Rugby, Tennessee
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Rugby is an
unincorporated community An unincorporated area is a region that is not governed by a local municipal corporation. Widespread unincorporated communities and areas are a distinguishing feature of the United States and Canada. Most other countries of the world either have ...
in Morgan and Scott counties in the
U.S. state In the United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, ...
of
Tennessee Tennessee ( , ), officially the State of Tennessee, is a landlocked state in the Southeastern region of the United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is ...
. Founded in 1880 by English author
Thomas Hughes Thomas Hughes (20 October 182222 March 1896) was an English lawyer, judge, politician and author. He is most famous for his novel ''Tom Brown's School Days'' (1857), a semi-autobiographical work set at Rugby School, which Hughes had attended. ...
, Rugby was built as an experimental utopian colony. While Hughes's experiment largely failed, a small community lingered at Rugby throughout the 20th century. In the 1960s, residents, friends and descendants of Rugby began restoring the original design and layout of the community, preserving surviving structures and reconstructing others. Rugby's
Victorian architecture Victorian architecture is a series of Revivalism (architecture), architectural revival styles in the mid-to-late 19th century. ''Victorian'' refers to the reign of Queen Victoria (1837–1901), called the Victorian era, during which period the st ...
and picturesque setting have since made it a popular tourist attraction. In 1972, Rugby's historic area was listed under the name Rugby Colony on the
National Register of Historic Places The National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) is the United States federal government's official United States National Register of Historic Places listings, list of Historic districts in the United States, districts, sites, buildings, struc ...
as a
historic district A historic district or heritage district is a section of a city A city is a human settlement of notable size.Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. London: Penguin.Kuper, A. and Kuper, J., eds (1996) ''The Social Sc ...
. The Rugby experiment grew out of the social and economic conditions of Victorian England, where the practice of
primogeniture Primogeniture ( ) is the right, by law or custom, of the firstborn legitimate child to inheritance, inherit the parent's entire or main estate (law), estate in preference to shared inheritance among all or some children, any illegitimate child ...
and an economic depression had left many of the "second sons" of the English gentry jobless and idle. Hughes envisioned Rugby as a colony where England's second sons would have a chance to own land and be free of social and moral ills that plagued late-19th-century English cities. The colony would reject late Victorian materialism in favor of the
Christian socialist Christian socialism is a Religious philosophy, religious and political philosophy that blends Christianity and socialism, endorsing left-wing politics and socialist economics on the basis of the Bible and the teachings of Jesus. Many Christian s ...
ideals of equality and cooperation espoused in Hughes's ''Tom Brown's School Days''.Brian Stagg, ''The Distant Eden, Tennessee's Rugby Colony: A History of the English Colony at Rugby, Tennessee, With a Guide to the Remaining Original Buildings'' (Rugby, Tenn.: Paylor Publications, 1973), pp. 1-19. From the outset, however, the colony was beset with problems, namely a
typhoid Typhoid fever, also known as typhoid, is a disease caused by ''Salmonella'' serotype Typhi bacteria. Symptoms vary from mild to severe, and usually begin six to 30 days after exposure. Often there is a gradual onset of a high fever over several d ...
epidemic in 1881, lawsuits over land titles, and a population unaccustomed to the hard manual labor required to extract crops from the poor soil of the
Cumberland Plateau The Cumberland Plateau is the southern part of the Appalachian Plateau in the Appalachian Mountains of the United States. It includes much of eastern Kentucky and Tennessee, and portions of northern Alabama and northwest Georgia (U.S. state), Geo ...
. By late 1887, most of the original colonists had either died or moved away from Rugby.Margaret McGehee, "Castle In the Wilderness: Rugby, Tennessee, 1880–1887." ''Journal of East Tennessee History'', Vol. 70 (1998), pp. 62-89. However, a few carried on into the 20th century and the village retained a small, continuous population.


Geography

Rugby is located atop the
Cumberland Plateau The Cumberland Plateau is the southern part of the Appalachian Plateau in the Appalachian Mountains of the United States. It includes much of eastern Kentucky and Tennessee, and portions of northern Alabama and northwest Georgia (U.S. state), Geo ...
near the junction of Morgan, Scott, and Fentress counties. While it straddles the two former counties, the majority of it lies in Morgan County. On the north side of Rugby, the Clear Fork joins White Oak Creek to form a natural pool known as "The Meeting of the Waters" that has been a popular hiking destination since the colony's early days. Beyond Meeting-of-the-Waters, the Clear Fork continues northeastward for another to where it joins New River to form the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River. State Route 52 passed through the town, until December 2013 when the "Rugby Bypass" opened, connecting it with U.S. Route 127 in Jamestown to the west and U.S. Route 27 in the community of Elgin to the east. The area is relatively remote, with the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area dominating the area to the north, and sparsely-populated rolling hills stretching for miles to the south. Most of the historic district is located on or near Tennessee state highway 52. A more modern residential area is located in the Beacon Hill section on the north side of the community.


History


Establishment

Thomas Hughes was born in
Uffington, Oxfordshire Uffington is a village and civil parish In England, a civil parish is a type of Parish (administrative division), administrative parish used for Local government in England, local government. It is a territorial designation which is the l ...
, England in 1822. In the 1830s, he attended the
Rugby School Rugby School is a Public school (United Kingdom), public school (English Independent school (United Kingdom), independent boarding school for pupils aged 13–18) in Rugby, Warwickshire, Rugby, Warwickshire, England. Founded in 1567 as a free ...
in
Rugby, Warwickshire Rugby is a market town in eastern Warwickshire, England, close to the River Avon, Warwickshire, River Avon. In the 2021 United Kingdom census, 2021 census its population was 78,125, making it the List of Warwickshire towns by population, second-l ...
, where he was greatly influenced by the school's progressive headmaster,
Thomas Arnold Thomas Arnold (13 June 1795 – 12 June 1842) was an English educator and historian. He was an early supporter of the Broad Church Anglican movement. As headmaster of Rugby School from 1828 to 1841, he introduced several reforms that were widel ...
. Both Rugby School and Arnold figured prominently in Hughes's 1857 novel, ''Tom Brown's School Days'', and the school would eventually be the namesake for Hughes's utopian colony in Tennessee. In ''Tom Brown's School Days'', Hughes espoused the ideals of Christian socialism, namely the
cooperative A cooperative (also known as co-operative, co-op, or coop) is "an autonomy, autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratical ...
ownership of community businesses. By the 1860s, Hughes had grown disenchanted with the materialism of late Victorian England. He was disheartened by the fact that the talents of many of England's younger sons were wasted due to an economic recession and the medieval system of primogeniture, in which the oldest son inherited all of the family's land. In 1870, Hughes traveled to America to meet his friend, the poet
James Russell Lowell James Russell Lowell (; February 22, 1819 – August 12, 1891) was an American Romantic poet, critic, editor, and diplomat A diplomat (from grc, δίπλωμα; romanization, romanized ''diploma'') is a person appointed by a state (polity ...
, and learned of the
Boston Boston (), officially the City of Boston, is the capital city, state capital and List of municipalities in Massachusetts, most populous city of the Commonwealth (U.S. state), Commonwealth of Massachusetts, as well as the cultural and financ ...
-based Board of Aid to Land Ownership, which specialized in helping unemployed urban craftsmen relocate to rural areas.Benita Howell, "Rugby, Tennessee's Master Planner: Franklin Webster Smith of Boston." ''Journal of East Tennessee History'', Vol. 73 (2001), pp. 23-28. Hughes indicated that such an operation might also be beneficial to young, unemployed English gentry. In 1878, Board of Aid president Franklin Webster Smith and an agent with the new Cincinnati Southern Railway, Cyrus Clarke, were travelling on the railroad's new tracks along the Cumberland Plateau when they identified the future site of Rugby, and were impressed with its virgin forests, clear air, and scenic gorges. Clarke secured options on hundreds of thousands of acres of Plateau land. Knoxville attorney
Oliver Perry Temple Oliver Perry Temple (January 27, 1820 – November 2, 1907) was an American attorney, author, judge, and economic promoter active primarily in East Tennessee East Tennessee is one of the three Grand Divisions of Tennessee defined in state law ...
, who became the colony's legal and agricultural advisor, began the complicated process of securing land titles. Smith returned to Boston to recruit families to move to the newly acquired land on the Plateau, but economic conditions in the northeast had improved, and few families were interested in relocating. Smith then notified Hughes of the Board's new land acquisitions, and Hughes expressed interest in establishing a colony. Hughes formed a partnership with British lawyers Sir Henry Kimber and John Boyle, and bought the Board of Aid.


Rugby Colony, 1880–1887

Franklin W. Smith, who was primarily responsible for Rugby's early layout, chose the townsite for Rugby for its resort-like qualities, even though it was from the nearest railroad stop at Sedgemoor (modern-day Elgin, Tennessee). The colony's first frame structure, known as the "Asylum" (now the Pioneer Cottage), was erected in early 1880, and the first wave of colonists constructed
tennis Tennis is a List of racket sports, racket sport that is played either individually against a single opponent (singles (tennis), singles) or between two teams of two players each (doubles (tennis), doubles). Each player uses a tennis racket th ...
and
croquet Croquet ( or ; french: croquet) is a sport that involves hitting wooden or plastic balls with a mallet through hoops (often called "wickets" in the United States) embedded in a grass playing court. Its international sports governing body, gov ...
courts, and built a walkway to "The Meeting of the Waters." Within a few months, several residences had been completed, along with the three-story Tabard Inn, which was named for the Southwark hostelry in ''
Canterbury Tales ''The Canterbury Tales'' ( enm, Tales of Caunterbury) is a collection of twenty-four stories that runs to over 17,000 lines written in Middle English by Geoffrey Chaucer between 1387 and 1400. It is widely regarded as Chaucer's ''Masterpiece, ...
''. Thomas Hughes was on hand for the colony's "opening" on October 5, 1880, and gave a speech that laid out his plans for Rugby. All colonists would be required to invest $5 in the commissary, thus ensuring public ownership. Personal freedoms were guaranteed, although the sale of alcohol was banned. The colony would build an Episcopal church, but the building could be used by any denomination. On opening day, Tennessee's Episcopal bishop, the Right Reverend Charles Quintard, chartered Christ Church and licensed colonist Joseph Blacklock as
lay reader In Anglicanism Anglicanism is a Western Christianity, Western Christian tradition that has developed from the practices, liturgy, and identity of the Church of England following the English Reformation, in the context of the Protestant Re ...
. American publications such as ''
The New York Times ''The New York Times'' (''the Times'', ''NYT'', or the Gray Lady) is a daily newspaper based in New York City with a worldwide readership reported in 2020 to comprise a declining 840,000 paid print subscribers, and a growing 6 million paid d ...
'' and ''
Harper's Weekly ''Harper's Weekly, A Journal of Civilization'' was an American political magazine based in New York City. Published by Harper (publisher), Harper & Brothers from 1857 until 1916, it featured foreign and domestic news, fiction, essays on many s ...
'' and London publications such as ''
The Spectator ''The Spectator'' is a weekly British magazine on politics, culture, and current affairs. It was first published in July 1828, making it the oldest surviving weekly magazine in the world. It is owned by Frederick Barclay, who also owns '' T ...
'', '' Saturday Review'', and ''
Punch Punch commonly refers to: * Punch (combat), a strike made using the hand closed into a fist * Punch (drink), a wide assortment of drinks, non-alcoholic or alcoholic, generally containing fruit or fruit juice Punch may also refer to: Places * Pun ...
'', all followed the colony's progress. Rugby published its own newspaper, ''The Rugbeian'', which was edited by
Oxford Oxford () is a city in England. It is the county town and only city of Oxfordshire. In 2020, its population was estimated at 151,584. It is north-west of London, south-east of Birmingham and north-east of Bristol. The city is home to the Un ...
graduate Osmond Dakeyne, and several colonists formed a Library and Reading Room Society, headed by
Tübingen Tübingen (, , Swabian: ''Dibenga'') is a traditional university city in central Baden-Württemberg Baden-Württemberg (; ), commonly shortened to BW or BaWü, is a states of Germany, German state () in Southwest Germany, east of the Rhine, ...
graduate Edward Bertz, who was a long-term friend of the late nineteenth century English author
George Gissing George Robert Gissing (; 22 November 1857 – 28 December 1903) was an English novelist, who published 23 novels between 1880 and 1903. His best-known works have reappeared in modern editions. They include ''The Nether World'' (1889), ''New Grub ...
, with whom he corresponded over many years. In summer 1881, a typhoid outbreak killed seven colonists—including Dakeyne—and forced the Tabard Inn to close for cleansing, but the colony recovered. By 1884, the colony boasted over 400 residents, 65 frame public buildings and houses, a tennis team, a social club, and a literary and dramatic society. In 1885, Rugby established a university, Arnold School, named for Rugby School headmaster Thomas Arnold.


Struggle and decline

Throughout its early history, Rugby was beset with lawsuits over land titles. While Cyrus Clarke had obtained options on nearly of land, many of the Plateau's
Appalachia Appalachia () is a cultural region in the Eastern United States that stretches from the Southern Tier of New York State to northern Alabama (We dare defend our rights) , anthem = " Alabama" , image_map = Alabama in United States.svg ...
n natives grew suspicious of Clarke and refused to sell their property. This slowed the colony's early development, and as the lawsuits dragged on, many colonists gave up and moved away. Furthermore, Smith, who had selected the townsite, had ignored the site's poor soil in favor of its potential as a mountain resort. Rugby's main resort hotel, the Tabard, was forced to close due to the typhoid outbreak in 1881, and burned down altogether in 1884, halting Rugby's burgeoning tourist economy and damaging the Board of Aid's credit. Frustrated by the colony's slow development, the Board of Aid's London backers replaced colony director John Boyle with
Irish Irish may refer to: Common meanings * Someone or something of, from, or related to: ** Ireland Ireland ( ; ga, Éire ; Ulster Scots dialect, Ulster-Scots: ) is an island in the Atlantic Ocean, North Atlantic Ocean, in Northwestern Europe ...
-born
Cincinnati Cincinnati ( ) is a city in the U.S. state of Ohio and the county seat of Hamilton County, Ohio, Hamilton County. Settled in 1788, the city is located at the northern side of the confluence of the Licking River (Kentucky), Licking and Ohio Rive ...
city engineer Robert Walton in May 1882. Rugby attempted to establish a
tomato The tomato is the edible Berry (botany), berry of the plant ''Solanum lycopersicum'', commonly known as the tomato plant. The species originated in western South America, Mexico, and Central America. The Mexican Nahuatl word gave rise to th ...
canning operation in 1883, but after the cannery was constructed, colonists failed to grow enough tomatoes to keep it operational. Newspapers began to ridicule Rugby, with London's ''Daily News'' accusing Hughes of creating a "pleasure picnic" rather than a functioning colony, and ''The New York Times'' claiming that Hughes was planning to abandon the colony altogether. In 1887, the deaths of a number of prominent colonists—including Hughes's mother, Margaret, and geologist Charles Wilson—led to the departure of most of Rugby's original settlers. That year, Hughes made his last annual visit to the colony, and ''The Rugbeian'' ceased publication. In 1892, Sir Henry Kimber reorganized the Board of Aid as the Rugby Tennessee Company, which focused on harvesting the region's natural resources, all but abandoning the anti-materialistic ideals on which the colony was founded. By 1900, the company had sold its Cumberland Plateau holdings.


Preservation

Robert Walton's son, William (1887–1958), maintained the Thomas Hughes Library, the Christ Church Episcopal, and Kingstone Lisle until the mid-20th century. During the same period, Uffington House was maintained by the family of C.C. Brooks. Conservation efforts at Rugby began in the 1940s when logging practices were decimating the surrounding virgin forests. The efforts were publicized by ''The New York Times'' and ''The Washington Post'', and gained federal support with the aide of Secretary of State
Cordell Hull Cordell Hull (October 2, 1871July 23, 1955) was an American politician from Tennessee Tennessee ( , ), officially the State of Tennessee, is a landlocked state in the Southeastern region of the United States The United States o ...
, but the state of Tennessee rejected the logging companies' offering price for the land, and the forest was cut right up to the community's boundaries. In 1966, preservationists formed Historic Rugby, a non-profit group dedicated to restoring and maintaining the community's surviving historic structures, which include the Christ Church Episcopal, the Thomas Hughes Library, the Rugby School, Kingstone Lisle, Uffington House, and Newbury House. The group has also reconstructed several buildings based on their original designs, including the Board of Aid office, the Rugby Commissary, and Sir Henry Kimber's Percy Cottage. The Harrow Road Cafe, a restaurant built in the 1980s, was named for a restaurant that existed at Rugby in the 1880s, although its original design is unknown. The Cafe was destroyed by fire on September 4, 2020. The Rugby Printing Works, which originally stood at nearby Deer Lodge, was moved to Rugby in the 1970s. Historic Rugby opened up the community's Beacon Hill area (originally planned to include residences and a park) to new home construction, with the condition that all new homes must be designed in accordance with the community's Victorian aesthetic.


Notable buildings


Christ Church Episcopal

The Christ Church Episcopal was established on October 5, 1880, and initially used the original Rugby schoolhouse for services. The current building was built in the Carpenter Gothic style in 1887 by Cornelius Onderdonk, who constructed many of the original buildings in Rugby, and consecrated by
Episcopal Episcopal may refer to: *Of or relating to a bishop A bishop is an ordained clergy member who is entrusted with a position of Episcopal polity, authority and oversight in a religious institution. In Christianity, bishops are normally respo ...
bishop Charles Quintard in 1888.Patricia Wichmann, ''Christ Church, Episcopal, Rugby, Tennessee: A Short History'' (Rugby, Tenn.: 1959). The church's alms basin was designed by English carpenter Henry Fry, who had previously done work for various churches in the London area. The church's
reed organ The pump organ is a type of free-reed organ Organ may refer to: Biology * Organ (biology), a part of an organism Musical instruments * Organ (music), a family of keyboard musical instruments characterized by sustained tone ** Electronic or ...
, built in 1849, is one of the oldest in the United States.Stagg, p. 26. The Christ Church parish has met here regularly since 1887.


Thomas Hughes Library

Built in 1882, the Thomas Hughes Library is the most unchanged of all the buildings in Rugby. The library's 7,000 volumes were collected primarily by Boston bookseller Estes & Lauriat, and donated to Rugby's Library and Reading Room Society with the stipulation they name the new library for Hughes. The library still contains most of its original collection, the oldest volume of which dates to 1687. German-born colonist Edward Bertz, Rugby's first librarian, published a book about his Rugby experiences, entitled ''Das Sabinergut'', in 1896.


Kingstone Lisle

Kingstone Lisle, a Queen Anne-style cottage, was built in 1884 as a residence for Thomas Hughes, although Hughes stayed at the cottage for just a very short period on one of his annual visits (he usually stayed at the Newbury House). In the late 1880s, Hughes gave the house to Christ Church priest Joseph Blacklock for use as a
rectory A clergy house is the residence, or former residence, of one or more priests or Minister (Christianity), ministers of religion. Residences of this type can have a variety of names, such as manse, parsonage, rectory or vicarage. Function A cler ...
. Historic Rugby restored the house in the 1960s, and has outfitted it with period furniture.


Comprehensive list of historical structures


References


External links


Christ Church Episcopal
- Active parish of the Episcopal Church in Rugby
Historic Rugby page
*
The Rugbeian
' – digitized issues of a newspaper published in Rugby, 1881–1882 {{authority control Unincorporated communities in Tennessee Unincorporated communities in Morgan County, Tennessee Unincorporated communities in Scott County, Tennessee Utopian communities in the United States Populated places established in 1880 Houses on the National Register of Historic Places in Tennessee Historic house museums in Tennessee Museums in Morgan County, Tennessee Historic districts on the National Register of Historic Places in Tennessee Open-air museums in Tennessee 1880 establishments in Tennessee Houses in Morgan County, Tennessee National Register of Historic Places in Morgan County, Tennessee