- Historic Sites
Scopes Trial Museum And Rhea County Courthouse
In 1925, the Rhea County Courthouse was the scene of the famous Scopes Evolution Trial, in which John Thomas Scopes, a Dayton high school teacher, was tried for teaching that human beings evolved from a lower order of animals. The trial (July 10–July 21, 1925) was covered by H. L. Mencken, world famous journalist, and was reported in newspapers all over the country. William Jennings Bryan, a fundamentalist, served as prosecutor, and Clarence Darrow, well known agnostic, served for the defense. Scopes was convicted and fined $100. On appeal, the decision was reversed by the Tennessee Supreme Court in 1927. The trial raised issues debated for many years: the right of taxpayers to control curriculum, separation of church and state, academic freedom, and the relationship between science and religion. Built in the 1890s, the courthouse has been restored to its 1925 appearance and houses the Scopes Trial Museum.