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Rhea Springs, Tennessee: A Short History

Updated on February 20, 2012
Rhea Springs Hotel
Rhea Springs Hotel

Early History

Ever since Rhea county was first settled by whites in the early 1800s, there existed a wide variety of different water sources that dotted the hilly and rugged forested area that made up the majority of the landmass of Rhea county itself. In the northern part of the county, there existed a set of water springs that were sulfuric in composition, and these springs proved attractive to the new coming settlers that were beginning to populate this particular area of the county, and by the middle 1800s there existed a small farming and residential area situated around these sulfuric springs and other nearby communal entities. Hence, it was given the early name "Sulphur Springs" due to these sulfuric water sources, and it slowly grew into a recognisable and viable community that later developed into Rhea Springs.

Well at Rhea Springs
Well at Rhea Springs | Source

Rhea Springs is Established

Rhea Springs was firmly established as both a name and as a communal entity when on February 5, 1878, a post office was established to serve the outlying community. In time, several residential and communal buildings such as a general store and a hotel were established as well, with the hotel being a particular attraction due to visitors staying to experience the perceived benefits of the "healing power" of the sulfuric springs. The outlying area also contained several churches and family farm holdings, and these outlying areas proved to be important factors in the well-being and future existence of the community as time proceeded forward.

Color view of Rhea Springs Hotel
Color view of Rhea Springs Hotel | Source

The End of a Community

Rhea Springs thrived during its 63 year existence as an established community, but eventually the tides of change contrived to put its existence to an end. In the late 1930s, the Tennessee Valley Authority started construction on Watts Bar Dam, and the resulting lake (Watts Bar Lake) would result in the removal and displacement of many families that inhabited the Rhea Springs Community, not to mention the destruction of the town itself. By April 30,1941, the post office had closed down, and the original community was abandoned as the formation of the lake took place. By early 1942, the entire community of Rhea Springs was submerged below the lake's surface, and the former inhabitants settled among the various local areas after the flooding of the community. So ended an area that was originally known for its water and eventually submerged by water itself.

Store and post office in Rhea Springs, 1940.
Store and post office in Rhea Springs, 1940.
Schoolhouse in Rhea Springs.
Schoolhouse in Rhea Springs. | Source
Church in Rhea Springs
Church in Rhea Springs | Source

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