The Mynatt or Washington Cemetery is located approximately six miles northeast of Dayton and about one mile south of the Town of Washington. It was originally stated by a W.P.A. researcher that the cemetery originated during the lifetime of Dr. Samuel Mynatt and was on Dr. Mynatt’s property. The cemetery is opposite the old Mynatt home place and has now become public. According to “Rhea County, Tennessee Cemetery Records, Volume 2,” the W.P.A. researcher was incorrect about the cemetery’s beginnings during the lifetime of Dr. Samuel Mynatt. Based on headstone dates, the earliest burial in the cemetery was William Stanton Leuty who died in 1829 and was buried on the northern end of the cemetery. The last interment, Samuel C. Mynatt was made in 1935. Another interesting note was made by Bettye Broyles, former Rhea County Historian, who wrote that if this cemetery had been in existence when David Campbell died in 1812, he probably would have been buried there instead of on the northeast side of Washington. (W.P.A. is the Works Progress Administration, which conducted surveys of cemeteries throughout the State of Tennessee during the 1930’s.)

Helen Thomison Mitchell and Mildred Peavyhouse first copied the headstones in the cemetery, then, in 1997, Cecil B. Smith revisited and mapped the cemetery. The Rhea County Historical Society worked in 1990 to clean the cemetery, fill in graves and restore headstones to their proper positions. The cemetery is on a driveway that turns east in front of what used to be Swaffords Grocery Store and is now Rocky Food Mart.

Some of the burials in this cemetery include the following family names: Howard, Walker, Howell, Ault, James, Tucker, Thomison, Kelly, Crawford, Colville, Wilson, Alexander, Clawson, Frazier, Lowry, Mynatt, Nanny, Houston, Peterson, Gillespie, Purser, Macfarland, Leuty, Roddye and Lea. Some of the headstones and markers include familiar names of Rhea County’s early settlers. George L. Tucker and his wife, Minerva Frazier Tucker and their two daughters ages four and two months are buried in this cemetery. Also buried there is part of the Thomison family, William Preston Thomison and wife, Nancy Smith Thomison, with sons John Smith Thomison and Zachariah Thomison. John S. Thomison was killed in the Battle of Chickamauga and brought to the Washington Cemetery by wagon from the Georgia battlefield. Another family consisted of Jacob and Julia Darwin Kelly. Next was Captain Warner E. Colville, his wife, Vesta Waterhouse Colville and their son and daughter. Dr. B.K. Mynatt is also buried there, along with his wife, Mary Frazier Mynatt, an unnamed infant and a son, Samuel C. Mynatt. An iron fence encloses ten graves of the Gillespie family, which includes Dr. James W. Gillespie, Robert N. Gillespie and Hannah Leuty Gillespie. The Leuty graves show that William Stanton Leuty and Mary Roddye Leuty are also buried there. In addition, there are a number of fieldstone markers with no names.

Since Washington was our first county seat, this cemetery deserves special attention and care. The Rhea County Historical Society is having a special clean-up day for the cemetery on Thursday, March 21, and invites the public to come and help give the cemetery a “face-lift.” While you are considering doing this, just think about all the history in this place of interment. Remember to learn from the past in order to live in the present and prepare for the future.

Pat Guffey can be reached at