Pioneer Ancestor

Historical Marker #1197 in Letcher County notes the history of early Kentucky settler and Revolutionary War soldier James Caudill.

Caudill (early spelling Cordill) was born in 1753 in Lunenburg County, Virginia. As a young man during the Revolutionary War he moved to Wilkes County, North Carolina. He fought in the Battle of Camden, South Carolina, on August 16, 1780, where the British General Cornwallis defeated the Continental forces of General Horatio Gates. Caudill also participated in the Kings Mountain campaign (October 7, 1870), where he arrived in time to handle the transport of British and Loyalist prisoners.

From the late 1780s until 1811, Caudill frequently moved between what is now Letcher County, Kentucky, and North Carolina. In 1811, he permanently returned to Letcher County. There, Caudill raised a large family. He died in 1840 and was buried on Rockhouse Creek.

One of James Caudill’s many descendants was Harry M. Caudill, who vividly chronicled and brought attention to the struggles faced by Eastern Kentuckians. Caudill’s book "Night Comes to the Cumberlands," published in 1963, is sometimes given credit for sparking the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC). The ARC is a federal government agency designed to assist Appalachian Mountain citizens in eastern Kentucky and other mountain states.