue. 


  1. Thanks for this article. So much useful. Hope some one takes a note of this and ensure Mr.Stokes his due credit.

    1. You are right, Mr. PraDeepu. The authorities and the Government should recognise the contribution of Mr. Stokes and his family and give them the honour and recognition due to them.