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Rhea County, Tennessee

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Welcome to Rhea County, Tennessee!
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Project Purpose

The purpose of this sub-project is to have a foundation for all things relating to Rhea County, Tennessee. From cities, to citizens, to favorite tourist spots, to cemeteries, we aim to have it all here for you in one central location.

How to Join the Tennessee Project

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How to Join the Appalachia Project

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Ongoing List of Things to Do

  • Contributing to the main project page as needed
  • Church records of christenings, marriages and burials
  • Voter or citizenship rolls
  • Records of wills and deceased estates
  • Land tenure records
  • Tax lists
  • Muster lists for militia service
  • Census records, indexed and uploaded

Rhea County History

Rhea County (pronounced "ray") is a county located in the U.S. state of Tennessee. As of the 2010 census, the population was 31,809. Its county seat is Dayton.

Rhea County comprises the Dayton, TN Micropolitan Statistical Area, which is also included in the Chattanooga-Cleveland-Dalton, TN-GA-AL Combined Statistical Area.

Rhea County is named for the Tennessee politician and Revolutionary War veteran John Rhea.

A portion of the Trail of Tears ran through the county as part of the United States government's removal of the Cherokee in the 1830s.

During the American Civil War, Rhea County was one of the few counties in East Tennessee that was heavily sympathetic to the cause of the Confederate States of America. It was the only East Tennessee county that did not send a delegate to the pro-Union East Tennessee Convention in 1861. The county voted in favor of Tennessee's June 1861 Ordinance of Secession, 360 votes to 202. Rhea raised seven companies for the Confederate Army, compared to just one company for the Union.

Rhea had the only female cavalry company on either side during the Civil War. It was made up of young women in their teens and their twenties from Rhea County and was formed in 1862. Their unit was named the Rhea County Spartans. Until 1863, the Spartans simply visited loved ones in the military and delivered the equivalent of modern-day care packages. After Union troops entered Rhea in 1863, the Spartans may have engaged in some spying for Confederate forces. The members of the Spartans were arrested in April 1865 under orders of a Rhea County Unionist and were forced to march to the Tennessee River. From there they were transported to Chattanooga aboard the USS Chattanooga. Once in Chattanooga, Union officers realized the women were not a threat and ordered them released and returned to Rhea County. They first were required to take the oath of allegiance to the United States government. The Spartans were not an officially recognized unit of the Confederate Army.

In 1890, the county seat was moved from the Washington community to its present location in Dayton. This was a result of several causes such as the completion of the Cincinnati-Chattanooga Railroad in Smith's Crossroads, the rapid growth of Chattanooga, the detrimental effects of the American Civil War, and the emigration of its prominent citizens.

In 1895, an explosion at the Nelson Mine took the lives of 28 miners. Nelson Mine Disaster. Another explosion at this mine, on March 31, 1902, took 16 lives. Nelson Mine Disaster 1902. On May 27, 1901, the Richland Mine Disaster took 20 lives. Richland Mine Disaster.

The Scopes Trial, which resulted from the teaching of evolution being banned in Tennessee public schools under the Butler Act, took place in Rhea County in 1925. The trial was one of the first to be referred to as the "Trial of the century". William Jennings Bryan played a role as prosecutor in trial, and he died in Dayton shortly after the trial ended. A statue of Bryan was recently erected on the grounds of the Rhea County Courthouse.

In 1956, the State Supreme Court upheld a "regular and customary practice among certain of the teachers, during the regular school hours and in the classrooms, to read, or have some pupil read from, the Bible; to ask questions of the pupils concerning the content of such passages; to repeat prayers, usually that prayer known as the Lord's Prayer as it appears in the sixth Chapter of the Book of Matthew in the King James version of the Bible; to sing hymns and other religious songs; and to inquire of the pupils as to their attendance or non-attendance at Sunday School," where Sunday School attendance remained compulsory in Tennessee at the time, though that law was apparently—to some teachers chagrin—no longer being enforced. The court there held that precluding teachers from doing so violated the State Constitution, Article 1, § 3:

"That all men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own conscience; that no man can of right be compelled to attend, erect, or support any place of worship, or to maintain any minister against his consent; that no human authority can, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience; and that no preference shall ever be given, by law, to any religious establishment or mode of worship."

The court then held that it exceeded the Equal Protection guarantees of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution "to have their children taught what they desire ... subject to qualification that teachers and places must be reputable and things taught not immoral or inimical to public welfare," a reading of that Amendment that has since been overruled as to religious teaching in schools by both the Colorado court which provided the quotation, and by the U.S. Supreme Court. But at the time, the State Supreme Court reasoned: "complainants, we feel that they have taken a rather narrow and dogmatic view of these constitutional inhibitions. In their commendable zeal in behalf of liberty of conscience, and of religious worship, they have overlooked the broader concept that religion per se is something which transcends all man-made creeds." On June 8, 2004, a federal appeals court upheld a ruling banning further Bible instructions as a violation of the First Amendment principle of "Separation of church and state".

On March 16, 2004, Rhea County commissioner J.C. Fugate prompted a vote on a ban on homosexuals in Tennessee, allowing the county to charge them with "crimes against nature". The measure passed, 8–0. Several of the commissioners who voted for the resolution chose not to run for reelection or were voted out of office. The resolution was withdrawn on March 18. In protest, a "Gay Day in Rhea" was held on May 8, 2004, with about 400 participants.[1]


Rhea County is part of East Tennessee, one of Tennesee's Three Grand Divisions. These divisions are not only geographic, but also cultural and defined in state law. Rhea County is also part of the South Central Region of Appalachia.

Adjacent counties

Bledsoe County
Cumberland County
Roane County
North arrow
Bledsoe County
West arrow Rhea County,
East arrow East
Meigs County
South arrow
Hamilton County
Meigs County
Meigs County

Protected areas

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Government Offices

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  • General Overview of the current population/ages/races/marital status/etc



(must be officially part of the county)


County Common Areas

Things to do/see

  • touristy things

County Resources

County Records

Church records

Voter/Citizenship Records

Estate/Probate Records

Land/Homestead Records

Tax Lists

Military Service Records

Census Records

See also


  1. Rhea County, Tennessee Wikipedia site

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