Taking the Sunbright Loop

By Mike Steely

Would you like to take a drive to someplace you’ve probably never been? Small towns in East Tennessee are often overlooked and there are several that are worth a drive. Sunbright in Morgan County is one of those places.

The small town was originally called “Pine Top” and later it was known as  “Stapleton” after the Staples family who ran the first post office there. When railroad tracks came through the little community the railroad named it “Sunbright.”

The little town has only about 577 residents and sits atop the Cumberland Plateau. Sunbright is surrounded by low mountains that are foothills to the larger mountain range. It’s not far from Frozen Head State Park and Brushy Mountain Prison and located between Oliver Springs and Oneida. Other nearby places include Rugby and the small communities of Glenmary, Elgin, Robbins and Helenwood.

You can drive to Sunbright from Knoxville by way of 27 North from Oliver Springs. After reaching South Oneida you could come back to Knoxville through Huntsville, Pioneer, and the old coal town of Royal Blue to South I-75.

Sunbright has a youth club, fire hall public library and city hall. It also has a K-12 school and their sports teams are always active and well known among the schools they play.

You can find Sunbright on the internet or call the city at (423)628-5260.

Morgan County is one of the more rural counties in our region. It is home to the Obed Wild and Scenic River and the Cumberland Trail State Park passes through its Catoosa Wildlife Management Area. The county shares the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area with Scott, Fentress and Pickett counties in Tennessee, and McCreary County in Kentucky

Wartburg became the county seat when, in 1870, the local seat of government was moved from the now-disappeared town of Montgomery.

On your way back to Interstate 75 beyond Pioneer you might want to stop by Huntsville, the home of the Howard Baker family. Hunstville also has a historic old bank building, courthouse and jail, and an interesting community that’s actually off the main road, Highway 63.

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