A lesson in local history

Rhea County Academy students are pictured above on the steps of the Rhea County Courthouse. The field trip was part of a lesson on local history.

Rhea County Academy teachers Karen Blakney and Austin Marsh, along with their fourth- and 10th-grade students, recently visited the Rhea County Courthouse.

Students had studied the Scopes Trial as a part of their courses in US history and literature of the 1920s.

Students first sat in the Scopes courtroom and heard Blakney review the events that led to the trial being held in Dayton. Marsh summarized the days of the trial and the individuals who played significant roles during the happenings. He further discussed the town’s actions in memorializing William Jennings Bryan with the founding of Bryan College.

The students then visited the museum where they marveled at the book of hand-written minutes from the 1925 proceedings and viewed pictures and artifacts from the time of the trial.

“I love for my students to get to see that history isn’t just something that happened long ago and far away. We have history that happened right here in Dayton,” Blakney said

For the 10th-graders, the courthouse trip enhanced their study of literature of the 1920s. Students had read both Inherit the Wind and The Great Gatsby.

“We’ve been studying how American authors exaggerate and embellish everything, and Inherit the Wind is a perfect example of that,” Marsh stated. “It’s important to me that my students understand the history of their hometown and what was unfortunately done to it through the work of Lawrence and Lee — authors of Inherit the Wind.”

Blakney and Marsh are both involved in Dayton’s July play, which reenacts the 1925 happenings. Last summer, Blakney was the stage manager. Marsh was the assistant director in 2018 and 2019. In addition, he played Scopes in 2018 and journalist H. L. Mencken in 2019.