Christian Commonwealth Colony
In 1896 a group of Christian socialists formed the Christian Commonwealth Colony in Muscogee County. Organized by George Howard Gibson of the Christian Corporation in Nebraska and Ralph Albertson of the Willard Colony in North Carolina, the members were drawn together by a sense of Christian brotherhood, a belief in practical Christianity, and a desire to live their convictions fully in a communal setting. The group purchased a failing cotton plantation near Columbus in November 1896, and by 1899 membership had reached ninety-five. Although their cotton mill and towel production venture failed, the colonists successfully printed a periodical called The Social Gospel, which reached at least 2,000 readers. This was not enough, however, to rescue the colony from abysmal living conditions. By 1900, after a typhoid epidemic killed several members, the property was sold, and the proceeds were used to settle debts.
The Duke Colony and Ruskin Commonwealth
The Duke Colony was located in Ware County, about eight miles southwest of Waycross, in a small sawmill town
In 1899 the Duke Colony was joined by more than 100 families, including 240 former members of the recently dissolved Ruskin Colony in Dickson County, Tennessee. Ruskin colonies, which were founded on the ideas of the English social reformer John Ruskin, were attempted in a number of places in America and Europe. The Duke Colony was incorporated under Georgia law as the Ruskin
Members of the Ruskin Commonwealth were required to become shareholders in the endeavor, and an elected board of directors ran the colony. At first the new town of Ruskin flourished economically, even publishing its own newspaper, the Coming Nation. However, bad winter weather along with sickness, several damaging fires, and mismanagement doomed the colony by early 1902. Some members stayed, some moved to form a new Ruskin colony in Florida, and others returned north.
In 1898 a group of Ohio Shakers, members of the United Society of Believers in the Second Appearance of Christ, purchased land in Brunswick, the seat of Glynn County, and in White Oak, in Camden County. The colony at White Oak became the headquarters of the Georgia Shakers. Although they succeeded in farming, the Shakers could not attract converts, and the colony failed by 1902.
Macedonia Cooperative Community
Mary Louise Bennett, "Ruskin: Ware County's Vanished City," Georgia Review 5 (summer 1951): 193-99.
W. Fitzhugh Brundage, A Socialist Utopia in the New South: The Ruskin Colonies in Tennessee and Georgia, 1894-1901 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1996).
Robert S. Fogarty, Dictionary of American Communal and Utopian History (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1980).
Robert Latimer Hurst, This Magic Wilderness: Historical Features of the Wiregrass ([Waycross, Ga.]: Wilderness Publications, 1982).
Timothy Miller, The Quest for Utopia in Twentieth-Century America, vol. 1, 1900-1960 (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1998).
David R. Newton, "The Macedonia Community," Politics (winter 1948): 27-30.
W. Edward Orser, Searching for a Viable Alternative: The Macedonia Cooperative Community, 1937-58 (New York: B. Franklin Co., 1981).
Burnette Vanstory, "Shakerism and the Shakers in Georgia," Georgia Historical Quarterly 43 (winter 1959): 353-64.
A. J. L. Waskey, Dalton State College
A project of the Georgia Humanities Council, in partnership with the University of Georgia Press, the University System of Georgia/GALILEO, and the Office of the Governor.