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Dayton, Tennessee
Monkey Town
Location of Dayton in Rhea County, Tennessee.
Location of Dayton in Rhea County, Tennessee.
Country United States
State Tennessee
County Rhea
Settled ca. 1820
Incorporated 1903
Named for Dayton, Ohio
 • Total 8.03 sq mi (20.81 km2)
 • Land 7.80 sq mi (20.19 km2)
 • Water 0.24 sq mi (0.61 km2)
696 ft (212 m)
 • Total 7,528
 • Estimate 
 • Density 943.82/sq mi (364.41/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
ZIP code
Area code 423 Exchanges: 750,775
FIPS code 47-19700
GNIS feature ID 1306293
Rhea county courthouse usda
The Rhea County courthouse is home of the famous "Monkey Trial".

Dayton is a city and county seat in Rhea County, Tennessee, United States. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 7,191. The Dayton Urban Cluster, which includes developed areas adjacent to the city and extends south to Graysville, had 10,174 people in 2010.

Dayton was the site of the Scopes Trial in 1925 dealing with the creation–evolution controversy.


Dayton center
Downtown Dayton, 1925

The community was originally settled circa 1820 as Smith's Crossroads. In 1877, the town was renamed Dayton, after Dayton, Ohio. The town was incorporated in 1903. Early industry included manufacture of pig iron.

Scopes trial

In 1925, the famous Scopes Trial was held in Dayton and, for a period of time, filled the town with hucksters of every description and journalists from around the world. The participants included William Jennings Bryan in the role of prosecutor and Clarence Darrow as the principal defense counsel. The trial was over the issue of whether evolution should be taught in public schools. John T. Scopes, the defendant in the trial, was a local science teacher who was recruited by George Rappleyea to begin to teach evolution in his science class, despite it being against Tennessee law at that time. Rappleyea believed that this conflict would create an enormous amount of publicity for the town, and he was absolutely right. The town bustled with activity as people began to flock from near and far to hear the verdict on this controversial issue.

Although this trial is often represented as being pivotal in the movement to allow evolution to be taught in American schools, it actually marked the beginning of a major decline in the teaching of evolution which did not start to recover until the early 1960s. Likewise, the Butler Act, which Scopes was supposed to have violated—though it was never invoked again—remained on the books until 1967, when it was repealed by the Tennessee Legislature.

H. L. Mencken famously covered the trial for the Baltimore Sun and recruited Clarence Darrow to lead the defense team.

Immediately after the trial, Bryan continued to edit and deliver speeches, traveling hundreds of miles that week. On July 26, 1925, he drove from Chattanooga to Dayton to attend a church service, ate a meal, and died (the result of diabetes and fatigue) in his sleep that afternoon—just five days after the Scopes trial ended.


Dayton is located at 35°30′N 85°1′W (35.493, -85.013). According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 6.4 square miles (17 km2), of which 6.1 square miles (16 km2) is land and 0.2 square miles (0.52 km2) (3.62%) is water.

Dayton has a humid subtropical climate with four distinct seasons; hot and humid in the summer, warm and mild in spring and fall, and cool in winter with some snow.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 173
1890 926 435.3%
1900 1,189 28.4%
1910 1,991 67.5%
1920 1,701 −14.6%
1930 2,006 17.9%
1940 1,870 −6.8%
1950 3,191 70.6%
1960 3,500 9.7%
1970 4,361 24.6%
1980 5,233 20.0%
1990 5,671 8.4%
2000 7,923 39.7%
2010 7,528 −5.0%
2019 (est.) 7,358 −2.3%

2020 census

Dayton racial composition
Race Number Percentage
White (non-Hispanic) 5,699 80.67%
Black or African American (non-Hispanic) 307 4.35%
Native American 15 0.21%
Asian 95 1.34%
Pacific Islander 1 0.01%
Other/Mixed 333 4.71%
Hispanic or Latino 615 8.7%

As of the 2020 United States census, there were 7,065 people, 2,311 households, and 1,510 families residing in the city.


Dayton is a small manufacturing center whose products include furniture, clothing, automobile parts, and recreational vehicle components. La-Z-Boy is the largest manufacturing employer, followed by Suburban Manufacturing, Robinson Manufacturing, and International Automotive Components Group. Finland-based Nokian Tyres plans to employ around 400 at its new Dayton tire manufacturing factory which began initial operations in 2019. The Tennessee Valley Authority's Watts Bar and Sequoyah nuclear power plants are both within 20 miles (32 km) of the city. Since the late 1990s the area has experienced increased residential development particularly along Chickamauga Lake, an impoundment of the Tennessee River. More recently, Dayton has hosted several major bass fishing tournaments at Chickamauga Lake including the 2014 Bassmaster BASSfest, American Bass Anglers Weekend Series, Heartland Anglers Classic, the 2013 Walmart FLW Tour and various senior, collegiate and high school events.


Dayton is home to Bryan College, a four-year Christian liberal arts school named in honor of William Jennings Bryan, who died in Dayton five days after the Scopes Trial ended.

Chattanooga State Community College operates a site in downtown Dayton with a variety of offerings including General Education core for most majors and selected career courses.

Dayton City School, a K-8 public school, is free for all residents of Dayton. Dayton residents attend Rhea County High School, operated by Rhea County Schools.

Rhea Central Elementary School, operated by the county school system and serving people not living in the city, is just outside the city limits. It is the largest K-5 public school in the state.

Omega Graduate School, an institution of Christian postgraduate education, is located in Dayton's Crystal Springs community.

Notable people

  • Howard Armstrong (March 4, 1909 – July 30, 2003) – African American string band and country blues musician
  • Joseph Aloysius Durick (October 13, 1914 – June 26, 1994) – U.S. Roman Catholic bishop and civil rights advocate
  • Jake Gaither (April 11, 1903 – February 18, 1994) – Hall of Fame head football coach at Florida A&M University (FAMU) for 25 years; won six black national championships and amassed one of the highest winning percentages in collegiate history
  • Russ Hodges (June 18, 1910 – April 19, 1971) – baseball broadcaster for New York and San Francisco Giants; best known for calling Bobby Thomson's famed 1951 Shot Heard 'Round the World
  • Red Holt (July 25, 1894 – February 2, 1961) – former Major League Baseball first baseman with the Philadelphia Athletics
  • Dave Roller – former NFL defensive lineman
  • John Scopes (August 3, 1900 – October 21, 1970) – teacher charged with violating Tennessee's Butler Act and tried in a case popularly known as the Scopes Monkey Trial
  • Rachel Held Evans (June 8, 1981 – May 4, 2019) – Columnist and New York Times Best Selling Author
  • Cory Gearrin (April 14, 1986 – Present ) – Major League Baseball pitcher, currently a free agent, most recently with the Minnesota Twins

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Dayton (Tennessee) para niños

National Hispanic Heritage Month on Kiddle
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Dolores del Río
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