Friday, August 24, 2012


Just 12 miles from Rugby is the small town of Allardt. It's a community of about 650 people, but it has essential services lacking in Rugby, most notably a grocery store, a gas station, a hair cutter, and a medical clinic. It even has the tree farm where we cut our own Christmas tree last year. And each fall it swells to some 12,000 people when they have their annual Pumpkin Festival.

Allardt was founded about the same time as Rugby, but the two communities had entirely different trajectories. While Rugby flourished for a while and then faded to almost nothing, Allardt enjoyed continuous activity, even though overshadowed by Jamestown only five miles away. The circumstances of the two communities founding made all the difference.

Allardt was begun as a German community by a group from Michigan. The principal players were M. H. Allardt, for whom the town is named, and Bruno Gernt. Gernt had immigrated from Germany to Michigan and Allardt had been employed by the state of Michigan to recruit immigrants in Germany. When the railroad opened the Cumberland Plateau to settlement, they decided to found a German community there. Allardt died before he could move to Tennessee, but Gernt carried on, building the house shown above. His home is still owned by the Bruno Gernt Estate, Inc. and is on the National Register of Historic places.

Gernt purchased some 300,000 acres on behalf of his investors, and sold land for farms to immigrants at the small office shown above, which also is on the National Register. A large amount of that land is still owned by the Bruno Gernt Estate and controlled by his descendents, who have built a modern office building nearby to manage their interests.

Another building on the National Register is the ca. 1910 Old Allardt Schoolhouse, which is now operated as a Bed & Breakfast and is owned by the town's Postmaster, also a Gernt. The two doors on the front of what had been a one-room school was to provide separate entrances for boys and girls.

Today Allardt is a crossroads town with churches, homes, and a few small businesses. The fives miles into Jamestown are lined with more homes, churches, and businesses, making it difficult to know just where one town leaves off and the other begins. But come the first weekend in October, it becomes the largest town in Fentress County as pumpkins weighing well in excess of 1,000 pounds vie for the title of biggest pumpkin.


  1. You have so many interesting historical stories about little known places. This one especially makes me think of my area of German architecture and the 1 room school with the 2 doors having gone to one just like this only white.