Along The Byway
Morgan County was originally created in 1817.
Morgan County Chamber of Commerce
3804 Morgan County Hwy.
P.O. Box 539
Wartburg, TN 37887
Total Area: 522 square miles
Water Area: 0.4 square miles
Density: 42.12 residents/square mile
County Seat: Wartburg – Population: 1,015
Largest City: Oliver Springs – Population: 3,231
At Elgin, Tennessee, the Scenic Byway bears westward onto SR 52 before crossing into the northeast corner of Morgan County. Created from portions of Anderson and Roane counties in 1817, Morgan County was named in honor of Daniel Morgan, a Revolutionary War veteran who led his troops to victory against the British at Cowpens and later served as a U.S. Representative from Virginia. Geographically, the county runs in a diagonal direction across the Cumberland Plateau from the eastern escarpment in Roane County northwestward to Fentress County. Morgan County’s incomparable natural beauty is reflected in its bevy of scenic resources, including Frozen Head State Park, the Obed Wild and Scenic River, Lone Mountain State Forest, Cumberland Trail State Park, and the Catoosa Wildlife Management Area.
Many of the county’s early settlers were veterans of the Revolutionary War who had been given land grants for their military service. Making their homes in the mountain valleys where the soil was richer and game more abundant than in the uplands, these settlers largely practiced subsistence farming. While coal mining began to emerge as an important economic force before the Civil War, the county has remained predominantly rural and sparsely settled since its inception. This rural character attracted the attention of George F. Gerding of New York and Theodore de Cock of Antwerp, Belgium, who, in 1844, organized a colonization effort designed to attract German and Swiss settlers to the area. The first contingent of 50 arrived from Mainz, Germany, in 1845, followed by two other groups the following year. Many settled in Wartburg, Tennessee, including winemakers, musical instrument craftsmen, physicians, artists, and a German nobleman, yet by 1870 only 57 German and 41 Swiss remained in the county.
Four architectural resources located within the one-mile buffer of the Morgan County portion of the Scenic Byway were originally surveyed by the University of Tennessee in 1980. One of the most significant historic resources in the state is the Rugby Colony, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972 for its association with English author and social reformer Thomas Hughes and his attempt to establish a settlement for young men of the British aristocracy. Hughes was widely known throughout the United States as the author of the popular 1857 novel Tom Brown’s School Days, which was set in an English school for boys known as Rugby. In an era when the English gentry viewed only three acceptable professions — doctor, lawyer, or priest — for their sons, Hughes’s experimental settlement, established in 1880 in northern Morgan County, offered a place for these men to learn a manual trade free from the upper-class stigma against manual labor.
By the early 1880s, Rugby was home to approximately 450 young men and women. So celebrated was the colony that, according to the National Register nomination, a young Theodore Roosevelt offered accommodations in his home in New York to any colonists on their way to Rugby, while Charles Dana, editor of the New York Sun, sent his widowed daughter and his grandchildren there. In addition to the colonists’ homes, Rugby included a number of buildings constructed in the Folk Victorian architectural style, including a library, a school, a church, and a hotel for guests called the Tabard Inn. Yet only a decade after its founding, Rugby was in decline. Farm income was weaker than anticipated, and poor planning and unprofitable real estate dealings strained business relationships between the colony’s British and American investors. By the turn of the 20th century, the experiment was over. Of the original 65 buildings constructed, 17 are extant today. Rugby has become an important tourist attraction in recent years. Thomas Hughes’s utopian dream can still be glimpsed in the preserved Victorian architecture of this bucolic community.
Annual Festival of British & Appalachian Culture
Everything needed to have a delightfully unforgettable time, glimpsing a bit of history and enjoying the present, will be found at the Annual Festival of British and Appalachian Culture in Rugby, Tennessee. Everything you can imagine will be available for two fun-filled days of enchantment and history. The Rugby event features a music competition, Pickin’ in Rugby. The music venue features world-class competition in music and dance. There is also a competition in storytelling. Traditional arts and crafts will also add to the festive atmosphere of the event and will prove to be very entertaining as well as instructive to watch the craftsmen demonstrating their skills. Taking some of their treasures home with you will decorate your home as well as help you remember the wonderful weekend. This event is filled with history. The historic Rugby vision gives insight into the origins of this village and the roots of many of the activities celebrated.
Annual British Car & Bike Show
Three day event in the last British Settlement in North America. Registrants receive free mini-tour of original buildings, discounted B&B Lodging, Entertainment and ghostly tour Saturday evening. 1st and 2nd awards with registrants participating. Net proceeds benefit Historic Rugby keeping British and Tennessee history alive.
Upper Cumberland Quilt Trail
Multiple Counties in Tennessee
The Upper Cumberland Quilt Trail is part of a commitment to preserve the historical craft of traditional quilting. By following the maps, you will see not only the beautiful and historic barns owned by local farm families, but also gorgeous quilt squares displayed on businesses and homes in the various communities. Quilt squares range from 2’x2’ to 8’x8’ wood squares. The blocks are replicas of treasured family heirlooms. In painting their favorite patterns on barns, businesses, and homes, we are honoring local quilters who are well known for their skills of using every piece of scrap fabric to create a beautiful work of art that is also a useful item in the home.
Halloween Ghostly Gathering at Historic Rugby
An annual Halloweed celebration that calls forth the spirits of Rugby’s past.
Enjoy Christmas shopping at The Shoppes of Rugby and British Tea at Newbury House.
Victorian Holiday Home Tour
Enjoy 10 private Victorian homes decorated for the holidays.
Historic Rugby, Tennessee, is a restored Victorian village founded in 1880 by British author and social reformer Thomas Hughes. It was to be a cooperative, class-free, agricultural community for younger sons of English gentry and others wishing to start life anew in America. At its peak in the mid-1880s, some 300 people lived in the colony. More than 65 buildings of Victorian design originally graced the townscape. This would-be Utopia survives today as both a living community and a fascinating public historic site, unspoiled by modern development. Twenty original buildings still stand, nestled between the Big South Fork National Recreation Area and the Rugby State Natural Area. Historic Rugby has been open to the public since 1966 and is nationally recognized by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and many others as one of the most authentically restored and preserved communities in America.
R.M. Brooks General Store & Residence
The R.M. Brooks General Store and Residence was listed on the NRHP in 1992 for its local significance in the commerce and social history of Rugby and Morgan County. Constructed in 1930 and operated by R.M. Brooks, the building served not only as a general store, but as a community gathering place. During its long history, the R.M. Books General Store also functioned as a voting precinct and post office. The store operated continually until recently. The store is not currently open, but it should be considered a major asset to Rugby and the Cumberland Byway, as it could provide both historical significance and retail opportunities along the byway.
Harrow Road Café
Part of Historic Rugby, the Harrow Road Café serves lunch daily, featuring Cumberland Plateau home cooking and British Isles specialties. Shepherd’s pie, fish & chips, bangers & mash, and Welsh rarebit compete for your attention with daily specials such as meatloaf, grilled chicken, and deep-fried catfish. Other fare includes homemade soups and desserts, sandwiches and salads, and their much-loved Harrow Road Spoon Rolls. Delicious full breakfasts are available daily; dinner by lamplight is served on Friday and Saturday evenings.
Laurel Dale Cemetery
Just across from the entrance to the Gentleman’s Swimming Hole hiking trail is historic Laurel Dale Cemetery. Many of Rugby’s early colonists are buried there, including the seven 1881 victims of typhoid and the founder’s mother. The cemetery has been the final resting place for many people through the years and is still in use today.
Gentleman’s Swimming Hole Trail
The Gentleman’s Swimming Hole Trail is a short hiking trail that will lead you to the swimming hole where the men from Rugby would swim in the Clear Fork River. As you leave the Laurel Dale Cemetery parking lot, the trail will begin to descend off the plateau and into the Clear Fork River gorge. Along the trail, numbered posts mark points of interest, discussing the natural and cultural history of the area. Trail booklets are available at the Rugby and Bandy Creek visitor centers.
North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area
Morgan, Scott & Campbell Counties, Tennessee
The North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area encompasses 140,000 acres of the Cumberland Mountains in Scott County, Campbell County, Anderson County, and Morgan County. The scenic WMA encompasses the Baker Highway corridor along the Scott-Campbell county line east of Huntsville and is popular for its ATV riding and wildlife viewing opportunities. Several hundred miles of trails within the WMA are managed by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. Hunting is also popular on the WMA. Whitetail deer, eastern wild turkey, and wild boar are the most popular game animals, but a variety of upland birds and small game can be hunted on the WMA, as well. The WMA is home to the second-largest free-roaming elk herd east of the Mississippi River. Tennessee’s elk reintroduction program has been ongoing since 2000, and elk are a common sight in and around the WMA.
Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area
Fentress, Morgan & Scott Counties, Tennessee
The Big South Fork National River and Recreation area spans 125,000 acres across the Cumberland Plateau and boasts miles of scenic gorges. The area is also rich for its natural and historical features and has been developed to provide a number of outdoor activities for visitors. The river also features custom horseback riding trails for pleasure trail riding, hunting trips, anniversary rides, and overnight pack trips.
Rugby State Natural Area
This is a 700-acre natural area in and adjacent to the village of Historic Rugby in Morgan County on the Cumberland Plateau. A great place for hiking, botanizing, and birding, the forest includes tulip poplar, red maple, and sourwood with northern red oak, white oak, and hickories scattered throughout. White pine and Virginia pine can also be observed, with occasional damage observed from the southern pine beetle infestation some years ago. American beech is present on both north- and south-facing lower slopes.
Lilly Bluff Overlook
Managed by the National Park Service, the Obed Wild and Scenic River Lilly Bluff Overlook is just a short walk through the woods from the parking lot and boasts an excellent boardwalk to the edge of the bluffs overlooking the river. The park also has opportunities for canoeing, kayaking and camping, along with many hiking trails. The park headquarters and visitor center is located in downtown Wartburg and offers birding, botanizing, scenic views, interpretation of natural and cultural heritage, special events and ranger-guided programs. The cliffs nearby are very popular for rock climbers. Restrooms and ample parking can be found at this site. Nearby Wartburg, as well as the park visitor center and headquarters, offer amenities.
Tanners Café, Sundries
Don’t miss this Wartburg institution, dating back to 1923.