Rugby, settled in northern Morgan County in 1880, began as an unusual combination of commercial venture and Utopian ideal. A group of Boston capitalists seeking to develop a large tract of land in East Tennessee combined with the English author and social reformer Thomas Hughes to create a model community. Hughes had achieved considerable fame in the United States for his 1857 novel Tom Brown's School Days, a semi-autobiographical story about Rugby, an English school for boys. Hughes's vision for Rugby in Tennessee was a place where young elite English men could work together with Americans, free from the traditional British upper class stigma against labor.
The resulting village of Rugby became home to approximately 450 residents at its zenith in the early 1880s. Homes, a library, a school, recreational facilities, and a church were constructed for residents, as well as an elaborate hotel, the Tabard Inn, for guests. By the early 1890s, however, most of the community's momentum had dissipated. Crops such as tomatoes failed to produce enough profit to sustain the economy. Poor planning and weak real estate sales further soured the commitment of the American and English investors. Hughes, who only visited Rugby once a year and never actually lived there, was unable to sustain the enthusiasm that had enticed so many to settle ten years before.
Rugby today has become a revitalized community. Efforts by local residents to restore the existing buildings have made Rugby an important tourist attraction, where the remains of Hughes's Utopian dreams survive in the Victorian architecture and pastoral setting.
For information on visiting Rugby, go to: http://www.historicrugby.org/
For more information on its history, also see: http://tennesseeencyclopedia.net/entry.php?rec=1158