Dayton: A small town with a big reputation

Linda Shaver, front center, sits with her HeeHaw gossip girls on the Walden's Ridge Community Center "Hollywood Starberry"-themed float at the 2014 annual Tennessee Strawberry Festival in Dayton.

This small town in rural Tennessee was the setting for the country's most famous debate over creation and evolution. The Scopes "Monkey Trial" took place in the Rhea County Courthouse in 1925.

Five years after the trial, Bryan College was founded in Dayton, named after William Jennings Bryan, the man who helped prosecute the Scopes Trial. Along with the college and history, Dayton is also known for its bass fishing and many notable festivals throughout the year.


-Founded: Settled and named Smith's Crossroads in 1820, the city was renamed Dayton in 1877, after Dayton, Ohio

-Population: 7,395

-Time Zone: Eastern Standard

-Claim to fame: Site of the Scopes "Monkey Trial"


-Tennessee Strawberry Festival: Held every May, it brings people from across the area to downtown Dayton for a carnival atmosphere, pie contest and craft vendors. (

-Scopes Trial Play and Festival: This annual re-enactment is held in July and features speakers and historic discussions about the famous trial. (

-PumpkinFest: A new tradition in Dayton, this fall festival provides families with an alternative to traditional Halloween activities. The two-day festival, being held Oct. 27-28 this year, includes live music and entertainment, a movie in the park and a pumpkin pie eating contest. (

-Christmas at the Courthouse: This event is looked forward to by many in the town, as the early December festival includes a horse-and-carriage parade and candlelight caroling at the Rhea County Courthouse. (


-Monkey Town Brewing Co.: A small craft brewery located in downtown Dayton. (287 First Ave.; 423-775-1800;

-Jacob Myers Restaurant on the River: If you are looking for a waterfront view during a dinner of classic American and seafood dishes, then this is the place for you. (185 Chickamauga Drive; 423-570-0023;

-Cumberland Cafe and Market: Run by a charming Dayton native with a passion for simple comfort foods with an elegant and flavorful twist. (1368 Market St.; 423-834-9888;

-Peking House Restaurant: Chinese cuisine for your lunch and dinner cravings. (7356 Rhea County Hwy.; 423-775-1011)


Dayton and the surrounding Rhea County are known throughout the fishing community. The area has hosted several major tournaments, such as the 2014 Bassmaster BASSfest, American Bass Anglers Weekend Series and Heartland Anglers Classic. Chickamauga Lake, which borders Dayton, was named the third-best spot for bass fishing in the Southeast in 2016 by Bassmaster Magazine.

-The Laurel-Snow State Natural Area is a popular spot for hiking, mountain biking and birdwatching. (


In 2017, a statue of Clarence Darrow, the defense attorney who represented a teacher prosecuted in the Scope Trial for teaching evolution, was placed outside the Rhea County Courthouse. It stands opposite the statue of William Jennings Bryan, the prosecutor in the case, which was erected in 2005.