This Old Church Is All That’s Left

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Old Ruskin Church | Ware County Georgia | c.1895

This quaint church in the pines has been loyally maintained for more than 120 years by generations of Georgian’s, including a unique settlement that formed here around the church in the early 1900s.

Old Ruskin Church is thought to have been built in 1895 and originally served a Methodist congregation. At the time of its founding, the village where it stood was called Duke which had sprung up along the railroad as a sawmill community. But around 1900, a new group of settlers arrived from Tennessee looking to start a unique type of community.

The town of Duke along the railroad tracks in the Georgia pines

The Ruskinites Arrive

Known as Ruskinites after their founder, John Ruskin, they sought to build a utopian society where they could show that ‘contemporary life could still be enjoyed in the countryside, with land being farmed traditionally, with menial mechanical assistance.’ John Ruskin was an English art patron and socialist and his group came to Georgia in 1898. They bought 1,000 acres in the community of Duke and renamed the village Ruskin. In October of that year, 100 families arrived from Tennessee to ‘establish a community of people on a cooperative basis of Industrial Brotherhood.’

Painting of John Ruskin, artist: Millais, 1853-54

Over the next two years, the small community built itself up, establishing two newspapers, a printing press, a leather maker, a wood planing mill, a library, a post office, and a depot. But they wouldn’t find the success they had come for as one of the newspapers announced in 1901 that the village of Ruskin was being abandoned with its members returning to their original homes.

Historic Photos of the Village of Duke/Ruskin

(courtesy of the Georgia Archives)

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In researching this town, I found a collection of images that help us to understand what the community looked like which is helpful because nothing remains of the community today, except for Old Ruskin Church.

Old Ruskin Church Today

Today, the church is a Body of Christ Church although regular services are no longer held here. Luckily, it is well cared for and tended to this day, preserving it for future generations.

It’s a striking juxtaposition next to Ezekiel Methodist, located nearby and thought to be its sister church. Ezekiel has fallen into a sad state of repair, making it all the more important that Old Ruskin is still loved and care for. 

Old Ruskin Church built c. 1895

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  1. Hey, thanks for preserving these places, or at least the images to retain in our memories. We live in North Alabama near Athens and Mooresville, two places settled before 1818, which contain many beautiful structures- homes, businesses and churches. We love- my wife and I love to hit the back roads of Alabama and Tennessee, and we find many memorable places.

    A Church historian and wife

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