Explore history

Rhea County was founded in 1807, and is named for Tennessee politician and Revolutionary War veteran, John Rhea.  As you will learn from visiting the newly renovated Rhea Heritage and Scopes Trial Museum, the county has a rich history.

However, a single 1925 event placed Dayton on the world-map—the Scopes Trial.  The Butler Act, a newly passed Tennessee law, made teaching evolution in public schools illegal.  The Scopes Trial resulted from an intentional violation of the Butler Act by Mr. John T. Scopes, a teacher at Rhea Central High School.

The Scopes Trial was one of the first to be referred to as the "Trial of the Century." William Jennings Bryan, former Secretary of State, and three-time candidate for President, played a role as prosecutor in the trial.  Clarence Darrow, the famous trial lawyer, served as the lead defense attorney for Scopes.

Sure, we know the Scopes Trial is what we're most famous for. But delve a little further and you'll find that there's much more to see and do in Rhea County, from eating to lodging to fishing to hiking to a historical walking tour of downtown Dayton. Take a look around and explore the beautiful Rhea County, Tennessee. 


Find out more about the restoration of the Rhea County Heritage and Scopes Trial Museum

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Explore historic Rhea County

Take a walk back in time

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