Visiting the Rhea County Courthouse Museum

Located in the small town of Dayton, Tennessee you will find one of the most famous courthouses in America. The Rhea County Courthouse contains exhibits, photos and news clippings from the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925. The small museum offers free admission and gives visitors an opportunity to learn about the trial that challenged the right to teach the concept of evolution in the school system.

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Visiting the Rhea County Museum

The courthouse area is typical of many small-town downtown squares that you find all around the USA. There is a sidewalk that goes around the square giving you a perfect place to walk and enjoy the beautiful day.

In front of the courthouse, you will find statues of both of the main players in the Scopes Trial. One one side you see Clarance Darrow and on the other side, you find Williams Jennings Bryan.

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.

Rhea County Heritage
Rhea County Museum

Whether you view the Scopes Trial as pivotal and groundbreaking or just another event in American history, this is a beautiful place to explore and learn about historical events that shaped our country.

  • The museum is posted as open Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. but when I visited on a Saturday in November, it was open for visitors. For more information, call (423) 775-7801.
  • No admission charge.
  • The small museum is located down a small series of steps.
  • Allow 30 minutes to 1 hour to read each of the exhibit signs.

More information about Rhea County, Tennessee

Where to Eat in Dayton, TN

The town of Dayton, Tennessee may only have 7,000 residents, but they have several great options for food. There are several chain restaurants near Walmart and Lowes, but if you are looking for a local diner, cafe, or coffee shop, you won’t have to go far from the Rhea County Courthouse.

Just around the block, you can find the Harmony House Coffeeshop (
378 1st Ave, Ste B) that locals claim to be the best coffee around!

When you’re ready for lunch, drive just a couple minutes over to the Dayton Boat Dock & Grill (175 Lakeshore St) and get a fresh cheeseburger right off the grill!

When you visit small cities do you eat at local cafes or stick to chain restaurants? Have you ever been to Dayton, Tennessee? Are you familiar with the Scopes Trial?

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