I’m not sure as to the early history of this church but it has been home to the Holy Temple Church of Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith for at least ten years. I first photographed it in 2007.
Now known as Antioch First Baptist Church, this was built by the congregation of the First African Baptist Church, who were the first and “mother” church of all the other African-American Baptist congregations in the area. It has its origins in a group of ex-slaves who were first organized as Zion African Baptist Church in 1870. Reverend Frank S. Hazzard was the first pastor. He was the founder in 1880 of the first private school for black children in Ware County, known as Hazzard Hill Baptist School. After meeting in a log cabin for many years, they built a more substantial frame church around the turn of the century. It was destroyed by a storm just a few years later and the present structure was built to replace it in 1905.
National Register of Historic Places
The South Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church notes: Shortly after the town of Waresboro was settled, there were Methodists gathered for services. In the early records, the preacher from the Waresboro Circuit preached at the beginning of the church in Waycross…It was as part of the Waresboro Mission that the first services were held in Waycross. In 1888, this church was organized; Reverend J. G. Stern was the first pastor. There were 17 members and they met in a new building. The present frame building was built in 1935.
This congregation was still active in 1974, when they held their centennial, but I don’t know when it disbanded, nor do I know when the fire damage that partially gutted the roof occurred. Ezekiel New Congregational Methodist, as well as the old Ruskin Church and the old Trinity Methodist in downtown Waycross (now demolished) are, in my opinion, all the work of the same builder. J. Gregory Smith writes: Once as a child, I marveled at a 10 foot rattle snake that was hung on a pole on the highway in front of the church. My grandmother, Mina Jordan Smith once ran a filling station and grocery in Dixie-Union . In later years. my cousin Twiman Smith ran a store just down the road.Good memories!!
Leigh Nelson shared this wonderful historic photo, likely made during a revival or homecoming. She is unsure of the date but some of her relatives were part of the congregation. Do not share without credit to her.
Thanks to Anna Gay Leavitt for helping me locate this church.
The South Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church notes: This church was organized on March 25, 1888, under the oak trees at the home of William Manning Denton, with Rev. J. G. Ahern as pastor. The earliest members brought their own cowhide-bottom chairs to meet under the oak trees. The original building was made from wood sawed from logs at Denton Sawmill and the same building is still in use, having been remodeled in 1935, 1954 and 1976…
No specific date for the construction is noted, but it would be safe to assume that it was built within a few years of the organization, sometime in the early 1890s.
Colonization movements were very popular in that last decade of the 19th century, bringing large numbers of people with shared values together to create a world of their own vision. Ruskin was an example of such a place, named for John Ruskin who came from England with the hopes of establishing an agrarian utopia. Founded in 1898, the colony survived for just three years before individuals decided to go their own way. Some reports suggest that Ruskin was a large and thriving community, though much of this seems apocryphal, considering the community was attempting to attract settlers. (I’d like to thank Sharman Southall, historian for the Georgia Department of Transportation, for bringing much of this history to my attention). The church predates the Ruskin experiment by a few years. It’s thought to have been built by a Methodist congregation serving the nearby lost community of Duke but will likely be known forever as the Old Ruskin Church. It has recently been restored and is well-maintained to this day. Its survival of historic wildfires a few years ago is nothing short of miraculous and is quite inspiring.