Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The Ruskin Church

There’s a church in Ware County that’s been hiding just out of sight off the main highway down an old dirt road for more than a century! It was once only known to locals, but when US highway 84 was rerouted to upgrade to four lanes, the church is now directly off the highway in full view for everyone to see & it has received quite a bit of attention!

This is the Old Ruskin Church, and it is the only remnant of an entire community by the name of Ruskin, a "Utopian socialist" community incorporated in 1899. The community wanted to build a town that would "show that contemporary life could still be enjoyed in the countryside, with land being farmed traditionally, with minimal mechanical assistance" - they basically were wanting to live like Amish people live today!

The community was founded by 240 people who moved near Waycross in 1899. A few of the families came from another identically named "Ruskin Colony" in Tennessee. After they bought a thousand acres around this area in Ware County that locals had named "Duke." They changed the name to Ruskin, because they were practicing the principles of an English social reformer named John Ruskin.

For a short time, the community seemed to do well, and after only a few months of the community being established, Ruskin had "two newspapers, a printing press, a shingle and planing mill, a broom factory, cereal, coffee and leather suspender businesses, a large library, big farms, post office and a railway station with a big sign that read RUSKIN."

Unfortunately, the settlement lasted only a few years, and in 1901 it was disbanded, because most of the families were beginning to return back to their original homes (presumably after realizing actually living in this "Utopian Socialist" lifestyle wasn't quite as good as they envisioned)!

If you'd like to see the church for yourself, you can't miss it- since the highway was rerouted, the church now sits in full view to anyone traveling on U.S. Highway 84 roughly 5 miles west of Waycross!

-Jay Blanton

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