Thursday, March 17, 2022

HGB Ep. 427 - The Village of Rugby

Moment in Oddity - The Valley of Headless Men

Canada has its own version of the Grand Canyon. This is called the Nahanni Valley named for the river that runs through it. The valley is filled with deep canyons and beautiful trails. The water features whitewater rapids and hot springs. The area is accessible only by foot or plane or boat. This is all nice, but what really interests us about Nahanni Valley is that it is nicknamed the Valley of Headless Men and for good reason. Brothers Willie and Frank McLeod set off on a quest for gold in 1908 in the valley. Their bodies were found two years later on the banks of the river. They had been murdered and decapitated. Their heads were never found. Martin Jorgenson met the same fate nine years later. He too was looking for gold and sent word home he had found it, but he never brought any home because his cabin burned down and his remains were found in the ashes. His body was missing the head. In 1945, a nameless miner from Ontario was found dead in his sleeping bag, also missing his head. The Nahanni Valley is thought to be a sacred place. For these men, it was a deadly place. Who killed them and why their heads were taken has remained a mystery and that, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Judge Roy Bean Dies

In the month of March, on the 16th, in 1903, Judge Roy Bean Died. Roy Bean was born in Kentucky in the 1820s and he spent much of his life in trouble. Much of this trouble entailed shooting people. First, there was the guy he shot in a Mexican bar. Bean ran away to San Diego where he ended up shooting another man during a quarrel. He made his way to Los Angeles where he killed a Mexican officer in a duel over a woman. The officer's friends hanged Bean, but the rope wasn't set quite right and he lived long enough for the woman he was fighting over to cut him down. Next, he was off to Texas where he actually stopped his life of crime and became a successful businessman. In 1882, he built a saloon in Southwest Texas that he named The Jersey Lilly in a town he founded named Langtry, both inspired by the actress Lillie Langtry. Bean had seen the actress in a magazine and he liked her. At that same time, he became a justice of the peace and he dealt out some humorous and bizarre rulings as "The Only Law West of the Pecos." He fined a dead man $40 for carrying a concealed weapon and threatened to hang people for using profane language. He chose jurors from his best bar patrons and they were expected to buy drinks when in recess. He ended every wedding he officiated with "and may God have mercy on your souls." He died at the age of 77 after a bout of heavy drinking.

Village of Rugby (Suggested by: Tammie Burroughs)

A British author founded the village of Rugby in the beautiful Cumberland Plateau of Tennessee. This was meant to be a utopia and for a time, it really was. Large Victorian buildings were constructed, social clubs were founded, lawn tennis was played and the library was stocked full of books and became the pride of the colony. Then it all ended amid financial issues, epidemics and fires. The village was revitalized in the 1960s and is a place tourists can visit for a time capsule into the Victorian era. And several locations in Rugby are reputedly haunted. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of Rugby, Tennessee!

British author Thomas Hughes was a social reformer with a vision. Hughes was born in Uffington, Berkshire in 1822. He became a lawyer and part of the Queen's Counsel and supported many Christian Socialist issues. The social reformer was later elected as an MP to Parliament. In 1857, his most famous work, Tom Brown's School Days, was published. This novel was semi-autobiographical and set at Rugby School, which is where Hughes had gone to school. He must have liked the name because he chose that name for a settlement he founded in the American state of Tennessee. This settlement would be his attempt to build a model village.

One piece of reform that Hughes championed was doing away with primogeniture. This was the practice of the eldest son inheriting everything when his parents died. There was an organization in Boston called the Board of Aid to Land Ownership, which helped unemployed urban craftsmen start over in rural locations. Hughes heard about the group's work and he thought the same kind of idea could work for Britain's second sons. Thomas Hughes encouraged many of the younger sons of British families to immigrate to America and find success through building his agricultural community. This would work as a cooperative enterprise. The site for Rugby was chosen because the Cincinnati-Southern Railroad had completed a line through this area of the Cumberland Plateau to Chattanooga. Hughes dedicated the Rugby Colony on October 5, 1880. 

A man named Franklin W. Smith laid out an early plan for Rugby. The first frame structure built was known as the Asylum. Several other homes were built as well as a three-story inn named the Tabard Inn in the first year. Croquet courts and lawn tennis courts were built and a walkway dubbed "The Meeting of the Waters" was laid out. The sell of alcohol was banned and all colonists were required to invest $5 in the commissary. A church was built primarily for the Episcopal Church, but any denomination was allowed to gather there. Literary societies and drama clubs were founded and the Thomas Hughes Public Library was opened with thousands of tomes to peruse. Over the next couple of years, stables were built as well as sawmills, a drug store, a general store, a butcher shop, a dairy and many more Victorian homes. Three hundreds people called Rugby home and they enjoyed their culturally refined lives in a beautiful wooded setting. 

Sounded like bliss, but there were many problems that would beset what was supposed to be a utopia of Christian socialism. Those English second sons didn't know much about manual labor or farming. The soil of the Cumberland Plateau was not good for growing crops either. In 1881, typhoid came calling and surged through the village. Shortly after that, fighting over land titles led to lawsuits. The Tabard Inn burned down in 1884. Another hotel was built on the spot, but it would burn down in 1899. Soon the earliest colonists started leaving for greener pastures. Many would think that Hughes would be depressed with what was happening to his vision, especially after pouring $75,000 into it, but he remained hopeful writing in 1896, "I can’t help feeling and believing that good seed was sown when Rugby was founded and someday the reapers, whoever they may be, will come along with joy bearing heavy sheaves with them."

The village was never completely abandoned, but the population dwindled considerably. Most residents from the turn of the century to the 1960s were descendants of the original colonists. There were some Appalachian families too. By the 1960s, Rugby was in a sad state with many of the Victorian buildings in disrepair. Some had burned down and others had been demolished. A young man named Brian Stagg visited the village and he saw a future for it that didn't include complete demolition. He wanted to bring it back. In 1966, Stagg started the Rugby Restoration Association and he and several locals started the work of restoring the community. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers worked on a Master Plan for Rugby that would make it the southern gateway for a new park. This would be The Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. Stagg was able to get Rugby village on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972 and its known as the Rugby Colony Historic District.

The organization changed its name in 1982 to Historic Rugby with Brian's sister, Barbara Stagg, now at the helm. She and her husband, John Gilliat served as property managers and spent 32 years getting a spotlight on the village and updating by building a new visitor's center and theater and founding Beacon Hill, which is a housing development. Much of the acerage around the village has been protected because of Barbara and her nephew Michael's work and they built the Massengale Homeplace and Trail in the Rugby State Natural Area in 2010. Barbara retired and the Board of Directors now handles the work of restoration and special events. There are many sites to check out. The visitor center is Rugby's restored schoolhouse and features a century of the village's history. There is the Thomas Hughes Free Public Library, Thomas Hughes' home, Christ Church Episcopal with its original hanging lamps that were converted to electric, stain-glassed windows and 1849 rosewood organ, Laurel Dale Cemetery, the Rugby Commissary where one can find handmade crafts and books, the Harrow Road Cafe, the Pioneer Cottage and 6-bedroom Newbury House Bed & Breakfast. And there seems to be spirits who have decided to continue on in Rugby in the Afterlife. Here are a few of the haunted locations in the village.  

Kingston Lisle Inn

The Kingston Lisle Inn was the Queen Anne Gothic style two-story home of Thomas Hughes. The home is surrounded by a white picket fence and has a stone path leading to the front porch. The name comes from the village of Kingston Lisle in the Vale of White Horse in Britain. Hughes might still be in the home. People report hearing disembodied snoring and the ghost likes to pull the blankets off of guests.

The Rugby Library

The Thomas Hughes Library was built in 1882 and is a quaint little Victorian with a small steeple in the middle of the roof. The books that were brought over from Britain can still be found in the library and people believe that the curator is still hanging around to watch over those books. All the books are dated to pre-1900, with the earliest dating back to 1600s. There is also a story about a ghost dog that haunts the library.

Spirit of Red Hill Nature Art & Oddiments

Artisans Donna Heffner and Annie Patterson own the Spirit of Red Hill, which is a shop that features artwork, antiques and fine crafts. There is also a room for rent called the Bensted Bedstead. The site was originally home to the Alexander-Perrigo House, which has been rebuilt here. That original structure was a boarding house first run by the Samuel Alexander family in the 1890s. The next proprietor of the boarding house was Winfield Scott Perrigo and his wife Ora. There is a spirit that haunts the location. A guest had come down after spending the night and claimed that she had a strange dream. A priest was in the dream and he was teaching the guest how to play cricket. Patterson took the guest into another room and showed her a picture of a priest who had lived in Rugby. The guest immediately recognized the man as the priest in her dream.

Roslyn House

The Roslyn House was built in 1886 by Montgomerie Boyle who was related to the seventh Earl of Glasgow. He rented the home to a Mrs. Richard Tyson of Baltimore, who brought her son, Jesse, and daughter, Sophia, to Rugby with her. Mrs. Tyson enjoyed a good party and she hosted many of them. She is the one who named the house Roslyn, inspired by her ancestral home in Scotland. She planted an elaborate garden around the house. There was a road called High Street that Jesse would race down with a carriage pulled by a team of four horses. He often would race all the way to Segdemoor where the Cincinnati Southern Railway was located. Jesse seems to have left behind a residual spirit. Visitors have reported hearing the sounds of a team of horses and carriage racing along the road. Occasionally, the carriage and horses are seen and they disappear into the nearby woods. The house has a spirit too that is heard sobbing. This seems to be coming from a female spirit that has been seen. Witnesses who see a picture of Sophia claim that she is the spirit they have seen.

Barbara Stagg’s brother, Brian, lived at Roslyn for a while. He started having paranormal experiences shortly after moving into the house. There were simple things like a door locking by itself or hearing disembodied footsteps in the hallway. Over time, the cause of these things was revealed when a female spirit dressed in Victorian clothing started appearing. She would often pace the hallway and sob. He had a friend named Sarah Bonner come over and she saw the apparition as well. Both of them confirmed it was Sophia when they saw her picture.

Newbury House

Newbury House Bed and Breakfast is a cute bungalow that features six bedrooms for rent. The large Thomas Hughes Suite is downstairs and the other five rooms are upstairs. Barbara Stagg of "Historic Rugby" said that a man named Otis Brown from Boston built the house in the mid-1880s and named it for himself, The Brown House. We've also seen his name as Ross Brown. He ran the place as a boarding house. The location changed its name to Newbury House and was run by James Milmow, Louise Dyer, and C.A. Clark. Nelson Kellogg was the next owner and he ran the house until 1920. In 1985, Historic Rugby bought the house and restored it. They furnished it with Victorian antiques and opened it as a bed and breakfast. This is the most haunted location in the village.

The laughter of unseen children is heard in the house. The most common experience guests have had is being awakened in the middle of the night and finding the spirit of a man standing near the bed.Who is this spirit? The Tabard Inn had burned down and was rebuilt and a Mr. Davis was hired to manage the rebuilt inn. He moved to Rugby from Buffalo, New York with his wife. The Tabard was the social center and often hosted dances. On one particular night, Mrs. Davis got more attention from the men of the town than he liked. She was one of the few women in town at the time. He became very jealous and brooded for a bit. His jealous rage finally overtook him and he slit her throat and then shot himself. The inn burned down again, but items from the house survived and were put in other places. Mr. Davis seems to have attached to some of the items. Is it possible that Mr. Davis is haunting the Newbury House?

There could be another spirit here. A man named Charles Oldfield was an inspector and he was sent to Rugby by the Board of Directors in England in the early 1880s to see how the utopian village was doing. His brief visit to Rugby was enough to convince him that this was the place for his family. He sent for his wife and son in England to join him. The son departed immediately, but his wife stayed behind to pack things for the move. Oldfield died the night before his son was to arrive. That is why people think his spirit is at Newbury House. He had died there waiting for his family and perhaps he stays there still waiting for them. Women who stay in the room named after Oldfield claim that it is very cold and that they get nudged or poked by something they can't see. Is he wondering if these women are his wife?

readhead00 wrote on TripAdvisor, "I specifically asked before booking if this place was haunted. He laughed and said he hasn't heard anything since he has worked there. After a night of hearing things all around us and having a very disturbing experience (like electricity through my whole body) we decided not to stay our second night. When we turned our keys into the nice lady working at the visitor center she proceeded to tell us many stories of paranormal activity. The area is beautiful, the people exceptionally friendly and the buildings are amazing. But do not stay at the Newbury if you are even a little 'sensitive.' You will not sleep."

Fantome Paranormal Investigations did an investigation at the Newbury House in February 2021. They set a Rem Pod up in the dining room that went off and then again when asked to make it go off again. The device went off repeatedly and for long periods. Until one of the investigators asked if the spirit wanted to answer some questions. She said, "If you want to answer questions, turn on the Rem Pod." The Rem Pod went quiet. Apparently, on a previous visit, a device they set on a chair went flying across the room.

Tammie sent us a couple of pages of experiences that Newbury House has collected from visitors. 

Rugby sounds like a cool and quaint Victorian village. A trip here is like a time travel back in time. Are there spirits here from that time as well? Is Rugby, Tennessee haunted? That is for you to decide!

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