Days Gone By - stories from the past

Have you ever heard of “Shakerag” Church and the ghost in Tuscaloosa? See pictures of the church

Have you ever heard about the ghost six miles from Tuscaloosa?

A Folklore Tale


Mabel Farrior

WPA writer


Many times the question has been asked as to why such a name as “Shakerag” should have been given to a place of worship, – such a place is an abandoned century-old Methodist Church six miles from Tuscaloosa. The place has about it an air of spookiness created by legend and folklore tales.

Wooden church building in rural Tuscaloosa County, Alabama – 1920 – 1930 The back of the photograph appears to say “Shakerag Church”. Clements Studio, Tuscaloosa, Alabama Q8877 (Alabama Department of Archives and History)

A Door Flew Open

A tale was told of a man named Phi Cribbs, a most emphatic unbeliever in ghosts, who in his tall silk hat and knee breeches entered the place of worship one night seeking protection from a heavy thunder and rainstorm. The night was dark but he fastened his horse to a hitching post in the cemetery, adjoining the church. Guided by lightning flashes, he opened a front door and to prove his fearlessness walked to the pulpit and stood facing the empty pews.

Suddenly the darkness was relieved by a brilliant flash during which he saw an apparition in white. A door blew open and the next flash showed what seemed to be white wings flashing before him and coming in his direction. The third flash proved to Mr. Cribbs beyond all question of doubt that this was the ghost about which the country folk had spoken.

 Interior of a church building in rural Tuscaloosa County, Alabama.- Back appears to say Shakerag Church ca. 1920 – 1930, photographer Clements Studio Q8876 (Alabama Department of Archives and History)

Reaching for him

It was reaching long arms toward him. Mr. Cribbs moved. Down the aisle he ran at full speed with the thing close behind; down the steps and losing no time broke the trace holding his horse and leaped to the saddle feeling momentarily safe until the horrible thing, also leaped and seated itself behind him clinging to his velvet waistcoat.

The faithful horse needed no urging and in as much terror as his master, broke into a wild run leaping over stumps and fallen trees in mad haste to reach safety. In the haste, the “ghost” was swept away, and Phi Cribbs went home convinced that the stories told by the folks there were true.

African-American man sitting in front of a wooden church – ca. 1920 -1930 – on the back appears to say Shakerag Church, Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Q8878 Photographer Clements (Alabama Department of Archives and History)


Shakerag is defined as an unkempt disreputable person. Mt. Pleasant Cemetery in Tuscaloosa is also known as Shakerag Cemetery. (

The following information is from the excellent blog written by for the Tuscaloosa News librarian, Betty Slowe on April 22, 2012. It provides additional information about the cemetery.

“Shake Rag Cemetery, also known as Mt. Pleasant Methodist Church Cemetery, is on Jug Factory Road in Tuscaloosa. It is, according to late historian Marvin Harper, the oldest Tuscaloosa County cemetery. It formed near a small church built around 1819, around the time that Alabama became a state and Tuscaloosa became a city. The settlement around the church was one of the oldest settlements in an area that provided fertile ground on which to grow cotton and other crops. Confederate soldiers and even Revolutionary War soldiers are buried in the cemetery.

The little church long ago collapsed, but its pulpit was said to have been saved and stored.

Nellie Bosclair, chairperson of the membership committee of the Shake Rag Association in 1987, said that the name “Shake Rag” stemmed from the earliest days of the small church when the congregation is said to have responded to the preaching by dancing and shouting. “Once,” she said, “they responded so enthusiastically that by the end of the singing, the church members were in rags and tatters.”

Prior to 1976, the cemetery was used for dumping trash. Since then, the cemetery association formed to maintain and preserve the historic cemetery.”

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From the time of the discovery of America restless, resolute, brave, and adventurous men and women crossed oceans and the wilderness in pursuit of their destiny. Many traveled to what would become the State of Alabama. They followed the Native American trails and their entrance into this area eventually pushed out the Native Americans. Over the years, many of their stories have been lost and/or forgotten. This book (four-books-in-one) reveals the stories published in volumes I-IV of the Alabama Footprints series.


ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS - Volume I - IV: Four Volumes in One (Volume 1-4) (Paperback)
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ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS – Volume I – IV: Four Volumes in One (Volume 1-4) (Paperback)

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About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and All her books can be purchased at and Barnes & Noble. She has authored numerous genealogy books. RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE) is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2) is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) is the continuation of the story. . For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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  1. My 3rd great grandparents are buried at Shakerag. William Ira Ryan and Susan Summey Ryan. Sadly their graves are unmarked.

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