A place known as Shakerag

About seven or eight miles northeast of Madisonville there is a place called Shakerag. It's not a city or even a town. It is, at best, a "neck of the woods."

Throughout the years Shakerag has been at the center of controversy for two reasons:

No one can put a boundary on it and
No one knows, for sure, how it came to be called Shakerag.

There are some who say the boundaries of Shakerag can be determined by placing a nickel on a map where several roads converge and drawing a circle around it.

Others vehemently disagree. They say Shakerag has no boundaries, that it cannot be confined to a spot on a map, that it stretches far enough to accommodate anyone who wants to claim they live there.

Just as controversial as the boundaries of Shakerag, or the lack thereof, is the origin of the name of the area.

There are those who will tell you the name was given to the area by the settlers who came from North Carolina long before the Civil War. They were homesick for the neighborhood and church they had left behind and named their new settlement for their old one.

Another story says that women would pretend to hang clothes on a line to dry and would shake rags or aprons to warn the men that had moonshine stills that there were agents nereby.

Still another says the store owner in town would use a rag to wave down potential customers.

Yet another says that women would wave rags outside the front door to let the men know that it was time to come in for lunch.

Another tale suggests the name may have been given to the area because of the way the settlers felt when they reached their destination.

Communities were often named in this manner and the old word "Shakerag" means ragged, disreputable and beggarly.

The Shakerag that is known and loved by so many today was once a vital little community. Close-knit and friendly, neighbors were always ready to lend a helping hand to those in need. There were several schools throughout the community and people attended their local churches every Sunday morning.

It was never a hustling and bustling city. The area was residential and the memories that people recall today are made up of fond reminiscences of family reunions and picnics, birthdays and Christmases all spent in the hills of Shakerag, as well as the tales of everyday life in the small community.

No matter where you believe Shakerag begins or ends or how it got its name, one thing is clear. Shakerag encompasses much more than just land. It wraps its comfortable arms around people and has established itself as a way of life just as much as a place. Those that live there now and those that lived there once upon a time will tell you the same thing.

This feature story originally appeared in the The Messenger in the small towns section of their "Changing Face of Hopkins County" on September 6, 1996 and was written by Slone Hutchison, a summer intern from Murray State University working with The Messenger to gain practical news papering skills during her summer vacation.

My thanks to The Messenger for granting permission to publish on the Hopkins County, Kentucky KyGenWeb page.

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Nancy Trice
Hopkins County, Ky

© 1997