Dr. J.J.Rodgers 4500 Baby Deliveries in 37 years

Dr. J.J. Rodgers, as we all knew him, was born James Jacob Rodgers on May 7, 1906, in Knoxville, Tennessee to the Rev. William Thomas Rodgers and Eula Hunter Rodgers. He went on to earn a B.S. Degree at the University of Chicago and his M.D. from the University of Chicago School of Medicine. He interned at the St. Louis City Hospital and served as resident of Pediatrics at the hospital.

In 1933, he married Vivian Edwards, a registered nurse from Windsor, Illinois. After hearing that a little town named Dayton needed a physician, he had inquired about the specifics with F.R. Rodgers, F.E. Robinson, K.F. Johnson, and other town leaders. Following these talks, the decision was made to move his family to Dayton.

Even though he was already very busy with his medical career and tending to his family, Dr. Rodgers managed to find time to serve 2 consecutive terms as Dayton’s Mayor from 1952-1960. Other civic endeavors over the years included holding membership in the Dayton Rotary and Lions Clubs. He also served on the Board of Trustees of Bryan College, Masonic Lodge, and held medical memberships including American Medical Association.

He was also an associate of the Official Board at the First United Methodist Church, where he had been a member since moving to town.

Upon his retirement at the age of 66, Dr. Rodgers was honored by then Dayton Mayor Paul Levengood who proclaimed May 1st, 1975 as “Dr. J.J. Rodgers Appreciation Day”. A special appreciation dinner was held that night at Bryan College where various members of the community gathered to honor and thank him for his 37 years of service to the community.

Dr. Rodgers Office Dayton Tn

Ted Mercer presented Rodgers with a citation of merit, as Dr. Rodgers had served on the Board of Trustees since 1964. Tom Crawford also presented a resolution from the Tennessee State Legislature on behalf of Representative Bill Cater.

Dickie Rogers spoke on behalf of all the pharmacists in town, stating how much they all hated to see him go as they were just now beginning to learn to read his writing.

Dr. Rogers expressed his gratitude and appreciation to everyone attending, and especially to all his many friends throughout the county.

Having delivered over 4500 babies during his career, I’m sure there are many people who will still remember Dr. Rodgers’ kind and gentle disposition.

Stone Dr. RodgersM

Dr. Rodgers and his wife Vivian are buried together at the Rhea Memory Gardens in Dayton Tennessee.

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Gorilla Attacks Constable, Arrested by Sheriff Carl “Shipwreck” Kelly

Constable J.C. Mincey attacked by Circus Gorilla in Spring City- Trainer and Gorilla tossed in Rhea Jail

June 1955.

At the conclusion of the 1925 Scopes Trial, the citizens of Rhea County thought they had heard the last of any court trials relating to monkeys. That all changed one June afternoon in 1955 when a 150lb three-year-old Gorilla and his trainer were arrested and detained by then Rhea County Sheriff Carl “Shipwreck” Kelly.

It all started when Fay’s Circus rolled into Spring City one afternoon. Constable J.C. Mincey was present and sitting in a chair near the doorway observing the Circus performers and their acts. One act caught his interest, a three-year-old 150 lb skating gorilla named “Mary”.

At the end of the acts, Officer Mincey stated that he was sitting in a chair near the door, minding his own business, as Mary the Gorilla and her trainer Dan Riley were heading back the animal’s cage. Suddenly without warning, the Gorilla lunged towards Mincey knocking him down and biting him on the shoulder and left hand. Mincey stated that as he began to fight off the animal, bystanders were quickly coming to his aid. The trainer stepped in to prevent bystanders from harming the animal.

While Officer Mincey was at the hospital receiving treatment for his injuries, the circus rolled out of town heading for Oliver Springs, Tennessee. Upon their arrival there, they were quickly taken into custody by the Highway Patrol who had been notified to be on the lookout for them.  The trainer Dan Riley was returned to Rhea County along with the circus animals. Sheriff Kelly arrested and charged the trainer Dan Riley with assault and battery by a dangerous animal while in the control of his trainer.

During his incarnation in the Rhea County Jail, Riley was allowed out of his cell to care for the gorilla and other animals, all of which were being kept in their cages on trucks on the jail property.

During the trial, Rhea County Session’s Judge Harold Duncan awarded a judgment in the amount of $1000.00 against the Fay Brothers Circus, Trainer Dan Riley, and the Circus owner James D. Forrest.

The damages were ordered to be paid to Mincey prior to the circus leaving town. Sheriff Kelly advised the court that he had a hard-enough time keeping people locked-up on the jail property, much less a gorilla and other animals.

An agreement was reached between the parties involved that would allow a payment of $25 a month to be paid to Officer Mincey until the total sum was paid.

This was not the first time the gorilla and trainer were arrested. According to reports the trainer had recently been arrested and the Gorilla detained on a charge of drunkenness in Grundy County, Tennessee.

Once again, another ape related case goes down in the history books of Rhea County.

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Police shoot black bear in south Dayton

Police Fire more than 30 rounds at bear in south Dayton

Looking back this week to June 12, 1960, we discover a little excitement, as well as some fear that struck some of south Dayton’s citizens when a bear was seen wondering the neighborhood.

A black bear was killed in South Dayton by city, county, and state officers. More than 30 shots were fired before ending the chase. No one was injured and the bear caused no damage except to frighten residents of the area.

The bear was first seen at the home of Igou Hodges (near present day site of Robinson’s Manufacturing). State Trooper W.E.Allison arrived and fired the first shot at the bear. He and Deputy Ola Harris then chased the bear through the yard and up a tree, where more shots were fired.

They were then joined by Tommy Morgan, who fired a shotgun blast at close range to end the struggle. City policeman reported that the bear weighed 103 pounds.

Pictured above from left to right are:  Sheriff Fred Mullins, Officer Dub Smith, Tommy Morgan, Rosco Montgomery, Deputy Ola Harris and State Trooper W.E.Allison. Others are unidentified.

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In Memory of William “Bill” Edwards

Rhea native Dies Searching For Old Home place Site

As we grow older in life, we often look back at the happy times of our life during our childhood. Many people remain near their birthplace and yet others have for various reasons moved away years ago. But our memories often take us on a journey back there from time to time.

William “Bill” Edwards was born in 1873 and raised in Rhea County and spent most of his life here but had moved away to live with a daughter in Battle Creek, Michigan. He was retired from his trade as a carpenter.  He had never given up hope that he might return to Rhea County to revisit the place of his birth and of all his boyhood memories.

It looked like Bill’s dream to return home would come true when he had the opportunity to come back to Rhea County with his daughter. He had been living in Morgantown since returning. On Monday evening, December 12, 1955, Mr. Edward’s was reported as being missing. It was later determined that the last time anyone had seen him was around 3 pm sitting on his front porch in Morgantown. He was found deceased on a rocky road near Graysville a couple of days later, although it was believed he had died sometime during the first night of being reported as missing on December 12. On that day, sometime after 3pm he had decided to venture out towards his boyhood home. He had made it to just within a short distance from where his old home once stood. Sadly, unknowing to him, the old home had burned some time ago.

According to Rhea County Sheriff Mack Thurman, he was found with a walking stick in each hand in a kneeling position, where he likely had been overcome from the freezing temps and had never moved from the kneeling position in which he was found.

According to Rhea County Coroner Ellis Wilkey, Bill Edwards cause of death was from exposure due to the freezing temperatures.

Edwards was survived by a daughter, Mrs. Bertha Dorsey, with whom he lived with in Battle Creek Michigan, and a son Howard of Clio Michigan. Six grandchildren and a great-grand child.

Funeral services for the aged man was held on Saturday, December 17, 1955 at the Coulter Funeral Home in Dayton.  The Rev. George Lee and Virgil Wilkey conducted the service. He was laid to rest in the Lone Mountain Cemetery at Graysville, TN.


Visit William “Bill”  Edwards Find A Grave Memorial

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1961 Tennessee Strawberry festival Planning Committee

Every year, a lot of planning goes into making the Tennessee Strawberry Festival successful. This requires months of work from dedicated people who serve on the Strawberry Planning Committee. Let’s look back at an old photo and see the people who helped to make the 1961 Festival a success. This is the Strawberry Festival Planning Committee. Pictured from left to right seated are Dr. A.P. Condra Jr.-Chairman, Mrs. Nancy Sims-Chamber of Commerce Secretary, Ted Jones Jaycee and Chairman of the Queen Contest. Standing Left to Right are N.Q. Purser-Rotary Club & Float Committee, Paxton Sawyers-Flyers Club & Parade Marshall and Harold Wilmoth Band Committee. We are grateful for all of the people, who have helped throughout the years to make the Tennessee Strawberry Festival the great tradition that it is!.

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Dayton’s First Mayor-T.N.L. Cunnyngham

Thomas Newton Locke Cunnyngham Dayton's First Mayor

Looking back to Dayton’s First mayor, Thomas Newton Locke Cunnyngham, better known as T.N.L. Cunnyngham.

Born August 30, 1840. He was widely known for being a Confederate veteran and member of the Dayton Bar. During the Civil War, he was commissioned a Lieutenant in Captain Samuel J. A. Frazier’s Company D, 19th Tennessee Regiment.

When he returned home in 1867, he began studying law and later in 1868 obtained a license to practice law.  However, he was remembered most as having taken a leading part in the organization of Dayton.

He assisted in drawing up the city charter and aiding materially in the progress of the town. T.N.L. was the city’s first mayor, serving from April 1885 until April 1886, and served for one year as the city recorder, treasurer and tax collector.

He died on September 14, 1914 and was buried at Montgomery Cemetery. T.N.L.’s great-grandson, James A. Cunnyngham, better know as Jimmy from Cunnyngham Studio, also served as Dayton’s mayor from 1977 until 1980.


Read More At This Link About T.N.L Cunnyngham's Great-grandson Mayor Jimmy Cunnyngham.

dayton Tennessee First Mayor
T.N.L. Cunnyngham ws Dayton's first Mayor.


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Myrtle’s little brick store was penny candy Heaven

Sanitary Grocery opened in 1944 and Closed in 1978

Whatever became of the old-time grocery stores? The answer of course is obvious. It was replaced by the new and modern supermarkets. But once upon a time, down on the corner of Market Street and Florida Avenue, there stood one of those old-time grocery stores.

Sanitary Grocery, owned and operated by Myrtle Hutchins, opened in September of 1944. She brought with her a lot of grocery experience having worked at a couple of grocery stores and at Gibson’s restaurant, but the most important thing she brought was her love for people.

At one time during an interview Miss Myrtle, as she was known to all, stated that she never knew an eight hour workday. Miss Myrtle had the store open every morning at 7 am until 7 pm. The store was open Monday through Saturday. Miss Myrtle once stated, “It was hard work, but it was something she enjoyed”.

The environment in Myrtle’s store was very relaxed, so relaxed in fact that one could often find customers behind the counter serving themselves. Needless to say, but most proprietors of small-town grocery stores could not compete with the modern supermarkets of that era. But Myrtle was never one to feel threatened at all. As she proudly pointed out one day, “Why, it hasn’t affected my business a bit”. You see this is a neighborhood grocery store and she still had many of the same customers that she had when she first started business back in 1944.

Upon entering the Sanitary Grocery Store, it was almost like walking through a time machine. With no modern conveniences, such as air-conditioning, Myrtle’s store instead had screen doors and low hanging ceiling fans. There was no central heat either. During the winter, everyone centered around the old potbellied stove which sat in the middle of the floor.

Miss Myrtle operated for years and never had any of those snappy new computerized cash registers. Instead, she had an old antique cash register and scales that came along with the store when she bought it from the late Fulton Able in 1944.

The little store had been well preserved, you would often wonder what changes if any had ever taken place during the 34 years that Miss Myrtle operated her business there. Well, Miss Myrtle once stated “Yes, there have been some changes over the years. We, at one time, sold live chickens, they were kept in a coop outback”.

An often told story was that one day an inspector came to the store. He asked Miss Myrtle to see the license for the store. It was reported that she told him “We have every kind of license available on the wall but a marriage license”. She asked him if he wanted to help her get one of them too. According to Miss. Myrtle, the inspector never came back again.

Myrtle’s sister, Ogle Hutchins, often helped out at the store. It was not hard to see the charming affection and admiration the two sisters felt for one another.

Myrtle had seen a number of changes take place in Dayton over the years. “During my lifetime, Dayton has grown by leaps and bounds”, says Miss Myrtle. “Why there was a time when I knew everybody in this town and what they were doing.”

It was very obvious that Myrtle loved her job and loved what she was doing. If you are a part of the generation that remembers the small red brick store, then you have some treasured memories of this wonderful little place. For those of you that unfortunately are too young to remember this icon, it sat on the corner below Robinson Manufacturing Company where the fountain is today.

Students often described Miss Myrtle as a soft-spoken older lady who always had a smile on her face. We all remember that Myrtle specialized in penny candy. There were glass cases in a circle all around store. In these cases were every kind of candy you could possibly imagine. For a quarter, you could get 25 different kinds of candy. If candy wasn’t your thing, you could always opt for an RC Cola and a Moon Pie.

Students would make their way into Myrtle’s both before and after school. However, don’t be caught in the store during the day if you were cutting class! Because Miss Myrtle would oblige you by picking up the phone and calling the school and reporting you to the principal. Well perhaps not if it was the first time, but if the student made a habit of it, she would not hesitate to call and report them.

As students grew older and they entered high school, they graduated from Myrtle’s penny candy and RC Cola to the soda fountain all the away up town at Robinson’s Drugstore.

Robinson Drug Store
Rhea Central High School students in front of Robinson Drug Store. (Photo Dean Wilson Collection)

The store closed and Myrtle retired in November 1978. On the evening she closed the store for the last time, Dayton resident George Revels and Margie Bishop were her very last customers.

Sadly, Miss Myrtle Hutchins and another relative were killed in an automobile accident just two years after her retirement on a rain slicked road near Morgantown.

The little store has long been gone from the corner, but Myrtle’s smile and her little old-fashioned red brick store will always be in our memories.

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Dayton Coal and Iron Works Dismantled by Blast

School Children gather to watch the stacks come crashing down

On Friday, November 15, 1935, the old Dayton Coal and Iron Works facility was dismantled. Several   Dayton City School children considered it a treat to be let out of school to witness the blasting of the 200-foot stack of the old iron works. But it was a bittersweet emotional event to many of the older citizens.

Constructed more than fifty years prior to its destruction, the Dayton Coal and Iron works was a huge part of what allowed Smith’s Crossroads to develop into the successful town of Dayton.

Back in the 1870’s, Sir Titus Salt and Peter Donaldson, leaders from the Clyde Iron Works and Clyde Steamship Lines of Glasgow, Scotland took an interest in Smith’s Crossroads. Finding out that the land was rich in iron ore, coal, timber and other stones, they began to be up large regions of land.

By 1884, while the two begun construction of the plant, the railroads had already started it plans of running the rail lines through the area and Smith’s Crossroads changed their name to Dayton.

In the days of its prosperity, the Iron Works pay roll ran close to $50K per month. It consisted of having various successful interest including running 700 coke ovens, rock quarries, coal and iron mines, along with a large company store.

The Iron Works was able to maintain its business and survive through the unstable economic of the period. There had been a few depressions and the money panic of 1907. But then in 1912, after the death of Sir Titus Salt, Peter Donaldson inherited the company and had ran into financial issues in the money markets, that led to him taking desperate action of jumping off the bridge over the Clyde River, with a bar of iron around his neck to end his life.  This led the plant to be operated by the courts for a time before it was ordered closed in 1913. It was never reopened.

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Dayton City School Destroyed By Fire

dayton city School Forced To Close For A week Following Fire

February 16th was on a Friday in 1951. During that night, a fire of undetermined causes burned through the Dayton City School building that had been erected in 1907. The first classes that were held in the building were during the 1908 school year.  The fire had a considerable amount of headway before it had been noticed and called into Dayton’s Volunteer Fire Department. The firefighters had barely gotten the fire hose laid when the fire had broken through the roof of the main two-story section causing the interior of the structure to become a blazing inferno.

Dayton had just gotten a new fire truck. Due to insufficient water pressure, a decision was made to let the new truck serve as a pumper to help boost the water pressure so that three hose lines could be used in battling the blaze. The Spring City Fire Department was called on to assist, and upon their arrival they positioned their fire pumper on Market Street adding yet another hose to tax the flow and pressure of the water.

The origin or cause of the fire had not been determined, however during the investigating of the fire, it was learned that the janitor was able to make his way into the furnace room to retrieve his personal belonging before the fire had burned it’s way through the roof of that section. According reports of that time, Jim Mansfield had said it was believed that the origin of the fire was somewhere near the third-grade classroom. The wings in both the north and south regions were not as seriously damaged as the main two-story section had been, but both had received considerable amounts of damaged from smoke and water. At the time of the fire, the cafeteria was in the north wing with the auditorium being located in the south wing. The two wings were added to the building in 1923.

In the aftermath of the fire, the damaged to the building was estimated to be at one hundred thousand dollars. However, the school was only insured for fifty thousand dollars. Unfortunately, a clause in the policy required the insurance to be totaling 80% of the value of the building to be in force in order to be fully covered, causing the city to have to assume part of the loss. Within a few weeks after the fire, City officials received a settlement in the amount of $36,717.00 from the insurance company.

The school was forced to close for a week long vacation following the fire. Classes resumed the following week. The 8th grade was provided a room on the stage of the auditorium, which with the stage curtain it formed a fourth wall. The other five classes were provided at First United Methodist Church on Market Street, and classes for the lower grades were conducted in the undamaged rooms of the north wing in the two cafeteria rooms. Out behind the church, an outdoor restroom with city sewer connections was provided for the boys, while the girls used the restrooms inside the church.

According to a statement by C. Wesley Hicks, principal of the school, “Everything is going splendid and the students and teachers are adjusting well with minimum inconvenience.”. The students were not required to purchase new text books but were given the option if they wanted to do so.

Recesses were eliminated, and the time that was saved allowed the students to be released from school at 3:00 pm rather than the usual dismissal time of 3:45 pm. This also allowed the students to spend their relaxation time at home.

Eventually the school was rebuilt and has never suffered another fire of this magnitude to date.

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Rhea County Registrar of Deeds Gladys Best Retires

longest serving elected official in Tennessee

August 31, 2018

Gladys Best was just out of Rhea Central High School when she went to work for the Register of Deeds office as a typist. Gladys became the interim Register of Deeds in 1962. Later, she won the election to the office. Little did she know at the time that she would hold claim to the office through a total of 14 elections.

Gladys has always been devoted to the people of Rhea County. She has always made everyone who came into the office feel welcomed. There were no political party lines in her office. Just the good old folk from Rhea County whom she called her friends.

Earlier this year, Gladys made the decision not to seek re-election and choose to retire at the end of this term. Once it was learned that her seat would be open the following persons Teresa Hulgan -The current Deputy Registrar, Dicey Brown, Adam Hurst, and James Nevans submitted qualifying petitions seeking the office: Deputy Register Teresa Hulgan went on to win the primary election in early 2018 and later claimed an un-opposed General Election victory.

Gladys Best
Gladys Best Registrar of Deeds. (Photo by Dean Wilson)

On Friday August 31, 2018, the last official day in office, Gladys was honored with a “Gladys Best Day” celebration on the courthouse lawn. Rhea County Executive George Thacker welcomed everyone and announced that there were refreshments for everyone to enjoy. Tennessee State Senator Ken Yager spoke briefly and presented Gladys with a certificate signed by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam proclaiming her to be the longest serving elected official in Tennessee. Rhea County officials also unveiled a large plaque that will hang in honor of Gladys near her office in the Phil Swafford annex building. A similar one will also hang in the courthouse where Gladys had her office for many years before it was moved into the courthouse annex.

A line quickly formed and stretched across the courthouse lawn as people waited their turn to speak to Gladys to wish her well and express their thanks for all she has done. The newly elected Registrar, Teresa Hulgan spoke briefly thanking the voters for electing her to fill Gladys’ position and also thanked Gladys for hiring her some 35 years ago right out of high school. “I have to thank her for all that she has taught me. She is leaving behind some mighty big shoes for me to fill”, stated Hulgan.

Teresa officially took command as the new Rhea County Registrar of Deeds, today, September 1st, 2018.

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