Tennessee Counties
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Tennessee Counties

There are ninety-five counties in the State of Tennessee. The oldest county is Washington County, founded in 1777. The most recently formed county is Chester County (1879)

Rhea County, Tennessee

Rhea County Education, Geography, and History

Rhea County, Tennessee Courthouse

Rhea County is a county located in the state of Tennessee. Based on 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.

Etymology - Origin of Rhea County Name

Named in honor of John Rhea (1753-1832), Revolutionary War soldier, member of North Carolina and Tennessee state houses, member of US Congress, US commissioner to treat with the Choctaws.


County QuickFacts: CensusBureau Quick Facts

History of Rhea County

Created 1807 from Roane County; named in honor of John Rhea (1753-1832), Revolutionary War soldier, member of North Carolina and Tennessee state houses, member of US Congress, US commissioner to treat with the Choctaws.

Rhea County was formed in 1807 from Roane County (Acts of Tennessee 1807, Chapter 9).

There were fires at the Rhea County courthouse in 1869 and 1927.

Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture
Formed by the general assembly on December 3, 1807, Rhea County came out of a portion of Roane County. The new county was situated in a valley between the Tennessee River and the Cumberland Plateau. Though enlarged in 1817, parts of the county were lost in the formation of Hamilton County in 1817 and Meigs County in 1836.

Settlers began moving into this valley bottomland once Cherokees gave up claim to it in 1805. Thomas Moore, Joseph Brooks, and John Henry were the original commissioners appointed to select a suitable place for holding court. They decided upon the home of William Henry at Big Spring (north of present-day Dayton); the house served as the county courthouse until October 1812.

In 1809 and in 1811 the general assembly appointed a commission to establish the town of Washington as a county seat. After investigating several sites, Washington (now known as Old Washington) was established in 1812 near the head of Spring Creek on land donated by Judge David Campbell and Richard Green Waterhouse. Lots in the new town were surveyed and sold on May 21 and 22, 1812. Contracts to construct the public buildings were awarded to James C. Mitchell (courthouse), John Moore (jail), and Adam W. Caldwell (stocks and pillory). By 1825 a new jail became a necessity, but it was not completed until 1836. A new brick courthouse, designed by craftsman Thomas Crutchfield, was completed in December 1832. Find more from the Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture: RHEA COUNTY

Geography: Land and Water

As reported by the Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 336 square miles (871 km2), of which, 316 square miles (818 km2) of it is land and 20 square miles (53 km2) of it (6.08%) is water.

Neighboring Counties

Bordering counties are as follows:

  • Cumberland County (north)
  • Roane County (northeast)
  • Meigs County (east)
  • Hamilton County (south)
  • Bledsoe County (west)


The county-administered public school system serves most Rhea County students. The system operates three elementary schools, two middle schools, 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, in Evensville, 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 Community College also has a small satellite campus in Dayton.

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