The following is from the book, "A History of Morgan County Tennessee" written by Ethel
Freytag and Glenna Kreis Ott.
Sunbright was originally called Pine Top or Pine Knot. It has been called both. [It was later
changed to Stapleton]. Sunbright was the third name for this town.
In the home of Jim McKETHEEN, one mile east of Sunbright may be seen the original post
office fixtures of the town of Pine Top. It is a well constructed piece of equipment containing
not more than a dozen pigeon holes, a delivery window on the two secret drawers that are
found by raising the top of a shelf beneath the delivery on the side of the office piece. The
fixtures in not over four feet wide, and is well preserved. In those early days, instead of
carrying a stamp, letters were accompanied by a bill of lading wrapped around the envelope,
and cancellations were made by marking with a pen.
Tolliver STAPLES, later a colonel of volunteers in the Union Army during the Civil war, was
one of the first, if not the first, postmaster for Pine Top. It was in his honor the town was
later changed to STAPLETON. Aunt Lucinda STAPLES, a daughter of Colonel STAPLETON,
used to tell how, when she was a little girl, the mail came from Knoxville over the road that
crossed Freel’s Mountain, thence forth to Huntsville and into Kentucky; and how Union General
BURNSIDE sat beside her mother on a log in the yard of the old post office and paid her for
cattle the Union had commandeered for their commissary.
“With the coming of the railroad in 1879, the name of the town changed to Sunbright. The
railroad station was called Sunbright and the town [Stapleton] adopts the same name. The
name, Sunbright, according to one story, was coined by a tall Negro convict who was working
on the railroad and who stood on top of the high hills and yelled, “Sun Bright”. This story is
accepted by many of the older citizens of the town.”
John M. STAPLES settled on the south side of Big Emory near the crossing of the Cincinnati
and Southern Railroads. His son, Benjamin T. STAPLES, located near Sunbright. One of the
first to locate on White Oak was John FREELS who came in 1811. Among the other settlers
who came to the county prior to the year was Basil HUMAN who settled on Bone Camp.
Louis MOSIER was one of the first settlers in Sunbright. His log cabin was first located at the
present railroad crossing above town.
William Hazen JONES came to Sunbright about 1884 and entered the merchandising business.
In the late 1840’s after participating in the removal of the Indians from the Chattanooga
area to the Oklahoma Reservation, he came to Morgan County and settled near Montgomery.
His first store was located in White Oak at the Sulphur Springs on the Sunbright-Mill Creek
Road. White Oak was the center of the community at the time.
William SUMMERS came to Morgan County in 1840 because of good hunting and cheap land.
William’s son, Ben, served as pastor of the first Missionary Baptist Church at Stapleton for
almost fifty years.
The first building in Sunbright was the Mosier building, a boarding house. Later the Mountain
House and Neil Hotel were erected. Sunbright had 2 churches before the turn of the century
, a Baptist and a Methodist.
Sunbright had at least two schools during the 19th century [probably more]. The Methodist
church operated a seminary for a few years and there was a Sunbright Academy. A few of
the older people still remember these two schools.
Sunbright had a newspaper before 1900 called the “Sunbright Dispatch”. It was published by
the Dunnings. There are references to this paper made in the county court minutes.
A 1919-1920 school bulletin gives the following description of Sunbright:
“Sunbright is a thrilling little mountain town on the Cincinnati Southern Railroad, 1346 feet
above sea level. It lies close to the base of Peaky and Big Pilot Mountains, whose crests rise
to an altitude of 2500 feet. Sunbright has 2 churches, an excellent Sunday School, 2 splendid
hotels, 4 general stores and the following lodges: Masonic, Knights of Pythias, Odd Fellows
Sunbright is an unincorporated town. An attempt has been made to incorporate Sunbright in
recent years; but the incorporation failed to pass. Sunbright has a school of grades 1 – 12
with an enrollment of 622 students and 23 teachers. . A Methodist and a Baptist
Church are found in Sunbright.
Sunbright has more employment opportunities than some other section of the county because
it has two factories – Dyna Tex and Sunbright Shirt Factory. These factories will be
employing between 550 and 600 people when they reach their potential. These factories will
increase private businesses also.
The small and private businesses as found from the license issued are as follows: Merchants
– Varga Company operated by Joe and Alex VARGA, Sunbright Lumber Company O.C.
DUNCAN, Forrest E. LANGLEY, Hahn’s Shopping Center operated by C>K> HAHN, Edgar
Jacks, Miller’s Antique Shop, Freels Super Market operated by Dudle FREELS, J.P. Grocery,
Aytes Supermarket operated by Jennnie AYTES, Sunbright Market operated by Norman
BEASLEY, Sunbright Drug Company, Matties Beauty Shop, Pink Puff Beauty Salon, Sunbright
Barber Shop, Mrs. Edgar Jack, Galloway Upholstery and Furniture Repair, Sara Bowman Room
House, Mutual Loan and Thrift Company, Cumberland Home Improvement Co. Operated by
J.W. BILBERY, Russell Redmon Electric Appliances Repairs, Sunbright Transmission Repair
Sunbright Motel, Rock Cabin Motel operated by Retha BOWLING, Williams Restaurant
operated by Maxine WILLIAMS, Highland Truck Stop operated by Dessie STRUNK, Sunbright
Café operated by Jack NORTHRUP, King’s Restaurant operated by Elmer KING, Everett
Galloway Service Station, England Phillps 66, Courtesy Service Station operated by James
BLACK, Arnold Jones Garage; Beer- Mr. W.F. OWEN, Ridgedale Packaged Store, Helen
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