German, English roots mesh at Wartburg
Flat Fork Creek pours over Debord Falls in Frozen Head State Park and Natural Area Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2009 near Wartburg, Tenn. The falls are named for an itinerant logger who worked in the Flat Fork Creek area according to Ranger Michael Hodge.
Wartburg, Tenn., residents trace the small town's roots to German settlers who established colonies along the Cumberland Plateau after Native Americans ceded land to the U.S. government.
Today, the small East Tennessee community is known for its splendid outdoors and a 160-year-old English village that came years after the German settlers.
Located about an hour and 15 minutes from Knoxville and two hours from Chattanooga, Wartburg has just 900 residents and feels like it's tucked away in seclusion.
"People retire to Morgan County because after a life of working in the city, after all the hustle and bustle, it's nice to just enjoy the peace and quiet," said Gigi Scooler, director of the Morgan County Chamber of Commerce and a Morgan County resident for more than 20 years.
Though it feels isolated, the community is tight-knit, and that's one of the things residents like the most, Scooler said.
Many residents work for the prison system. For years, Morgan County was home to Brushy Mountain State Prison, the state's then-toughest maximum-security facility. It closed in 2009 and many of the inmates and employees were transferred to the Morgan County Correctional Complex.
Residents hope to convert part of the old prison into a museum, and to one day erect a German-style castle on a hillside in homage to the community's German and Lutheran roots. Already, the community is home to Rugby, a village that replicates the look and traditions of an English hamlet.
At a glance
-- Population: 930.
-- Best things to do: Frozen Head State Park features mountaintop views of the Cumberland Plateau, the Tennessee Valley and across the valley, the Great Smoky Mountains.
-- Biggest employers: Tennessee Department of Correction.
-- Miles from downtown Chattanooga: 100.
-- Geographic features: Frozen Head State Park features some of the state's highest elevations outside of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
-- Date founded: 1805.
-- Historic info: Inhabited by Native Americans, the land was ceded to the federal government in 1805 for German settlement.
-- Unique traditions: Each Christmas, Rugby, the English village, hosts a lantern-lit tour of historic homes. The event is held Dec. 3 starting at 4 p.m. The village also is host to a Victorian home tour at Christmas and haunted Halloween events.