In the Malay language "Medan" means a large place to
gather. Since long ago Medan has been a meeting place for
people who come from Hamparan Perak, Stabat, Suka Piring and
other places. They came for trading, gambling and so forth.
When it was founded in 1590, Medan was just a small village
called Medan Putri, which was built by Guru Patimpus, a descendant
of Raja Singa Mahraja, who governed Negeri Bakerah in the
Highlands of Karo. Around the 17th century Aceh and Deli Land
competed to acquire this land. Due to its strategic location,
which is on the meeting point of the rivers Deli and Babura
- both formed a busy trading traffic route - Medan Putri
quickly flourished into transit port for traders who come
from all over the world.
John Anderson, a British government employee based in Penang,
who visited Medan in 1823, wrote in his book, Mission
to The East Coast of Sumatera, Edinburgh edition,
1826, that Medan was still a small village with population
of around 200.
The development of Medan took a swift pace with the
opening of tobacco plantation. According to Tengku
Lukman Sinar, SH in his book "Sejarah Medan
Tempo Doeloe" (2001) an Arabian to Surabaya,
Said Abdullah Bilsagih who became an in-law of Sultan
Mahmud Perkasa Alam Deli, took several Dutch traders
from Java to plant tobacco in Deli. They were J. Nienhuys,
Van Der Falk and Elliot, who came to Deli in 7 July
1863. The Sultan of Deli gave them 4000-bahu of land
near labuhan (Cape Sepassai) as 20 years of right
to operate on (erfpacht).
In March 1864 the harvested tobacco was shipped to
Rotterdam, Holland. Deli tobacco was well received
for its good quality for cigar wrapper. This success
encouraged J. Nienhuys in 1869, to open new lands
for tobacco plantation in Martubung, Sunggal, Sungai
Beras and Klumpang. The labors for these tobacco plantations
were generally Chinese who were sent for from Swalow
(Tiongkok), Singapore, Malaya and Tamil (Keling) who
were sent for from India via Penang.
When the rulers in China made it more difficult for
Chinese workers to come to Deli and the British administrator
in India began to require stricter conditions for
Keling workers, the Dutch tobacco industrialists started
to think of taking contract labors from Java. The
first wave of workers from Java consisted of 150 contract
labors from Bagelen.
The population of Chinese in Labuhan in 1867 had reached
1000. On the other hand, inland comers such as the
Javanese or Minangkabau people were only 474. While
the Malay and Karo people were thought of as being
defiant to the Dutch, so they couldn't be employed
as plantation workers.
As the tobacco business expanded and grew, J Nienhuys,
Jansen and P.W. Clemen relocated their company's office
of De Deli Maatschappij, from Labuhan to the village
of "Medan Putri." Ever since then, the village
of "Medan Putri" grew busier and became
more known as the City of Medan.