published Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Exhibit pays tribute to Rhea County historian's zeal

Current Rhea County Historian Pat Guffey, left, and Bryan College student Leila Barker showcases a fur coat and handmade dress from the former county historian Bettye Broyles's collection that was bequeathed to the historical society. An array of personal items are displayed in the "Bettye Broyles:  The Woman" exhibit, now open to the public at the Rhea County Heritage Trial and Scopes Museum.
Current Rhea County Historian Pat Guffey, left, and Bryan College student Leila Barker showcases a fur coat and handmade dress from the former county historian Bettye Broyles's collection that was bequeathed to the historical society. An array of personal items are displayed in the "Bettye Broyles: The Woman" exhibit, now open to the public at the Rhea County Heritage Trial and Scopes Museum.

DAYTON, Tenn. — For Rhea County historian Pat Guffey, paying tribute to her mentor Bettye Broyles meant she'd have to sort through mounds of unsalvageable paperwork, books and photos before she uncovered the treasures left behind.

The Rhea County Historical and Genealogical Society acquired "a conglomeration of things" after Broyles died in March 2011, Guffey said.

Guffey said Broyles, who was the county historian for more than three decades, was a woman of strength and determination. She said Broyles used her passion for life toward all that she pursued, whether as a writer, seamstress, artist, archaeologist or historian.

She classified Broyles' attention to historical artifacts as "a lifetime thing" that had lasted most of her 82 years.

The exhibit "Bettye Broyles: The Woman" at the Rhea County Courthouse in Dayton highlights her assortment of postcards from Georgia and New Mexico up to Illinois and West Virginia. Also included in the exhibit are her personal military ball dance cards and awards, an antique Girl Scout handbook, photos and artwork.

Leila Barker, a Bryan College history major and an intern working on the Broyles' project for nearly a year, helped coordinate the first exhibit by showcasing private correspondence that would reveal Broyles' sentimental personality.

"She kept every letter," Barker said, referring to Broyles' stacks of childhood notes, postcards and other correspondence she had saved over the years.

Brian Penny, a fellow history major, said he has worked only three weeks sorting through the boxes of memorabilia, but he's learned quickly about the level of detail Broyles brought to organizing her belongings.

"We have answers, but still more questions abound" about mysteries not yet discovered in unopened and unsorted boxes, Penny said.

Archival history major and intern Olivia Eanes, who has traced her family tree to the Mayflower, said she admired Broyles' dedication to genealogy.

Upcoming museum exhibits include "Bettye Broyles: The Archaeologist" and "The Historian."

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