Dayton Gets First Full Time Paid Firemen

Fire truck Driver on Duty 24 Hours Beginning June 16, 1958.

Beginning on Monday June 16, 1958, the Dayton Fire Department, for the first time, had a full-time paid firefighter on duty 24 hours a day. At the time, the fire department was located in the City Hall building, which was located on West Main Street, next to the old post office. The photo above shows the building as it appeared when it was constructed in the early 1930s. It would go on to be used until 1977. They hired the two new drivers according to Commissioner George Barnard, the head of the fire and police departments, with the schedule of working 24 hours on and 24 hours off. They hired a third man to act as a relief for the two firemen and also to relieve the three-man police force. They provided sleeping quarters at the fire hall for the driver. They installed a telephone at the fire hall and the siren was to be used to announce the general area of the fire to alert the volunteer firefighters. Commissioner Barnard announced the selection of Bill Keylon and Robert Morgan out of 12 applications for the new full-time firefighter positions in the town of Dayton.. W.O. Patton accepted the position as the fire and police department relief man. The very first mention of a fire department in Dayton came in 1892 seven years after Dayton got its first charter in 1885. The Howe Pump and Engine Company sent a correspondence to the Mayor of Dayton, informing him that the new horse-drawn hand cart fire engine had been shipped and would arrive in a few days. The new City Hall, Police and Fire building on Main Street was used until 1977 when the new Police and Fire complex was built on Market Street. They added a station in the Industrial Park back in approx 2010-2012. Today Dayton Fire Chief Justin Jackson supervises an Asst. Fire Chief and twelve full-time firemen along with a crew of approx. 20 paid on call volunteer firefighters. The department has three pumper trucks, two aerial ladder trucks, and one rescue truck. Commissioner George Barnard, who in 1958 was very supportive of the new fire department, tragically died in a house fire on south Market Street in 1960.

For Addition Information on Related Subjects See the Links Below.

City Hall Moves into New Building (1930’s)

Dayton Moves into New Municipal Building (1965)

Dayton Purchases Fire Ladder Truck

Dayton Fire Departments New Commuinication System 

 

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Welcome To Dayton Tennessee

Dayton Women Pose at South City Gates

If I were to pick out pick out my most favorite photos in my collection, this one would rate right up there in the top. This photo shows the city gates, as they were referred to. I’ve often heard local citizens talk about the gates which were located at the edge of town where the city limits start. On the north end, the gates were located near the present-day 11th Ave & 27 bypass area. The south city gates shown here were located on south Market Street, just below the entrance to the Food City parking lot. While the exact date of this photo is unknown, the two ladies shown in this photo are (left to right) Maxine Monday and Nellie Sedman. The two became sisters-in-law when Maxine Monday married Nellie’s brother, Jesse Sedman, in January 1947. Nellie married Robert Abel, the son of John R. Abel Jr., a descendant of Cain Abel. In 1807, Cain Abel settled here and began farming. Currently, I have not found any documentation of when the construction or removal dates were for the city gates.

(Photo Courtesy of the Abel Family Collection)

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Abel Barn South Dayton-Then and Now

The feature photo above shows the dairy barn located on the Abel farm in south Dayton. While the exact date of construction is unknown, we do know that it was built by John R. Abel, Jr., the grandson of Cain Abel who settled here in 1807 and began farming this property. When the railroad came through Smith Crossroads, the track was laid right through the Abel family’s farm. Throughout the years, the descendants have been parting with portions of the property for the sake of progress.

In January of 1954, engineers employed by the Tennessee Highway Department began studying the survey for a bypass route which would take US HWY 27 traffic around the Market Street bottleneck. The proposed new route would leave the present highway south of Dayton and cross the Abel farm and move through the suburbs of the city toward Bryan Hill., veering back towards the present route and rejoining it near the north gates of the city. During this time of 1954, Dayton had two sets of stone gates welcoming people into the town. The gates were located on US HWY 27, which is now known as Market Street. Each gate marked the locations of the city limits along the highway. The northern gate was located near the present-day 11th Ave crossing and the southern gates were located just south of the current day Food City Shopping Center near the car wash. (2023).

The talk of this bypass had been in the works for several years due to the fact that Market Street, the main throughfare through Dayton and traffic, was hindered with the parked cars in downtown and the pedestrians crossing the streets. The new US HWY 27 bypass was completed in 1960.

Cain Abel was the first Abel to settle here, his property stretched from Richland Creek down to the vicinity of where 84 Lumber is today. There are small portions of land in south Dayton that are still owned by descendants of the Abel family. The most recent portion of Abel property sold was near the Hwy 27 and Hiwassee Highway Bypass. According to management of the Food City, they will in the future be constructing a new Food City grocery store facility at that location.

Abel Barn Burns
This view of the remnants of the barn was taken from across Hwy 27, when it burned to the ground in the early 1970’s. The photo shows its location to be where the present-day Food City is located.
Aerial View of South Dayton
This is a current day aerial view of the shopping center where the old Abel barn was located. It was situated about where the current day Food City is located in this photo.

Other Related Articles Can Be Seen at The Links Below

Abel Town and Bypass Then and Now

Market Street Main Throughfare Before Bypass

Hwy 27 Bypass Constructed in 1960

 

 

(Abel Barn Photo Courtesy of Abel Family Collection)

(Aerial Photo Taken by Dean Wilson)

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Home Store Built in Place of Motion Picture Theater 1953

Motion Picture Theater Construstion Halted, Home Store Later Finishes Construction

 

Motion Picture Skeleton 1953
Motion Picture Theater 1950

A March 16, 1950, issue of the Dayton Herald Newspaper held an announcement by W.C. Woodlee, manager of the current theater on Market Street. The announcement was for the plans of construction of a new 1000 seat capacity theater to be located at the corner of 2nd and Market Street. Another photo in the Dayton Herald Newspaper on June 22, 1950, showed the construction of the steel support beams. It was during construction that the hostilities began in Korea and caused the construction to be halted. The partially constructed skeleton sat abandoned for two years. After being deemed an eye sore the skeleton was sold to the Home Stores of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Construction resumed and the plans called for a brand-new supermarket with office spaces on the second floor. The building was eventually finished and from that day forward has been the home to various businesses throughout the years. Mainstage Music currently occupies the building.

For More Earlier History of This Corner Click Here.

 

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Dayton Police and Firemen 1950’s

Pictured Left to Right is Dayton Fireman Paul Patton, Dayton Policemen Bill Dilday, Luther Ray and Charles Robinette. (Photo Courtesy of the Ray Family)

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Rhea County Sheriff’s Deputy Sgt. Bruce Owens Shot During a Jail Break February 28, 1982

Sgt Owens shot; Two Officers Taken Hostage

It was just after midnight at the Rhea County Jail on February 28, 1982, and things were going along normally. Sgt. Bruce Owens was sitting in the dispatcher’s office for a few minutes to relieve the dispatcher on duty, who needed to go to the back cell block area; the dispatcher also served as the jailer.

Dispatcher Jim Lowe entered the cell block area to release an inmate who had been serving time on the weekends for DUI. As Lowe opened the cell door, another inmate later identified as 32 years old James Allen Smith, who was being held in the same cell, stuck a Bic cigarette lighter in Lowe’s back and said it was a gun and marched Lowe to the front of the jail.

Sgt. Owens, who was sitting in the dispatcher’s office at the front of the jail in the hallway leading from the cell block areas, encountered Smith in his escapee attempt. Sgt Owens attempted to subdue Smith and during the scuffle Smith was trying to get ahold of Sgt. Owen’s pistol when the pistol discharged even before it was all the way out of the holster.

During the struggle, Dispatcher Lowe managed to get to the rear parking lot of the jail and call for help on one of the radios in a patrol car. As Smith exited the rear of the jail, he encountered deputy Charles Walling, Dayton Police officers Ed Byron and Charles Suttles who had responded to the call for help.

Officer Suttles managed to retreat behind a patrol car, but Smith was able to take Walling and Byron hostage. Smith took the officers and left the jail heading north in a patrol car driven by Officer Byron, while Smith held a gun on him and Walling.

The captured officers radioed back for all other patrol cars to stay back, or Smith would shoot them. Smith had forced Byron to drive to Jackson Island where he handcuffed Byron and Walling in the back of the car, then shot out the radio and fled the area.

Officers Byron and Walling managed to free themselves and commandeered a vehicle from a nearby fisherman. Soon after, word reached the jail that the two officers taken hostage was freed and safe, however a massive manhunt began to search for Smith.

According to Sheriff Henderson, Smith was spotted a couple of times but managed to elude the police. “He was raised in the area and knows the terrain”, Henderson said.

After combing the hills and farmland of eastern Rhea County for a second day, authorities reduced their search. The district attorney’s office filed new charges against Smith, who already had agreed to a 30-year sentence for the charges he was held on prior to the escape.

Sgt. Owen’s, 47, who was shot in the abdomen remained in critical condition at Erlanger Hospital. The bullet destroyed his kidneys and spine.

The Shreveport Police Department in Louisiana encountered James Allen Smith on Friday afternoon March 5, 1982, after he robbed a drug store. When Officer Donald Norwood confronted Smith, he was shot by Smith once in the leg and in the arm.

Officer Norwood managed to follow Smith to a residence about 10 blocks away. Officers surrounded the home and after about a 45-minute standoff, a single shot was heard from inside the house. When officers entered the home, they found that Smith had shot himself in the head.

Smith’s body was identified after the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation forwarded medical and personal files on Smith to Louisiana.

Smith’s body was returned home, and his family laid him to rest in the Ewing Cemetery in Wolf Creek, Tennessee.

For the next 12 and a half years, Owens battled with the Rhea County Government about financial assistance with his medical bills. The county at the time had no provisions for financial security to any officer, hurt or killed in the line of duty.

Just prior to being shot Sgt. Bruce Owens who is shown in the photo holding a Commendation he was awarded for his actions in single-handedly apprehending two escapees from the Chattanooga Community Services Center, who were holding a Correctional Officer hostage.

Sgt. Owens remained confined to a wheelchair, never walking again. He lived out the remainder of his life at the Rhea County Nursing Home. He passed away on December 30, 1994, and was buried in the Spring City Memorial Gardens Cemetery.

The following video was made 5 years after Sgt. Owens was shot. Hear Sgt. Owens in his own words as he describes the night he was shot and left paralyzed. Hear the county commissioners in their own words as they abandon Sgt. Owens in his financial struggle.


 

Rhea County Commissioners

1982

The following were duly elected and serving Rhea County Commissioners in 1982 at the time when Deputy Bruce Owens was shot in the line of duty.

Cindy Cary-Chairman

Dan Wade- County Executive

Jimmy Wilkey- County Clerk

Bobby Aikman

Burch Bridgeman

Bobby Burton

James Byerly

Joe Davis

Gene Dunn

William B. Ewing

Austin Hardaway

Buck Hardy

Colonel Harris

Donald Keylon

Howard Nixon

Johnny Roddy

Howard Sims

James E. Tallent

William E. Thedford

 

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Curly Fox Grand Ole Opry Member

(Curly Fox Photo Courtesy of Cunnyngham Studio Archives)

Rhea County Resident Curly Fox Champion Fiddler

Curly Fox was once described as more than just another Grand Ole Opry old-timer; he was probably the most influential fiddler in country music history, and one of the most popular entertainers of his time.

The fiddler, who got his nickname from his long wavy hair, has played in the Hollywood Bowl, Carnegie Hall, Constitution Hall in Washington D.C., the Opry’s historic Ryman Auditorium and the present-day Grand Ole Opry House.

The most popular Curly Fox tunes have been “Listen to the Mockingbird,” “Black Mountain Rag,” and “Old Gray Mule”.

Famed violinist Fritz Kreisler, after hearing Fox’s fiddling during the “Mockingbird,” said, “What a waste of talent.”

The son of a barber, Armin L. Fox known as Curly Fox was born in Graysville, Tennessee, and with the help of his father he was playing in old time medicine shows by the time he was 13. He played with legendary old time string bands like the Skillet Lickers, The Roane County Ramblers, and the Carolina Tar Heels. During the Depression, Fox led his own band, the Tennessee Firecrackers, on WSB in Atlanta.

Curly met Texas Ruby Owens when he joined the Opry in the late 1930s. In 1939, they married, forming one of the most popular husband and wife teams in country music.

Fox and Texas Ruby had an NBC radio show from 1940 to 1944, which originated from WLW in Cincinnati. It was one of the first country music network shows.

In 1946, at the request of king and queen of Greece, President Harry S. Truman asked Curly and Texas Ruby to give a command performance.

In 1948, Curly and Ruby moved to Houston, Texas, where they remained for over a decade, working in radio and television.

In 1960, the pair returned to work on the Grand Ole Opry, but Ruby often fell ill, and Fox frequently performed solo.

An album was recorded together for Starday Records in 1963, but 72 hours after the recording session ended, while Fox was appearing on the Opry, a fire broke out in the couple’s home and Ruby was killed. It was  grim month in Opry history, as Ruby was the fifth Grand Ole Opry star to die that month, following Patsy Cline, Hawkshaw Hawkins, Cowboy Copas, and Jack Anglin.

After her death, Fox played solo for several years, but eventually moved to Chicago to live with family.  In his olden age, he sporadically performed live; he returned to Graysville in the mid-1970s, performing with a local bluegrass outfit before retiring.

Curly Fox died in November 1995, at the age of 85, he was laid to rest in the Pleasant View Cemetery in Graysville, Tennessee.

Curly Fox Find A Grave Cemetery Memorial

Ruby Agnes Owens Fox Find A Grave Cemetery Memorial

 

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Dr. Archie Morgan Dayton Dentist Clowns Around

When Dr. Archie Morgan wasn’t pulling teeth, he was known to pull your leg while clowning around. Dr. Morgan, shown in the feature photo above, began his career in dentistry around 1948. Beginning in 1979, he launched his clown act. During the 1984 Strawberry Festival Parade, the children voted Morgan as one of the top five clowns in the Best Children’s category. The second contest that Morgan participated in as a clown was in the white face category at the Chattanooga Choo Choo Clown Festival, where he took the first-place award. Morgan’s rise to clown dom began with an infatuation for Emmett Kelly, a former clown with Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Morgan also had a penchant for stuffed clowns. He had between 15 and 20 of the stuffed variety hidden away in his office in a closet. He would often use them to entertain children who came into his dentist’s office for treatment and were showing signs of fear and anxiety. Once a little girl grasped one and wouldn’t let go. “I didn’t have the heart to ask for it back”, Morgan later said. Archie Morgan was a member of the Dayton Masonic Lodge #512 and the Scottish Rite, as well as a member of the clown unit with the Alhambra Shrine. Sadly, Archie passed away on December 4, 1992, and was laid to rest in the Buttram Cemetery.

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Indian Day at Dayton City School October 27, 1966

The 6th grade class of Walter Cheers at Dayton City School completed its studies of the American Indians by dressing the part. Chiefs seated from left to right are Kim Taylor of Chickasaws, Kenny Barnes of Cherokees, and Leon Suttles of Shawnees. Squaws standing from left to right are Charlena Abel, Debbie Forsten and Janit Barnes.

(Photo Courtesy of the Glass Family Collection)

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Charles Benton Signs With the University of Tennessee 1983

Rhea County’s Charles Benton Trades Green and Gold For the “Big Orange”

The week of February 9, 1983, was buzzing with the news that Rhea County Golden Eagle’s All-State defensive back Charles Benton had made the decision to further his education and football career by signing with the University of Tennessee Vols.

Benton had stated in an interview that ever since he was a little boy, he always wanted to play for the Tennessee Volunteers. Another reason for his selection of the Tennessee college was the proximity to his hometown of Spring City, Tennessee.

Rhea County football coach Bill Horton stated that during his coaching career, he had never tutored an athlete with the ability of Charles Benton. “He is one of those athletes that comes along only once or twice in a coach’s career”, Horton said.

Benton was credited with him being a big part of the Golden Eagles success in the previous two seasons. During Benton’s junior season in 1981, the Golden Eagles enjoyed a 12-2 record and finished as Class AAA state runner up. Rhea County closed the 1982 season with a 7-4 record and participated in the Tobacco Bowl held at Hartsfield.

By signing with the Vols early, Benton was given a chance to concentrate on his basketball campaign. He was in his fourth year as starting guard for the Golden Eagles.

Charles Benton graduated from Rhea County High School in 1983. After he graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1989, Charles found his calling and dream job as Career Exploration teacher at the Rhea County High School. Charles coached football, baseball, and basketball previously. He was a “Vol for Life”, TN letterman from 1983-1986 and “Voice of the Eagles” for basketball.

Sadly, Charles passed away suddenly on October 11, 2019.  Charles was laid to rest in Rhea Memory Gardens in Dayton, Tennessee. He is greatly missed by his family and friends.

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