By Mike Steely
Lots of folks in our state are in search of their roots and many often find their ancestors were basically Scots-Irish with a touch of Northern Europe mixed in. Some find Native American or other races in the mix.
Yet, in the founding and early days of our state there were places settled by people from other nations or regions. One of those places was Rugby, an English colony in the 1880s. Author Thomas Hughes who wrote “Tom Brown’s School Days” and other books wanted a utopian Christian community free of class distinctions.
Rugby thrived for a few years, had its own church and even published a newspaper.
At the height of its growth about 300 people had settled there, building about 70 homes and businesses, but by 1900 most had moved away.
Rugby is located just off Highway 52 between Oak Ridge and Jamestown. You can get more information about Rugby on the internet at www.historicrugby.org or by calling the Historic Rugby Visitor Center at (423) 628-2441. Tours of the unusual community are available starting at $7 for adults.
Another utopian community was Harriman in Roane County. Harriman was a Christian utopian settlement founded by a New York Methodist minister and strictly prohibited alcohol until the modern days.
Wartburg was settled as a German community prior to the Civil War. The Amish settled Ethridge, Hohenwald and Fall Creek near Pikeville. Allardt, between Rugby and Jamestown, was also settled by German settlers.
Quakers settled in Friendsville south of Maryville, in New Hope near Jonesboro and on Lusk Creek near New Market. They played a major role in the “Underground Railroad” to assist escaped slaves before the Civil War.
The Dutch settled here and there and left their mark in place names like Dutch Valley in Anderson and Knox counties. The Russian Orthodox settled in Liberty in DeKalb County.
Freed African Americans had settlements too including Freedom Hill in Clay County.
Obviously our region is much more diverse that you may have thought. For instance, John Sevier’s forefathers were French, Admiral Farragut’s father was Spanish, and the Sterchi brothers were Swiss.