July 2nd, 2007 by The Lexington Herald-Leader
DSTEPHENSON@HERALD-LEADER.COM
JWARREN@HERALD-LEADER.COM

Omvie Van Hook strolled down to his mailbox early one morning last week to collect the mail, having forgotten to do it the day before, and paused in the middle of the road to chat with a couple of visitors.

After talking in the empty roadway for several minutes, one of the strangers observed that traffic around Jugornot was, well, pretty light. Van Hook agreed, but added that "it picks up pretty good a little later in the morning."

About 15 minutes later two cars went by.

"I told you it picks up," Van Hook said.

Welcome to Jugornot.

There are some things that a first-time visitor here needs to understand right off that bat: The name of this Pulaski County hollow is not a misspelling of Juggernaut, which is the name of a comic book anti-hero who uses supernatural powers to whip up on bad guys. And it has absolutely nothing to do with juggernaut, which is defined as an overwhelming, destructive force; or Juggernaut, which is a title of the Hindu deity Krishna.

As to how Jugornot really got its name ... well, you can take your pick of several versions, all involving moonshine whiskey.

According to Robert Rennick, author of two books on unusual Kentucky place names, old time moonshiners hereabouts offered a price break to customers who brought their own containers, and so would answer a knock at the door by yelling, "Jug or not?" Another version is that whiskey was traded for votes so routinely around here in the old days that folks who wanted to buy votes would approach people and simply ask "jug or not?" on Election Day. Yet another account is attributed to the late newspaper columnist and Kentucky folklorist Joe Creason, who said a serious crisis developed one year when no one remembered to bring whiskey for the election. The sheriff, however, supposedly ordered voting to continue "jug or not."

In all three versions, the phrase "jug or not" was contracted to "jugornot," and became the name of this community 8 miles southeast of Somerset.

Van Hook, 68, tends to believe the moonshiner version, because he says that's what he was told when he was a boy.

Samuel Williamson, who has lived here for just about all of his 83 years and figures he's probably Jugornot's oldest resident, lends more credence to the booze-for-votes version. But he admits that probably nobody knows the true story.

"I've heard several different ones," Williamson said.

Perhaps the most sensible thing to do is stop worrying about origins, and just enjoy Jugornot.

The community lies along the 1.1-mile Old Jugornot Road, which winds past open fields of ferns, butterfly milk weed and Queen Anne's lace, and then tunnels through dark woods of beech, red bud and sassafras trees that press up to the edges of the pavement and form a canopy overhead.

Take a minute to stop and shut off your engine -- traffic won't be a problem -- then just sit back and listen.

Immediately, you're wrapped in the embrace of something that's increasingly hard to come by nowadays: silence.

Jugornot is so quiet in the early morning that you can hear your heart beat and your joints creak. Occasionally, some moisture will drip from the trees overhead, or a dog will bark, or a bird will have something to say, and then the stillness settles back in again.

"We don't have no big to-dos down here, so it stays pretty quiet," Samuel Williamson says.

It's a pleasant place for a healthful morning walk. Williamson takes one every day. Been doing it ever since he had two heart attacks some years ago.

"It helped me get back on my feet," he said. "I used to do up around 5 miles a day, but not anymore."

Williamson explains that the road here once was part of a main thoroughfare called Route 7. But when Ky. 769 was built, this little stretch of road was pinched off from the main route and left behind as Old Jugornot Road, he said. When Williamson was a boy, the road was unpaved and folks still farmed with horses and mules.

"I've taken an old mule and plowed a many of these fields," he says.

One of the first signs of modern progress, Williamson says, was in the 1940s, when a local fellow named Harvey Birchfield bought an A-model Ford truck. For a dime a head, he'd take loads of people into Somerset to shop, Williamson said.

Now, times have changed and most Jugornot residents drive to jobs in Somerset or elsewhere, say William and Thelma Colyer, who have one of the few remaining farms. They bought 23 acres here more than 40 years ago, paying $1,925, and have lived here ever since.

William Colyer still carries scars on his right leg from a shrapnel wound in World War II. He doesn't do much farming anymore, but gets his enjoyment from things like watching the blue birds flutter around the bird houses his son built in front of the Colyer farmhouse. He savors the quiet and things like collecting drinking water from a spring at the edge of his property.

"I can't hardly drink city water," he says.

But time changes things. Colyer has no desire to leave Jugornot's peaceful hollow, but admits that, given his age, he might have to make other plans. He turns 83 on July 16.

"I don't guess I'd ever be satisfied living in town," he said. "But the time comes when maybe you have to."

2 Responses to “Jugornot: A jug? In Kentucky?”

  1. Another version of the origin of the name comes from my grandgather, John Berry Edwards (1865-1953) who lived at Jugornot from about 1929 until his death. His house was on the site where Hazel Edwards lives today. In the nineteenth century there was a hotel on the site that had a saloon in the basement that sold whiskey by the drink, by the bottle, or by the gallon. Many people in those days kept a jug at home for medicinal purposes. A gallon could be bought in a jug or the customer could supply his own container. If someone ordered a gallon the bartender always asked, “Do ye want it in a jug or not?”

  2. I love this area Jugornot Road is over the hill from me.