Rhea Springs, Pt. 2: The Legend of Rhea Springs Lost to Watts Bar Lake

SPRING CITY, Tennessee (WDEF) – We continue our look this week at towns that you could call our Lost Atlantis.

They were buried when TVA flooded the Tennessee River to form Watts Bar Lake.

In this episode, we look at Rhea Springs which was known for its mineral water.

Many believe it was the fountain of health.

Our News 12 Morning Team investigates the Spring and community.

It’s almost hard to imagine… picture a community with a post office, church and a cemetery. All that’s left now is an old cemetery and a water tank.

“People came from everywhere to be healed.”

You might call it a legend but hundreds of flocked to rhea springs to drink the mineral water and bathe.

“The beginning of Sulfur Springs was to be healed Indians believed the springs had healing powers.”

Curing all kinds of diseases from the liver stomach and even your kidneys. Many believed it was the fountain of health. Reports show in 1878, there was a wide spread epidemic of yellow fever in Chattanooga. Many escaped to Rhea Springs to dodge the disease.

As the spring became popular, so did the Sulfur or Rhea Springs community. A church, school, and a post office sprang up. As Rhea County historian Pat Guffey tells us, so did dozens of homes in this small little town.

“People had a harness shop. There were saloons, the hotel was a fine place.”

A place many flocked to from around the world to experience.

“They had dances. They had shops; all kinds of merchandise.”

This is a map drawn by Owen Wasson who at one time lived in Rhea Springs many years ago, hand written in 1878.

Today, there are few people still living who remember growing up in this remote section of Rhea County.

“He remembers when they cut down all the trees down and back the water up. He remembers he had to move. Everybody had to move.”

Dot Harrison says her husband was born in Rhea Springs and spent the first five years of his life in this community.

“We have pictures that are really pretty of the old hotel, the school.”

Pictures from the past… now just a memory with only a shell remaining.

“With the old school you can see some of the old concrete, some of the area where the building was.”

A old cemetery lies up a dirt road and looks down on what was at one time a busy community, now underwater. The headstones are a reminder of the men, women and children that once called Rhea Springs home.

The writing on the tombstones is faded now. Some even destroyed by fallen trees. A moment in time, now passed but never forgotten.

“Hopefully I can preserve the memory.”

Pat Guffey has written numerous articles about the history of Rhea Springs. She also introduced us to a memorial in Spring City. On the monument, the names of dozens of Rhea Springs residents built piece by piece with marble and granite columns from the Rhea Springs spring house. Stone from a mill and blocks or foundation from the Rhea Springs school building that was built so many years ago.

So what made TVA officials decide to flood this section of Rhea County Tennessee? Find out more about this lost Atlantis in part 1part 3 of our investigation.

Categories: Featured, Local News, Rhea County