Visit Historic Ruff Chapel in Ridgeway for a Small-town Excursion

By:Page Ivey

Date:12/19/2014

The historic Ruff Chapel in Ridgeway is the quintessential 19th-century prayer house.

Built as a Methodist Church in the years after the Civil War by Ridgeway merchant David H. Ruff, Ruff Chapel is a simple rectangular building with a gabled roof and two sets of double doors. It looks like a storybook version of a 19th-century church for a small community.

Ruff had built the first store in the town about 10 years earlier. He is buried in the chapel’s small cemetery.

The chapel’s bell was removed some years ago for safekeeping, as local tradition holds that Ruff added 60 silver dollars to the metal as the bell was being cast. The church was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

The chapel, at the junction of US 21 and SC 34, is just one of several historic sites in the town named for the Ruff family. There is Ruff’s Gin House, Ruff & Co. and Ruff Furniture Store.

The town itself was not named until the completion of the rail line between Columbia and Charlotte, NC. The rails that passed through the area were on a ridge, hence the name. The area was first settled after the Revolutionary War and attracted those escaping malaria along the coast.

The area began to grow after the Civil War, but its cotton-based economy collapsed with the price of cotton in the early 1900s. Ridgeway was also home to a working gold mine that closed in 1999.

Now the town offers self-guided tours of historic sites and the annual Pig on the Ridge barbecue competition in late October and Arts on the Ridge in early May. Get more information here. (http://ridgewaysc.org)

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