The little white church you see above is a very historic one located in the lost village of Ruckersville in Elbert County. It is close to the Savannah River and therefore was one of the earliest settlements in Georgia. The church was organized in 1796, but moved in 1832 to the present site when three acres of land were donated by Peter Alexander for construction of the current building. There are eighteen members of the Alexander family buried in the cemetery. The cemetery is also the final resting place for several Revolutionary War, Civil War, War of 1812 and WWII veterans. The oldest grave is that of William Alston (b. 1736 – d. 1810), who was a Lt. Colonel in the NC 3rd Regiment during the Revolutionary War. He also served as a member of the North Carolina Provincial Congress in 1775.
Ruckersville Methodist is an active church, and although the original church was built in 1833, there have been many changes over the years to make the sanctuary welcoming for the congregants. However, the membership has been very mindful of their history and the structure maintains its 1833 character. Repairs and enhancement began in 1911 with the pitch being changed to the roof to allow for proper drainage. In 1950 the front porch was added and one door replaced the two originals that had separated the men from the women and children, a common practice at the time. Also that year the benches were replaced with theater seats from Augusta, Georgia.
Ruckersville was quite the place at the beginning of the 19th century. It was named for Joseph Rucker, who was born in Virginia in 1788 and died in 1865. His family had migrated from Orange County, Virginia and acquired large land holdings in the late 1700’s in Georgia. Joseph settled on the headwaters of Van’s Creek, and named the growing community Ruckersville – after his father’s hometown in Virginia. At one time, Joseph Rucker owned as many as 12 plantations and was known as ‘Squire’ Rucker. He was also known as ‘Georgia’s First Millionaire’.
Here is some additional Ruckersville history published in 1929. “The Elberton Star September 19, 1929 The following article appeared in the Elberton Star apparently as a reprint of an article by Lee Rogers of Elberton and which appeared in the Sunday Atlanta Journal: Elberton, GA.- In the northern section of Elbert county, on Van’s Creek, and near an old Indian trail, is the town of Ruckersville, once a flourishing city of 600 or 700 people. Around it cluster the memories of much of Georgia’s history. Once it had fifty stores, two banks and a newspaper, and was the home of Georgia’s first millionaire. It was the depot for distribution of freight for all points above Petersburg, the freight being brought up the Savannah river by pole-boats. It had two schools, and an academy of which a Princeton graduate was principal……. Ruckersville appears to have been settled in 1773 by Virginia aristocrats, who came leisurely down the overland route, stopping a year or two in North Carolina and a year or two in South Carolina. Their purpose seems to have been to take up land grants, they no doubt sensing afar the coming prosperity of the section. John Rucker and John White took up the first grants in 1773. There are descendants of each in the county today. No doubt the town was named after John Rucker or his family. He came from a little town, Ruckersville, in Virginia. In 1777 he made a trip back to his old home, where he married Elizabeth Tinsley and returned with her as his bride. It was his son Joseph who became the first millionaire and one of Georgia’s most prominent citizens.”
Today there is little left of the original town of Ruckersville, other than a few cemeteries and the little Methodist Church. We are indebted to the congregations that have kept the history of Ruckersville alive to be passed on to subsequent generations. Be sure to click and scroll on the photos below to learn more about the history of Ruckersville and the early pioneers who lived there.
Ruckersville UMC’s appearance has been seriously modified a number of times since its original construction in 1833. This view from the graveyard presents the church as it is today. But the simple, single gable bones of this church as seen above reflect its authenticity.
Here we have entered the Sanctuary. Its architecture remains much as it has been since its beginnings. As you see, the ceilings are supported by interior columns. We are viewing the interior from the rear of the building toward the chancel and we can see the ceiling is made of flat boards, probably long leaf pine, cut and hewn from trees growing on the church grounds. We can also see that the ceiling and roof is still sound with no tell-tale stains or other signs of leakage. Pretty good performance for an almost 200-year-old structure.
In this view, we have moved to the front of the church. Here we see the entire chancel, its rectangular prayer rail with balustrade and hand turned balusters. We should note that the pulpit area was changed from circular to rectangular in the early 20th century. The tall sashed 4 over 4 stained glass windows provide ample ambient light for this area.
This photo reveals a functional upright Grand piano, pulpit right, which provides accompaniment for the choir or congregation as needed. Methodists enjoy and encourage singing by the congregation and choir. We also note the “modern” choir loft balustrade reflecting the positive changes that the congregation is embracing as it works to remain relevant and a cornerstone of the community.
Here we have a closeup view of the pews at Ruckersville UMC. The congregation decided in 1950 to replace the old pews and provide new, more modern seating for the congregants. They were able to purchase, at a low cost, theatre seating that was removed from a theatre in Augusta. These curved backed wooden seats with fancy aisle escutcheons “S” have filled the “comfortable” bill for the congregation for many years now.
Taken from the pulpit, this is a view of the entire sanctuary. We see the entry doors and the tall 4x4 sashed stained glass windows on the back wall, as well as partial images of the matching windows on the side wall. These handsome windows provide ample ambient light throughout the sanctuary. This photo also highlights the lovely brown pews which reflect the rooms light and create a warm welcoming and worshipful atmosphere. We salute the congregation and their continuing stewardship to insure this old church will continue to carry out its mission in years to come.
Dr. John Banks Alexander was born October 29, 1826 and died October 16, 1858. Dr. Banks left a will in Elbert County where he left half of his estate in trust for his brother James Hodges Alexander (1825-1864) and the other half to be divided between his two sisters Mary E. Smith and Martha F. Burch. James Hodges Alexander served in Coimpany F, 15th Georgia Infantry and died in Virginia.
Maj. Peter Wellington Alexander was born June 22, 1783 in Culpeper County, Virginia and died May 15, 1856. He was a trustee of Ruckersville United Methodist Church at the time it was chartered. The land for this church was donated by Peter Alexander. He was a veteran of the War of 1812.
Many members of the Alexander family are interred behind this beautiful wrought iron fence. The quality of the work is extraordinary and reflects the 19th century wealth and prestige of the Alexander family.
Maj. Thomas Alston Banks was born December 19, 1789 in Wilkes County, Georgia and died July 23, 1835 at the age of 45. He was married to Mary Jones Chipman. They had five children. In his will he left $2000 to his son Elbert Jones Banks “in cosideration of his misfortune in being deprived of his eyesight”.
Lucinda Carter Adams Harris was born December 26 1831, and died 1831 February 8, 1918. She was married to David E. Harris who was born February 20, 1830 and died July 9, 1862. Both of their names are on their cemetery marker. They were maried June 28, 1853 in Elbert Couny. The 1910 Elbert County census shows Lucinda as a 78 year old widow living alone. The 1860 census shows David’s occupation as coachmaker.
Jeremiah Proctor was born November 10, 1803 in Fleming County, Kentucky and died December 14, 1834 and is buried at the Ruckersville United Methodist Church Cemetery. He was 31 years old when he died. Jeremiah Proctor married Eliza Smith in Fleming County, Kentucky on February 19, 1827.
Addie M. Adams was born June 24, 1864 and died September 24, 1881. She was 17 years old when she died. She was the daughter of Richard C. and Eliza Adams. The 1870 Elbert County census shows Addy, age 6 in the household with Richard Adams, born in Virginia, age 71 and Eliza, born in Georgia, age 51. In the 1880 census she is listed as Ada, age 15, with Richard C. Adams, age 81 and Eliza, age 60. Both census records show she has a brother Early Adams. Richard C. Adams owned 28 slaves in 1860. He also owned 6 slave houses.
Mrs. Louisa Hudson Hammond consort of Maj. Alfred Hammond was born October 28, 1808 and died May 30, 1833. They were married January 24, 1826. She was the daughter of Nathaniel Hudson a Revolutionary War soldier and Mary Carroll Hudson. Maj. Alfred Hammond was born in 1794 and died in 1863. The 1851 tax records show Alfred Hammond owned 65 slaves. The 1860 slave schedule shows Alfred Hammond owned 39 slaves. Alfred Hammond was a trustee of the Elberton Methodist Church and of the Ruckersville United Methodist Church.
Mrs. Nancy Murry was born in 1756 and died in 1850. Her tombstone says “consort of John Murry”. The 1850 Federal Mortality Schedule says she died in June, 1850 at age 96 (her marker says age 94) and was born in Virginia. John Murry is shown on a tax digest in Franklin County in 1819.
Here is the headstone in memory of Paul Gaines, a 16-year-old soldier from Company L of the 29th Infantry, United States Volunteers, who died of peritonitis in Manila, Philippines in December 1899. He might have lied about his age to enlist, but we have been unable to locate any additional information..
Here is photo from the North Georgia Methodist archives at Pitts Library taken in the 1950s. This would have been shortly after the porch was added and the double doors were converted to a center entrance.
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A fascinating story of the events of this church and its surrounding history. Ironic that a place that produced Georgia’s first millionaire melted away to cache the remains of its inhabitants and leave little to witness their efforts. It is the way of all mankind, we are merely temporary tenants of the earth and God’s caretakers.
Thank you for this well done story and especially the details of the lives of the former residents.
excellent, keep up the good work and boy could we all use “some ole time religion” these days.
Incredible. Love it.