What you see above are the sad remains of what once was one of the most striking churches in the Georgia backcounty. Located in Ware County, it was built in 1899 by Manning Thigpen and named for his son Ezekiel who died when he was twelve. Ezekiel is buried in Kettle Creek Cemetery and rests between his mother and father. Fortunately, we know this from a 1968 local newspaper article. Much of what we know about the church came from this source as well as a more recent article about the church history written in 2003. The little church was located in a very rural area in the pre World War I days – before US No. 1 – and once had a one room schoolhouse located beside it. The little church in the wildwood, along with the school, served the community that became Pebble Hill. Before the church was built, we are told that this area was popular for caravans of wagons headed for St. Marys for salt water, which they evaporated producing salt. The salt was essential for preserving freshly killed meats and cooking.
We are pretty certain that the church you see above was the sister church of the Old Ruskin Church, which is also in Ware County and is featured on our website. The only meaningful differences in the churches is that Old Ruskin has been well cared for and Ezekiel is just about gone. This is especially tragic when the article mentions that the church was renovated in the late 1960’s “for a few hundred dollars“. Then the old familiar story begins to play out. The rural area begins a long decline and the congregation along with it. The church becomes abandoned, the roof begins to let in the weather and death becomes inevitable. We might add, that if a tin roof had been added at that time, the old church would still be standing. Tin roofs have been a critical factor in the longevity of rural churches. As you see above, Ezekiel is well beyond being savable and will slowly melt away.
At HRCGA, our mission is to document these old treasures that are beyond repair and to call attention to those that can still be saved. With just a little money, maintenance and some loving care this wonderful example of rural Georgia history would still be with us. In order for that to happen, the local community has to get involved. Perhaps we can figure out ways to make sure sure these historical gems can be kept viable and passed along from generation to generation. Please scroll the photos with the arrows above and pay homage to Mr. Manning Thigpen, the master builder who created this masterpiece we hate to see lost. On an upbeat note, the series of photos ends with the wonderful shot of Old Ruskin, which was built about the same time and is located only a few miles away. It still stands proud among the Georgia pines. We want to lead the way in finding and saving these rural treasures before they become beyond repair.
Here we see the damage caused by wind and water after the roof failed. Once that happens, the church is open to the weather and scavengers or squatters. Subsequently, all useful and/or valuable/resalable items are stolen from the church…the pews, shutters, decorative items and even the lumber, doors, windows and window frames. In this view, the graffiti on the wall to the right is evidence that at some point, squatters moved in and used Ezekiel as a shelter.
This view of the facade and steeple of Ezekiel is particularly melancholy. The once remarkable structure is near collapse. The square butt pattern, decorative shingles are slowly falling off like fish scales. The proud steeple is open in places to the weather and will soon fall in upon itself. The decorative carvings on the fancy Barge boards are randomly falling to the ground. What a sad end for such a unique structure.
Here we see remnants of the fine carpentry and and fancy scroll work on the Barge boards. This is one of the characteristics of the Carpenter Gothic architecture of which Ezekiel is a fine example. In fact, at Ezekiel, we find most of the primary design features of the Carpenter Gothic style in play…steep pitched roofs, gingerbread ornamentation, fancy scroll work and decorative shingle patterns. This building was fanciful and pleasing to the eye – a far cry from the dark, plain visage of the Wiregrass Primitive Baptist churches nearby! What a shame to see it fall.
What a sad end to a magnificent example of a historic rural Georgia church. Please help us spread the word and increase our awareness of these old treasures. We can and we must figure out ways to save these critical monuments to our past.
This black and white photo with the reflection of Ezekiel appearing in the muddy puddle out front is quite moving to us. So lonely, so forlorn, such an unnecessary loss of a truly unique piece of rural Georgia history. Please help us pass the word about these old treasures and let us know if there are similar stories in your county. As our movement grows, we are confident that we will find some solutions to sad stories like this.
1899 in Ware County
Almost Gone But Not Forgotten
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I was there Sunday. (^/5/22. I love her! Visit every so often to check on the progressive downfall. Hold my breath each time just before I arrive. Great relief when I catch first sight. I hope the church will be allowed to die a natural death.
Is it still standing? It’s been several years since my last visit. Want to go take more photos if it remains. (June 3, 2022)
Last we heard, yes, it is still standing, but barely. If you want to see it, we recommend going sooner rather than later. And make sure to check out Old Ruskin Church nearby if you have time.
The woods were on fire next to it then jumped from the tops of the trees and caught the roof on fire.
How would one go about finding out who owns the church, and if it is for sale?
Who owns the church and land now?
Good question Shelly. We do not know.
https://qpublic.net/ga/ware/links.html – search records – this will tell you the legal owner of the property that the church sits on, GL – it is beautiful