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Rhea County, Tennessee

Rhea County History, Geography, and Demographics

County Seat: Dayton
Year Organized: 1807
Square Miles: 316
Court House:

1475 North Market Street
County Courthouse
Dayton, TN 37321-1299

Etymology - Origin of 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.

Demographics:

County QuickFacts: Census Bureau 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.


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

According to the U.S. 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:

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