Kingdom Come

Historical Marker #1294 in Letcher County notes the location of Kingdom Come, the valley immortalized in novelist John Fox, Jr.’s "The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come."

By the time John Fox, Jr., made the valley of Kingdom Come famous with the 1903 publication of his novel "The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come," people had called this section of Letcher County their home for almost a century.

Once early settlers arrived in eastern Kentucky they naturally sought out the best available land for farming. Most of that land was in the rich valleys where streams, creeks, and rivers annually deposited a rich layer of dirt washed down from the hills. One such valley in Letcher County, which was settled in the early nineteenth century, was along Kingdom Come Creek. Kingdom Come pre-dated Letcher County, which was formed in 1842. Some documents as early as the 1830s note the creek and the valley’s name and location.

One local tradition claims that the heavenly name for the creek and valley comes from the devout nature of the early pioneers. This tradition may be corroborated by the Biblical names that they chose for their offspring who ultimately populated the area.

The location of Kingdom Come became contested after Fox’s famous book was published, because other areas of southeast Kentucky sought to cash in on the novelist’s noted place. Kingdom Come Park in neighboring Harlan County, and Kingdom Come Settlement School, in another section of Letcher County, borrowed the name to help with fundraising efforts. However, the true Kingdom Come valley, which included the stream of the same name, and is a tributary of the North Fork of the Kentucky River, is just north of Pine Mountain and west of Whitesburg.

Fox returned to Kingdom Come for the setting of a later story. Published in "Scribner’s Magazine" in 1910, it was titled "On Horseback to Kingdome Come."