The Nilgiris, because of its natural charm and pleasant climate, was a place of Special attraction for the Europeans. In 1818, Mr. Whish and Kindersley, who were assistants to the Collector of Coimbatore, discovered the place Kotagiri near Rengaswamy peak. John Sullivan, the then Collector of Coimbatore was greatly interested in this part of the country. He established his residence there and reported to the Board of Revenue on 31st July 1819.
The Name ‘Nilgiris’ means Blue hills (Neelam – Blue and giri – Hill or Mountain) the first mention of this name has been found in the Silappadikaram. There is a belief that the people living in the plains at the foot of the hills, should have given the name, the Nilgiris, in view of the violet blossoms of ‘kurinji’ flower enveloping the hill ranges periodically. The earliest reference to the political history of the Nilgiris, according to W.Francis relates to the Ganga Dynasty of Mysore.
Immediately after the Nilgiris was ceded to the British in 1789, it became a part of Coimbatore district. In August 1868 the Nilgiris was separated from the Coimbatore District. James Wilkinson Breeks took over the administration of the Nilgiris as its Commissioner. In February 1882, the Nilgiris was made a district and a Collector was appointed in the place of the Commissioner. On 1st February 1882, Richard Wellesley Barlow who was the then Commissioner became the First Collector of Nilgiris.