Gardenhire’s Historic Downtown Dayton Building

Historic Downtown Dayton Building Then and Now

It’s 1912- the nation just elected a new president, World War I was looming on the horizon, and a sleepy little town in Tennessee named Dayton would soon gain national recognition during the famous Monkey Trial. This little town was growing fast, and buildings were being constructed contributing to Dayton’s growth thanks to a man named W. C. Gardenhire.

Gardenhire was born in 1838 in Roane County. In 1884, he relocated to the town of Dayton. He became very instrumental in the construction of many of the buildings that are still standing in downtown today.

One of those buildings is the historic old Dayton Bank building located on the northeast corner of Main and Market Street. The two-story brick structure has a rich history and has been the site of many prominent businesses and offices.

Around 1912, the north side of the building housed the Crawford and Robinson Drug Store. This is where F.E. Robinson got his start in the pharmacy business. This coincided at about the same time that R.N. Gillespie sold the south side of the building to the new Dayton Bank and Trust Company, and the upstairs was rented to local doctors and dentists. After the Crawford and Robinson drug store closed, F.E. Robinson opened Robinson’s Drug Store at a location on west Main Street, and Dayton Bank took possession of the entire building.

Sometime in 1924, the complete building was remodeled with a new facial facade to make the building look as it still does today. After the remodel, a portion of the upstairs was rented to the South-Central Bell Telephone Exchange. Soon after this N.D. Reed occupied the north half of the building and established Reed and Son’s Clothing Store.

In 1938, Mr. Brown Swafford and his partner Glen Woodlee set up a new law practice upstairs, while the bank and clothing store remained downstairs. It was soon after this that C.P. Swafford joined the law firm’s partnership.

Mr. Sam Reed purchased the entire building in 1965. Over the last several decades, the building has housed many businesses that came and went. The building still remains in the Reed Family’s possession today. It was passed down to Elosie Reed and later to her daughter Donna Reed Taylor and her husband Tom. Donna and Tom still own the building today.

Main and Market Street Old Dayton Bank Building on July 4th, 1906.
4th of July at Dayton’s Market & Main intersection (1906) Dayton Bank & Trust on the corner with Crawford & Robinson’s Drugs to the left. (Photo courtesy of the TN State Library & Archives via Tad Rees-Scene in Rhea County)

Copyright All Rights Reserved -Yesterday In Dayton


Please Consider using The Social Media Buttons Below To Share This Story So Others May See It.



Helicopter accident claims life of former Rhea Medical Center Physican

Dr. Darriel Slagle Dies February 23, 1986

A former Rhea County Medical Center physician was killed in a helicopter accident in Greenville, Tennessee around 7pm Saturday February 23, 1986. Dr. Slagle had been employed at the Rhea County Medical Center as an emergency room physician from August 1982 through May of 1985.At the time of his death Dr. Slagle was an emergency room physician at Laughlin Memorial Hospital in Greenville, Tennessee. Dr. Slagle who was alone and attempting to fly his Robinson R-22 helicopter to Knoxville, encountered heavy fog and tried to return to the Greenville airport. On his approach to the airport, Slagle apparently flying too low hit a tree upon approaching the airport for Landing. Dr. Slagle is very well remembered for being an aggressive physician when dealing with critically injured persons that were brought into the emergency room. He was also known to jump into the back of the ambulance to accompany and treat seriously injured patients that were being transported from Rhea County to Erlanger’s Trauma Center in Chattanooga. Many of our citizens got another chance at life, because of this man. May he Rest in God’s Peace.


Copyright All Rights Reserved -Yesterday In Dayton


Please Consider using The Social Media Buttons Below To Share This Story So Others May See It.




Rhea Class of 1981 Ends Five Year Reunion With Tragedy

Classmate Wes Crawford Killed in Auto Accident after Leaving Five Year Class Reunion on August 9, 1986

It was the first time that the Rhea County High School Class of 1981 had been together since their graduation ceremony. The class gathered for their 5th year reunion at the Loft in Chattanooga on August 9, 1986. The classmates spent the evening getting reacquainted with one another while enjoying a good meal. Little did they know that the evening would end with the loss of one of the classmates that was present at the reunion. Wesley Crawford was killed in an automobile accident while he was driving back home after the reunion. The accident occurred when Crawford's automobile crashed head-on into another automobile in front of the old Kayo Service Station on Hwy 27 between south Dayton and Graysville. When the new four lane was constructed, this portion of the Hwy became known as Old Hicks Lane. The Kayo Station has closed since then and the building sits empty today. As the classmates began arriving back home, they started receiving the word of Crawford's passing. During high school, Crawford was a member of the varsity football team and after graduation was employed with the La-Z-Boy chair company. Crawford was a member of the Wolf Creek Baptist Church and was an organ donor. He was laid to rest in the Spring City Cemetery.

Wesley Crawford Dayton Tennessee August 9, 1986


L-R Front Row- David Pelfrey, John Riley, Bart Hill, Dwayne Hagler, and Tim Davenport,

L-R Second Row- Rhonda Taylor, Charla Bell, Sandy Mitchell, Kathy (Trail) Murphy, Rhonda (Suttles) Davis, Marsha Poe, and Brandi (Shelton) Matlock.

L-R Third Row- Marti (Housley) Roddy, Neva (Tyler) Webb, Diane (Hill) Reed, Debbie Smith, Andy Sneed, Joe Whittley, Todd Garrison, Wes Crawford, Dewayne Roddy, Ted Shaver, Kirk Vincent, Glenda Ritchey, Paul Maynor, and Cheri (Vericker) Rucker,

L-R Fourth Row- Will McPherson, Ron Gilbert, Kevin Garrison, Barry Cochran, John Morgan, Steve Special, and Don Carr.

Not Pictured- Liisa (Ehmig) Lowry, Donnie Wasson, Mark Wilson, Scott Heath, William Barnes, Tammy Wiggs, Melanie Hilliam, Tracy Womac, Daryl Garrison, Kim (Farmer) Ward, Robert Martin, Scott Pendergrass, Bill Sims and David Mincy.

(Photos Courtesy of Cunnyngham Studio Archives)

Copyright All Rights Reserved -Yesterday In Dayton


Please Consider using The Social Media Buttons Below To Share This Story So Others May See It.



Graysville Council Votes To Demolish Depot Station May 6, 1957

On the evening of May 6, 1957, during a City of Graysville Council meeting Mayor Truman Cox read a letter from the Railroad Company to the city in reference to the depot station. The letter gave authorization to the City of Graysville to proceed with the necessary actions to remove the depot building from its premises. The council authorized Gary Blackburn to remove the building. It was instructed that any reusable materials were to be saved and used to build a concession stand at the City Park. Within a few short months, the lot was completely cleared of the old depot. It is believed that the depot sat near the railroad back behind the present-day location of the Dollar General Store in Graysville.Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmail

Vaughn Funeral Home Serving Families for More Than 90 Years

Donna Vaughn Continues to operate the family business that started in 1933.

Located in Spring City in north Rhea County, there is a business that has been in operation for over 90 years. Vaughn Funeral Home is one of the oldest family owned and operated funeral homes in the area today. It was founded in 1933 by Eldon and Wincil Vaughn in a house across the street from the current day location. In addition to operating the funeral home, the Vaughn family also provided ambulance service to the area to transport citizens to area hospitals in emergency situations.

Eldon partnered with Paul Lyons, a local businessman, and the funeral home was known as Vaughn and Lyons Funeral Home.Approximately a year after Alfred “Tink” Vaughn began working at the funeral home in 1935, the business was moved to a new location across the street where it has remained all these years. A few years later Paul Lyons was bought out by John Vaughn, cousin to Eldon and Tink. The funeral home was then known as Vaughn and Vaughn Funeral Home until the late 1940’s and then later became Vaughn Funeral Home.

Eldon, along with his brother Tink, operated the funeral home until Eldon’s death in 1968. Tink and Mildred Vaughn operated the funeral home until 1986 when they retired and sold it to their daughter, Donna Vaughn. Donna was brought home from the hospital as a newborn in a vintage 1955 Meteor Cadillac hearse driven by her father Tink. Donna graduated from John Gupton College, Nashville, TN in 1975, where she became a licensed funeral director and embalmer. Donna is a beloved fixture in the community, she still owns and operates the family business today.  

Looking back, probably one of the darkest days for the funeral home was on the afternoon of August 22, 1955, when a southbound freight train struck a school bus as it was crossing the tracks in town taking children home from school. This same hearse that brought Donna home from the hospital was used to help transport the injured children from the accident to area hospitals.  In the bus/train accident, 11 children lost their lives, and 36 more children were injured.

Safely tucked away in the funeral home’s vehicle inventory is a horse drawn carriage hearse, the original 1955 hearse along with a 1956 Cadillac Limousine that Donna purchased and restored. 

Mildred Roberts Vaughn passed away on July 5, 1991, and Alfred “Tink” Vaughn passed away on May 15, 1993. They are buried together in the Spring City Cemetery.

Donna and her staff are caring and experienced professionals providing families with compassionate services in their time of grief.




Lou Billingsley-In Memory

The Billingsley’s Open Dayton’s First Laundry Service in 1929

Taking a moment to remember one of our citizens who has gone on before us. Lou Henderson Billingsley was born June 8, 1893, on Dayton Mountain near the Friendship Church. Lou met her husband John M. Billingsley, when she was a student at the one room schoolhouse on the mountain and he was the teacher.

In 1919, then twenty-six-year-old Lou and her husband moved to Dayton.

Lou and John moved into their home in November of 1923, just two years prior to the Scopes Trial. Their house was later moved across to Main Street from its original location that is now under water from the lake area.

Lou once stated that the main thing she remembered about the events of the Scopes Trial were all the little tents in the outlying area of town where the reporters lived during the trial. It was a circus like atmosphere with folks buzzing all around town that hot July.

John was out of work and was looking for a new business when one day he stayed home to help Lou with the laundry. After seeing how much work was involved in washing the sheets, John decided to start the laundry business.

In 1929, the Billingsley’s started the first laundry service in Dayton. In fact, their very first automobile was a laundry truck which they purchased that same year.

During an interview, Lou was asked what had changed the most during her lifetime. She stated that she saw the first radio, the invention of the automobile and television, but her favorite change was when indoor plumbing came about.

Pictured above, Lou Billingsley celebrating her 90th birthday at the Dayton Church of Christ on June 8, 1983. At the time of the celebration, all six children of her were present along with the 13 grandchildren. Her children are Vera Holloway, Nina Wright, Don Billingsley, Claude Billingsley, Wilma Prater, and Edna Parnell. In addition, Lou had 32 great-grandchildren and 12 great-great grandchildren.

Lou’s husband John Billingsley was born on November 10, 1879, and passed away on November 25, 1956. At almost the age of 102, Lou passed away on April 14, 1995, and was laid to rest next to her husband in the Buttram Cemetery, in Dayton, Tennessee.

May these two fine citizens of our hometown Rest in God’s Peace.

(Photo Courtesy of Cunnyngham Studio Archives)

Copyright All Rights Reserved -Yesterday In Dayton

Please Consider using The Social Media Buttons Below To Share This Story So Others May See It.Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmail

Golden Eagles Reunite at U.T.

Former Golden Eagles Pose for A Photo at the University of Tennessee during the 1984-1985 season.

Five former Rhea County Golden Eagle football players took a time out during their 1984-1985 season at the University of Tennessee to pose for a portrait on the practice field with their Assistant Coach from U.T. Dennis Terrell, who happens to also be a former Golden Eagles football coach. The players pictured are (front row L-R) Charles Benton Class of 1983 and Jesse Messimer Class of 1984, (middle kneeling) David Johnson Class of 1984. (Back Row L-R) Steve Douglas Class of 1982 and his brother David Douglas Class of 1981. Players Charles Benton, Jesse Messimer and Steve Douglas were all starters during the season. David Douglas #78 went on to play pro football with the NFL. He passed away in 2018 after a three-year battle with brain cancer. Charles Benton # 20 passed away suddenly in 2019.

Copyright All Rights Reserved -Yesterday In Dayton


Please Consider using The Social Media Buttons Below To Share This Story So Others May See It.Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmail

Darlene Monroe Retires from Rhea 911 After 34 Years

Assistant 911 Director Darlene Monroe says her Co-Workers were family

Grandview resident Darlene Monroe started a new job in October of 1989 as a police dispatcher for the City of Spring City Police Department. She had no way of knowing that this new job would take her on a 34-year journey in a field that would touch the lives of thousands of people. This job can be a stressful one, but it also is a good feeling to go home at night and know you were able to give someone emergency assistance.

When Darlene began working at Spring City Dispatch in 1989, the local 911 system was very manual in comparison to today’s system. When you answered an emergency call, you had the task of having to literally talk a person through the process of getting all the important information from them about their location, phone number, as well as getting the details of their emergency. There were times that getting all the information needed could be difficult especially if you had a caller who was very young, mentally disabled, or injured to the point that they were incapable of providing you with all the details needed to send help out to their location. All this changed in February of 1992 when the new Rhea County Centralized dispatching center was implemented in Evensville. All countywide dispatchers from the Spring City Police Department, Dayton Police Department and Rhea County Sheriff’s Department all came together for the first time under one roof working as one team of dispatchers. There was one huge difference, now they were equipped with the most modern technology available in telecommunications. The 911 system used today combines modern computer technology along with GPS data systems, so that now when a person calls in an emergency, the 911 system immediately pulls up their phone number and location. Leaving only the task of logging in the details of the call and dispatching the proper emergency assistance immediately.

A few years after Central Dispatch for the county was established, Darlene was promoted to the Assistant 911 Director. Her new duties not only consisted of assisting the 911 Director, but she was also preforming various clerical duties relating to the hiring and training of new dispatchers. Even after her promotion, she could still be heard on the radio dispatching for when an employee was out sick, or a major call was going down. Over the course of her career, Darlene was the assistant for three 911 directors, Al West the original founding director, Charles Riggs which replaced Al West after his retirement, and for the current Director Shane Clark.

During her retirement reception on September 8, 2023, Darlene was recognized by Bo Kaylor the Chairman of the 911 Board as one of the top Assistant Directors in the state of Tennessee. She was presented with a plaque by Bo Kaylor and Shane Clark honoring her many years of dedicated service. “I know I’ve learned a lot from Darlene in my 18 years as director”, Clark stated. Rhea County Executive Jim Vincent stated, “On behalf of Rhea County, I’d like to thank you for giving so much of your life to serve our citizens”.

As Darlene addressed and spoke of her appreciation to all of the attendees of the celebration, she stated, “I was privileged to have been able to work with so many men and women from various departments throughout the county for all these years, we’ve become more like family than co-workers”.

Many members of the various departments throughout the county were on hand to wish Darlene a happy retirement. Darlene’s last official day will be September 15, 2023.

The video below contains Chairman Bo Kaylor’s presentation to Darlene Monroe.

Copyright All Rights Reserved -Yesterday In Dayton

Please Consider using The Social Media Buttons Below To Share This Story So Others May See It.Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmail

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 


Copyright All Rights Reserved -Yesterday In Dayton

Please Consider using The Social Media Buttons Below To Share This Story So Others May See It.


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)

Copyright All Rights Reserved -Yesterday In Dayton

Please Consider using The Social Media Buttons Below To Share This Story So Others May See It.Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmail

error: Content is protected !!