Rugby is an unincorporated community in Morgan and Scott counties in the U.S. state of Tennessee. Founded in 1880 by English author Thomas Hughes, 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 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 as a historic district.
The Rugby experiment grew out of the social and economic conditions of Victorian England, where the practice of primogeniture 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 ideals of equality and cooperation espoused in Hughes's Tom Brown's School Days.
From the outset, however, the colony was beset with problems, namely a typhoid 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. By late 1887, most of the original colonists had either died or moved away from Rugby. However, a few carried on into the 20th century and the village retained a small, continuous population.
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