HISTORY OF THE
“The name of Shakerag, symbol of hospitality, lingers on and still brings a smile,” said C. J. Holleran writing in the ATLANTA JOURNAL a few years ago, as he explained the origin of the town of Shakerag. He might well have been talking about Georgia’s only recognized hunt, which proudly assumed its homespun title September 27, 1948. Before that, from 1943 until 1948, Shakerag was the Atlanta Hunt Club, and before that it was a group of enthusiastic Northsiders who saddled up everything from walking horses to thoroughbreds on Sunday mornings and holidays to meander through Chastain Park, Moccasin Hollow and North Fulton.
On a cool, windy night in September, 1943, Benjamin Elsas, the William Elsas, the Dewey Ellises, the Oliver Healeys, the Richard Hulls, Richard Schwab, the Robert Schwabs, the Lawson Thorn-tons, and the Robert Whites met at the small Chastam Park home of Dr. and Mrs. Urton Munn for the purpose of establishing a hunt club.
That first evening Richard Hull was designated Master. Dr. Lawson Thornton was named president; Richard Schwab, treasurer, and Dewey Ellis, secretary. From its early membership of nineteen people and cash-on-hand of several hundred dollars the Atlanta Hunt Club has prospered to a professional part-time staff of four, 24 couple of American foxhounds, money in the bank and 106 member families.
Shakerag’s growth can not be attributed to the leadership of any one man, but rather to a group of men and women who have unfailingly offered hospitality and companionship and good sport.
In the years between 1943, when Richard Hull and William Elsas imported the first hunters, Burton Branham and several nondescript hounds from Virginia, until organized fox hunting started in November of 1947, the Atlanta Hunt Club met regularly for paper chases and treasure hunts in and around North Atlanta and for hunter trials every fourth Sunday—which were held on what is now the half-mile track at Chastain Park—and from 1946 on at Moccasin Hollow, home of the Elsas, where a permanent course was built.
On November 13, 1946, in a meeting at the Piedmont Driving Club, Mrs. L. W. Robert, Jr., third president of the Atlanta Hunt Club, presented P. D. Christian, Jr., with a set of spurs and named him Master. Richard Hull was field master. William Elsas and Oliver Healey were honorary whips. Jesse Caylor was huntsman and Burton Branham was professional whip.
The first drag hunt was held at Irvindale Farm in Duluth, Georgia on November 22, 1946. Jesse Caylor, the first huntsman, had come to Atlanta from Virginia in 1943, several months after Burton Branham. To those two professionals go much of the credit for building workmanlike courses at the trials and on the drag hunts, for raising and schooling the horses and, most of all, for training the first hounds.
The very first hounds were Redbone and Walker types. Three came from Virginia, three from Tryon and three or four “from a farmer in Atlanta.”
William Elsas, one of the founders of the Atlanta Hunt Club and Joint-Master from 1949 to 1950, wrote in his report to the annual meeting of Shakerag Hounds, May 30, 1950: “In the middle of November 1947, the Atlanta Hunt Club had its first organized live fox hunt, starting from Shakerag with a pickup pack of six or seven couple of untrained, unregistered hounds. Our Master and honorary whips had very little knowledge, other than theoretical, of their duties and responsibilities. Our huntsman had considerable experience as a whipper-in in Virginia; but had never hunted a pack of hounds before. No one, in either the staff or field, knew anything about the country—where gaps in fences were, where crossings could be made of creeks and ditches, nor could most of us recognize any landmarks.
“I think that all who were with us on that first hunt and throughout the first season, those who took spills and who tore their coats in throwing them over barbed wire fences to serve as absent panels, all thoroughly enjoyed themselves—and that is what hunting is for.”
“All who were with them that first day,” in body or spirit, included Mr. and Mrs. P. D. Christian, Jr., Mrs. David Hedekin, Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Oliver, Mr. and Mrs. L. W. Robert, Jr., Judge and Mrs. Sam Slicer as well as the original members.
In 1948 the offices of president, vice-president and treasurer were eliminated and in 1949 P. D. Christian, Jr., and William Elsas were elected Joint-Masters. Mrs. David Hedekin was honorary secretary. Oliver Healey and Mrs. Allen Hill were honorary whips and Jesse Caylor was professional huntsman.
The Healeys, Elsas and Christians spent most of the summer of 1948 driving around Atlanta—from Roswell and Marietta to Decatur and Newnan— looking for likely land upon which to square off a hunting claim. Because of its relative accessability and small population they finally chose Shakerag, 6 x 10 miles. Located 25 miles northeast of Atlanta... extremely rough, being composed largely of woods, abandoned farm land and tenanted farms. Some swampy areas and good flat bottom land along the river. Obstacles consist of ditches, gullies, streams and wire fences over which we have constructed panels. The country abounds with both red and grey foxes ..., “wrote Mr. Christian in his 1956 description to the Masters of Foxhounds Association.
In the 1948-9 season over twelve couple of registered English and crossbred hounds, kenneled at Moccasin Hollow, were officially recognized by the Masters of Foxhounds Association. New puppies had been obtained from the Green Spring Valley Hounds, Inc., of Glyndon, Maryland; from the Carter Hounds, Orange, Virginia; and from the Carmargo Hunt in Cincinnati, Ohio.
The hounds and staff were on hand in March of 1950 to greet Newell J. Ward, Jr., District Representative of the Masters of Foxhounds Association, who came to Atlanta at the instigation of John Carroll, Master of the Carroll Hounds in New York, to inspect the Shakerag kennels, hunting country, staff and accompany the members on a hunt.
The land claim and application for registration of “Shakerag Hounds” was made to the Masters of Foxhounds Association in September of 1948. Registration was granted in January, 1949 and made retroactive to 1948. After some nudging from Mr. Carroll (who besides being Master of his own pack was a nationally known artist who designed Shakerag’s foxy buttons) in the Spring of 1950 Shakerag was recognized as an official member of the Masters of Foxhounds Association of America.
At the same time William Elsas was honored by election to the Master’s Association. Later P. D. Christian Jr., and Oliver Healey were similarly honored.
Fifty-seven persons signed the petition to the Superior Court of Fulton County, July 11, 1949, proposing the corporation of Shakerag Hounds. They were:
Mr. and Mrs. P. D. Christian, Jr.
Mr. and Mrs. Horace S. Collinsworth Jr.
Mr. and Mrs. A. L. Crowe
Miss Edith Crowe
Mr. and Mrs. Dewey Ellis
Mr. Benjamin Elsas
Mr. and Mrs. William Elsas
Mr. and Mrs. Dudley Fort
Mr. and Mrs. Gerald Graham
Mr. and Mrs. Oliver Healey
Mrs. David Hedekin
Mr. and Mrs. Allen Hill
Mr. Sam Hirsch
Mr. and Mrs. Richard Hull
Miss Jody Hull
Mr. and Mrs. Cody Laird
Miss Dorothy Laird
Mrs. Donald S. McClain
Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence McKinley
Miss Linda McKinley
Dr. and Mrs. Urton Munn
Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Oliver
Mr. and Mrs. L. W. Robert, Jr.
Mr. And Mrs. E. C. Rowe
Miss Audrey Rowe
Mr. Richard Schwab
Mr. and Mrs. J. S. Slicer
Mr. and Mrs. Fred H. Sorrow
Miss Edith Sorrow
Mr. and Mrs.Richard Stout
Dr. and Mrs. Lawson Thornton
Mr. and Mrs. R. H. White, Jr.
Mr. Doran V. Williams
Mr. and Mrs. Merrill P. Wilson.
1950 was both a glad and a sad year for Shakerag. With the ‘49 season behind them, in which the hounds went out 35 times, a summer of trail clearing and panel building and an early fall of cubbing; in October members frolicked at the first hunt ball and then looked forward to the first joint hunter trial at Tryon, December 9.
Headlines in the December 22 CHRONICLE boomed “Shakerag. Takes Lion’s Share of Rewards” in competition with riders from Camden Hunt, Tryon Hounds and Sedgefield Hounds. But the CHRONICLE also told of the sudden death of Joint-Master William Elsas while hacking home from the hunt.
At the Spring members’ meeting, 1951, Oliver Healey was elected Joint-Master with P. D. Christian, Jr. Mrs. David Hedekin remained as honorary secretary and Jesse Caylor as huntsman.
In August of 1951 the Healeys bought Foxdale Farms from Mrs. William Elsas and built the kennel where the hounds are today. Boley Branham, who had been brought from Virginia by Richard Hull, went to work for the Healeys and for Shake-rag. He became the professional huntsman. Burton Branham was professional whip. Honorary whips were Dorothy Laird, Dr. Urton Munn and Mrs. Allen Hill. The rest of the staff remained the same. According to a report in the CHRONICLE of that year Shakerag had 15 couple of American hounds who went out 44 times during the season.
While, from the first evening meeting at the Munn’s house in Chastain Park, Shakerag’s adult membership had grown steadily, so too, like sturdy little weeds, flourished the juniors. With no pony club to encourage preliminary training and no junior field master to replace broken stirrup straps or head off runaway horses, Phil Christian III, age 8, and teenagers Edith Crowe, Lynn Ford, Jody Hull, Dot Laird, Linda McKinley, Alethia Parker, Audrey Rowe, Edith Sorrow and Ann Thornton formed a cheerful nucleus.
The group later included Mazie Brown, Barbara Butler, Margaret Ann Ford, Arthur and Dudley Fort, Jr., Pat Kennedy, Wally Kennedy, Nancy Laird, and H. M. Smith.
In the Spring of 1954 the first junior hunt went out from Dudley Fort’s barn on John Taylor’s farm in Duluth. Today the juniors have grown to represent a majority of the riding members. Both masters see the future of Shakerag in the Pony Club field and its officers.
From its inception in 1943, Shakerag members have been strong believers in hunter trials. Early days of the hunt included numerous trials and horse shows, all with the purpose of increasing interest in the sport and improving the quality of both horse and rider.
The trial held at Moccasin Hollow in 1952 was an elaborate affair featuring classes for ladies and juniors, middle, heavyweight and handy hunters and hunt teams. Herbert D. Oliver was chairman of the trial committee. For the first time the public was urged to attend and juniors sold tickets to benefit the United States Equestrian Team. According to an article in the NORTHSIDE NEWS of that month the outstanding event of the trial was a show of 141/2 couple of American foxhounds by Huntsman Jesse Caylor.
Members, too, have always supported the Farmers’ Barbecue in the spring of each year as a way of thanking their many farmer friends in Shakerag country for letting us ride over their land and panel their fences.
From the 10,000 acres of land in Forsyth and Gwinnet counties—where several hundred families live—Chairman Sam Hart invited 600 people to the barbecue of March 9, 1956. Entertainment included a hunter class for ladies, teams of hunters, open hunters bareback, the parade of the Shakerag hounds and drag hunt and the farmers’ mule race, which farmer Ted Russell won riding a spirited mule named “Tobe.”
The picnic, served by ladies of the Mount Zion Methodist Church, W. S. C. S., to hunt members, farmers and their families included 30 gallons of cole slaw, 30 gallons of baked beans, 700 barbecued chicken halves, 1,400 rolls and 50 gallons of coffee.
A good time must have been had by all because the following year 600 pounds of lamb, pork and beef—barbecued by experts W. L. Thomas, Jim Tuggle and J. L. Loftin were required to feed over 600 guests.
In 1956 Edith Crowe became honorary secretary in place of old time member Mrs. David Hedekin, who moved with her family to Tryon. The 1957 Tryon joint meet at Fairview Farm included Shake-rag members among the field of 90 from 12 recognized hunts. Two thousand visitors were on hand to see Shakerag named second to the Tryon Hunt Club in total number of points awarded at the hunt and show.
The years 1957 and on have become modern history to many members of the Hunt. With the Healeys established at Foxdale Farms, the kennels as we know them today, Huntsman Branham to phone on early rainy mornings, regular fixtures, hunt balls, breakfasts, barbecues and hunter trials—hunting seasons slip away into summers at pasture for deserving horses and anticipations of coming seasons for their riders.
1959, however, was marked by a new development in the form of Fred Stevens, Jr., as Master of Motor Vehicles. Mr. Stevens, who originally started hill topping in order to keep an eye and camera on his hard riding youngsters, soon accumulated a variety of duties—such as minding extra sweaters, lunches, bits of tack, bruised riders and stray guests. Today he always can be counted on to follow the hunt just as far as a station wagon will go, and to provide a helping hand for horse, rider or auto.
C. J. Holleran did explain the origins of the town of Shakerag. He said that in 1830 Shakerag, then Sheltonville in Forsyth County, was one of the largest frontier towns north of Augusta and the retail trading center of this area. The tumble down log cabin on Shakerag’s main dirt road was “... a tavern—the most popular meeting place of pioneers and travelers—owned by a big, genial character who greeted every friend and stranger in a booming voice and waved his bar rag enthusiastically over his head. It was a sort of introduction to everyone in the place at the time. As folks arrived this sign of welcome was deeply appreciated. So the expression ‘Meet me at Shakerag’ was born.”
Holleran’s explanation is probably as creditable as Mrs. W. P. Bell’s, long-time resident of the area, who said that long ago there was a fight between two local dandies. The clothes of both participants were torn to rags. When one eventually “tuck out” after the other, somebody remarked, “Look at them fellers shake them rags.”
We do know that the small burying ground just off the main road on the way to the Suwanee River bridge shelters members of the Strickland family.
Wilson Strickland died in Indian territory in 1841, leaving a will which directed his heirs to return his body to Shakerag and bury it on that knoll among the brier and pines. The heirs had to buy a stage coach and horses to bring Strickland’s body back from the West. But they did that. Later Strickland’s wife Polly was buried beside him—behind the hand wrought iron railings which she had ordered from England.
Georgia history books point out that Milton County, named after Georgia’s first secretary of state, was created by the Act of December 18, 1857, by taking parts of Cherokee, Forsyth and Cobb counties. Before that, by the Treaty of 1835, at New Echota in Gordon County, the land was ceded to the United States by the Cherokee Indians.
One of the signers of that Treaty, in behalf of the Indians, was John Rogers, great grandfather of Colonel Walter L. Bell, life-long resident of Milton County, and a cousin of Will Rogers. Rogers Circle belonged to John Rogers, brother of William Rogers, who came to Milton (then Forsyth County) and married a beautiful Indian girl. Later William Rogers traveled to Indian territory and became a leading citizen of Claremore, Oklahoma, where his grandson, the famous entertainer, was born.
Shakerag popped into the news on January 26, 1941, when the Georgia Legislature moved to change its name to Liberty Valley and to incorporate the town, with the purpose in mind of licensing a liquor store in the little community. Lucien Bell, notary public and ex-officio justice of the peace, got 92 signatures representing 95% of the population in the 4 x 2 mile area, and blocked the move. So Shakerag sank peacefully back into the hills, the whistling pines, the dusty roads and the past.
Its name lives today in the huntsmen who ride with their pink coats, Confederate gray collars, rust breeches and yellow waistcoats across land where Indians, gold miners, trappers, and farmers roamed. Shakerag members will treat that land kindly for its rough hills and smooth bottom lands have provided long hours of good sport and warm companionship. We thank the farmers and businessmen of the community for their indulgences. We thank kindly, too, the fox.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT — The officers of the club tender their grateful thanks to Mrs. Jay Foss and Mrs. Spotswood Parker for their efforts in the publication of this book.
Shakerag Past Masters
|Richard Hull||1943 - 1946|
|P.D. Christian, Jr.||1946 - 1976|
|William Elsas||1949 - 1951|
|Oliver Healy||1951 - 1964|
|Roger Leithead||1964 - 1966|
|George Chase||1966 - 1973|
|James B. Henderson||1973 - 1975|
|A.F. Rees, IV||1975 - 1977|
|T. Irvin Dickson||1976 - 1980|
|John W. Lundeen||1978 - 1980|
|Dr. Robert Corr||1980 - 1982|
|James L. Steinhuis||1980 - 1981|
|Henry O. Muller||1981 - 1985|
|Dr. Martin L. Levin||1982 - 1991|
|Ms. Judy McCabe||1985 - 1996|
|Dr. Thomas R. Cadier||1985 – 1998|
|Stuart Newman||1994 – 1999|
|Dr. Joseph A. Manno, III||1995 – 2003|
|Sally Rasmussen||1999 – 2012|
|Richard S. Washburn||2003 – 2014|