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Rhea County, Tennessee
Map of Tennessee highlighting Rhea County
Location in the state of Tennessee
Map of the U.S. highlighting Tennessee
Tennessee's location in the U.S.
Founded information needed
Seat Dayton
Largest city Dayton
 - Total
 - Land
 - Water

336 sq mi (871 km²)
316 sq mi (818 km²)
20 sq mi (53 km²), 6.08%
 - (2000)
 - Density

90/sq mi (35/km²)
Time zone Eastern: UTC-5/-4

Rhea County (pronounced "ray") is a county located in the U.S. state of Tennessee. As of 2000, the population was 28,400. Its county seat is Dayton6.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 871 km² (336 sq mi). 818 km² (316 sq mi) of it is land and 53 km² (20 sq mi) of it (6.08%) is water.

Adjacent counties[]


Age pyramid Rhea County[1]

As of the census² of 2000, there were 28,400 people, 11,184 households, and 8,108 families residing in the county. The population density was 35/km² (90/sq mi). There were 12,565 housing units at an average density of 15/km² (40/sq mi). The racial makeup of the county was 95.41% White, 2.04% Black or African American, 0.39% Native American, 0.29% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 0.75% from other races, and 1.08% from two or more races. 1.67% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 11,184 households out of which 31.20% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 57.40% were married couples living together, 11.20% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.50% were non-families. 23.80% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.90% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.46 and the average family size was 2.90.

In the county, the population was spread out with 23.70% under the age of 18, 10.00% from 18 to 24, 27.50% from 25 to 44, 25.00% from 45 to 64, and 13.80% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 94.30 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.70 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $30,418, and the median income for a family was $35,580. Males had a median income of $30,066 versus $21,063 for females. The per capita income for the county was $15,672. About 11.40% of families and 14.70% of the population were below the poverty line, including 19.00% of those under age 18 and 15.20% of those age 65 or over.

Cities and towns[]

Cities and towns[]

Unincorporated communities[]

  • Evensville
  • Grandview
  • Frazier


Rhea County is run on the county commission form of local government. There is also a county mayor, a term used in Tennessee for the county executive. The current county mayor is Billy Ray Patton. There are nine seats on the county commission, each representing a geographical area of the county. The current county commission was elected in August 2006 and took office in September 2006. Members of the commission and the county mayor are elected to four year terms.

The current commission, as of September 2006, is as follows:

  • District 1: John Mincy
  • District 2: Terry Broyles
  • District 3: Chris Goodwin
  • District 4: Tom Smith
  • District 5: Emmaly Fugate Fisher
  • District 6: Doyle Montgomery
  • District 7: Ronnie Raper
  • District 8: Bill Hollin
  • District 9: Tracy Taylor


Most of the students in Rhea County attend the county-administered school system, which operates three elementary schools, one middle school, two K-8 schools, one high school, and one alternative school. The K-8 school, Rhea Central Elementary, is currently the largest K-8 school in the state of Tennessee in terms of number of students.

The City of Dayton operates a K-8 school that serves the children who live within the city limits. All public school students in the county, however, attend Rhea County High School upon leaving the eighth grade, as the city does not have a high school.

Bryan College, a four-year Christian liberal arts college, has its campus in Dayton. The college is named for William Jennings Bryan. Chattanooga State Technical Community College has a small satellite campus in Dayton, as well.


The county is named for 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 1830's.

During the American Civil War, Rhea County was considered to be one of the counties in eastern Tennessee that was the most sympathetic to the cause of the Confederate States of America. Rhea raised up seven companies for the Confederate military, compared to just one company for the United States.

Rhea raised the only female cavalry company, on either side, during the Civil War. The unit was made up of young women in their teens and twenties from Rhea County and was formed in 1862. The girls named their unit 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 scouting for Confederate forces. The members of the Spartans were later arrested in 1865 under orders of a Rhea County Unionist and were forced to march on foot to the Tennessee River. From there they were transported to Chattanooga aboard the USS Chattanooga. Once in Chattanooga, Union officers decided that the young women were not a threat and ordered them released and returned to Rhea County. The women were forced to take the oath of allegiance to the United States. The Spartans were disbanded and have drifted into near obscurity. 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. The move was a result of Cincinnati-Chattanooga railroad being completed and running through Dayton.

The Rhea County Courthouse, site of the Scopes Trial in January, 2006.

The Scopes Monkey 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 Scopes Trial was one of the first to be referred to as the Trial of the century. William Jennings Bryan was to play a role in trial, and he died in Dayton shortly after the trial ended. A statue of Bryan was recently placed on the grounds of the Rhea County courthouse. In 1954 the laws were changed to allow teaching of evolution alongside Bible studies in school. On June 8, 2004, a federal appeals court upheld a ruling preventing further Bible lessons as being violative 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 the state of Tennessee, and allow the county to charge them with "crimes against nature." The measure passed 8-0. Fugate's reasoning: "We need to keep them out of here."[1] It should be noted that 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 300 participants.


Presidential elections results
Year GOP Dems
2004 66.0% 7,301 33.1% 3,665
2000 60.4% 5,900 38.1% 3,722
1996 48.7% 4,476 43.2% 3,969
1992 47.0% 4,860 41.4% 4,860
1988 66.2% 5,144 33.4% 2,595
1984 66.3% 5,692 32.7% 2,804
1980 59.4% 4,689 38.9% 3,070
1976 47.6% 3,449 51.6% 3,735
1972 72.5% 3,842 24.8% 1,312
1968 40.7% 2,428 21.8% 1,301
1964 50.9% 2,730 49.1% 2,637
1960 59.8% 2,721 38.7% 1,761

Rhea County is considered to be a Republican leaning county in Presidential elections and in congressional elections. The county voted for George W. Bush in both 2000 and 2004. The last Democrat to win a majority in the county was Jimmy Carter in 1976. Bill Clinton kept his Republican opponents to less than fifty percent in both 1992 and in 1996. Ross Perot drew 11.2% and 7.6% of the vote in 1992 and 1996 respectively.

Rhea is part of the 3rd Congressional District of Tennessee, a seat currently held by Representative Zach Wamp, a Republican. Until the latest round of congressional redistricting, Rhea County was part of the 4th Congressional District, and was represented by Rhea County native Van Hilleary. Hilleary would later run unsuccessfully for governor in 2002. In the US Senate the county, like the rest of Tennessee, is represented by Senators Bob Corker and former governor Lamar Alexander.

At the state level, Rhea County is part of the 31st district of the Tennessee House of Representatives, a seat held by Republican Jim Cobb. Cobb was elected for the first time in November, 2006. The 31st is made up of Rhea County and the northern portion of Hamilton County. The county is part of the 12th district in the Tennessee Senate, a seat held by Democrat Tommy Kilby, who is considered to be a rather conservative Democrat.

The local level of politics has several offices, such as the county mayor and county commission, which are elected on a non-partisan basis. Historically, Democrats have enjoyed an advantage in county offices elected on a partisan basis. In most local races, name recognition and reputation tend to be more important to voters than party identification.


  1. ^ Based on 2000 {{subst:#ifexist:census|[[census|]]|[[Wikipedia:census|]]}} data

Rice, Charles. Begun as a Lark, the All-Girl Rhea County Spartans Soon Attracted the Attention of Unamused Union Officers. America's Civil War, July 1996: pages 8, 77-79.

External links[]

Coordinates: 35°37′N 84°55′W / 35.61, -84.92

This page uses content from the English language Wikipedia. The original content was at Rhea County, Tennessee. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with this Familypedia wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons License.