Historic Rugby, located on the Cumberland Plateau of east Tennessee, is what remains of an idealistic Victorian experiment, founded and funded by the Englishman Thomas Hughes (author of the very successful Tom Brown's School Days (1857).) A graduate of Oxford, Hughes was a partisan of liberal and idealistic causes and a follower of Christian Socialism.
Hughes, himself a member of the privileged class, rather endearingly conceived the notion of a colony for the younger sons of England's wealthy families -- those young men who would not inherit the family estates, due to the laws of primogeniture in which the family land and money went to the oldest son, leaving the younger sons to find occupation in the military or the church.
Here in the classless society of the United States, thought Hughes (again, endearingly), these young men could learn to farm and work with their hands -- a thing they could not have done in England without causing severe embarrassment to their families.
The colony was dedicated in 1880 -- dwelling-houses were built, as well as a hotel, a library, and this church. (Tennis courts were also built early on...)
For a few years, the colony flourished. Over 300 residents enjoyed drama and literary societies, a weekly newspaper, croquet, lawn tennis, and rugby football. But a typhoid epidemic hit; the hotel -- which had been providing needed income -- burned; the soil was found to be unsuitable for farming; and perhaps those younger sons of wealthy families weren't suited to it either, preferring to play tennis.
By the early 1900s, the colony was all but deserted. A few settlers remained and they and their descendants managed to care for and preserve many of the original buildings.
In the 1960s, area residents banded together to form non-profit Historic Rugby, dedicated to restoring the original buildings and interpreting Rugby's history to the public. I'll tell you more about modern Rugby tomorrow.