published Saturday, March 26th, 2011

Group aims to expand Scopes museum

By Kimberly McMillian

DAYTON, Tenn.—Members of Rhea County’s historical and museum societies plan to expand exhibits inside the Scopes Trial Museum and the facility’s hours of operation later this spring.

“The museum’s growing,” said Justin DeFriese, president of the Rhea County Historical and Genealogy Society.

The museum’s current exhibits include local all-state athletes, Rhea County black history, Grand Ole Opry bluegrass legend Curly Fox, Bryan College history, the Scopes Trial and framed artwork of historical buildings by local artist Susan Wilhoit.

Tom Davis, chairman of the Heritage and Scopes Trial Museum Society, said society members worked with MainStreet Dayton last year to replace the commercial benches surrounding the courthouse with updated black ones.

MainStreet Dayton’s design committee installed 14 benches intended to match the historic integrity of the Rhea County Courthouse, built in 1891.

“The fresh look” of the benches around the courthouse square and the installation of a raised platform have highlighted the courthouse entrance from Market Street, said Kerry Nabors, MainStreet Dayton’s design chairman.

Davis and DeFriese said they would like to incorporate other Rhea County exhibits that include the Tennessee Valley Authority, military, early 1800s and American Indian history.

More artifacts are needed at the museum, Davis said, and he would like for people to donate relics, letters, clothes and uniforms that could contribute to the museum’s offerings.

DeFriese said display cases were needed and that excess memorabilia is being stored off-site until the cases are acquired.

Davis said Spring City Elementary students recently toured the museum, and that the society members would welcome future tours from area schools.

“We’re wide open to that,” he said.

Leaders plan to train volunteers on April 9 at the courthouse. After they have trained more volunteers, the museum’s hours of operation will expand to Saturdays later this spring, officials said.

For more information about touring or volunteering at the museum and donating artifacts call Tom Davis at 423-605-4067.

Kimberly McMillian is based in Rhea County. Contact her at

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