Oral Stories and Traditions

The Appalachian Mountain people have a long history of passing down oral stories, histories and traditions from generation to generation. The Caudill family is no exception. On this page we are recording some of these stories submitted by Caudill Family Researchers. I will publish any stories, histories, or traditions submitted. Please share any that you may know and try to seek them out from any of your relatives.Take a moment to enjoy these stories and perhaps, reminisce…….

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“I live in Columbus Ohio.  About the time of World War II my father and a lot of people came up north to work in the factories.Most of these people came from KY or W.VA and settled in Ohio and Michigan.  We used to be told that all we knew was reading writing and Route 23.  Every Friday night there would be a line of cars going south and Sunday a line going north.”  –Bob Caudill

“Hi Bob,
I was noticing that you said you were from Columbus, Ohio. Living only a
couple of miles from Route 23, I grew up hearing that saying also and I know
how bad the traffic has always been on 23 on Friday evenings and Sundays. I
live in Ashville, Ohio just south of Columbus and north of Circleville. My
father is Charles Alfred Cordle the son of Arbie Alfred and Ann Lykins
Cordle. My great grandfather was Greenville Cordle and his father was John
Michael Cordle. Hopefully next Sunday, the 11th, we are making a trip down
to look for John Michael`s grave and others if we have time. I haven’t been
on this list long, but am really enjoying reading what all have to say.”
–Charlene Cordle Malone

“I think it is still that way, isn’t it.  A lot of the family that I have met
in Morgan County have a least one family member who works in Ohio.  I guess
people have to go where the work is, but don’t want to move.
Yes, I live in Guthrie, Oklahoma, about 30 miles north of Oklahoma City.  A
lot of those who came to Oklahoma about 1900 are buried in the Ardmore area
in southern Oklahoma.  Many of them in a small former community called Legate.
And speaking of moving to the job – we were in the Grapes of Wrath.  Went to
California in 1936, not long before I was 2 years old.  We came back to
Oklahoma in December of 1940.”
–Bud Caudill

“I also remember Route 23. My father and mother, Isaac Caudill Jr and Shirley
Hackworth Caudill, lived in Michigan. As did a number of our KY relatives
that moved north. As a child I remember trips to KY using Route 23. It took
a long time. We usually started out at night so that we could sleep while my
dad drove. It brings back pleasant memories. I don’t remember my grandfather
well, Isaac Caudill (more of those repeated names!), I do know that he moved
to MI but didn’t like it and headed back to eastern KY. I also remember the
“Twin Bridges”. We have some photos of different things along “old 23″. Just
thought I would throw my 2 cents worth in!”
–LeRoy Caudill

“I too recall trips from Baltimore, Md. where my father moved our family from
Ky. in 1941, after the start of WW2.  He worked in the ship yards in
Baltimore loading ammunition on board the ships.  My mother also went to work
(Rosie the Riveter) in the ship yards.  Dad had been a miner in Harlan Co.
and participated in many of the hard battles fought in organizing the UMWA.
These were the John L. Lewis years.  Those were hard, emotional times and
Dad did (more than once) owe his soul to the co. store”.  It was difficult
for us children to adjust to living in the city and I still wonder how we
made it.  Hey friends, our people were survivors and possessed a work ethic
that’s a thing of the past.  Dad could never have cheated anyone out of
anything and never would have thought of accepting anything he had not worked
for.  I’m very proud of my heritage (as you all are, without doubt).  Our
folks made this country what is is today.  They won the War, they built
better lives for their children and they valued education.  Proud to be a
Kentuckian and a Caudill!!” –Carol Jean Caudill

“Most of us can find out the when and where of family migrations, but the why,
unless told or written, is very hard.  My grandfather Jeremiah “Jerry Marr”
Caudle left Kentucky soon after his wife and baby died probably in 1904.  In
the spring of 1905 at least 42 families sold out, chartered I believe just a
boxcar on a train, and went to Ardmore, Oklahoma.  My grandfathers former
wife’s family went, so my grandfather went with them.  He missed Kentucky so
much that he went to the train station in Overbrook, Oklahoma every time he
could, to catch a train back “home.”  He never got there at the right time to
catch a train.  Then, he met my grandmother who was from White Oak in Morgan
County, and I guess he decided that was all of Kentucky he needed.  I’ll
later send names and information I have about it.  Not enough time to dig
into my files right now to find it.”
–Bud Caudill

“I am not a Kentuckian. I’m what some of my KY cousins called a “Tarbilly” my
daddy is from KY and mama from NC. My Caudill’s moved to southeastern NC in
the mid-50’s. My granddaddy had 3 boys and did not want them to have to work
in the mines, like he did.My granddaddy, Emmett H. Caudill died in 1986 of
Black Lung.
They followed many of the Maggards down here.
I can remember my daddy telling me down here was only the second time he’d
ever seen TV and the first time he’d ever seen a black person, not to sound
racist I hope.
My two cents worth as a non-Kentuckian, but always wished I was!”
–Lynn Caudill Roberts

How many of you recognize or remember any of the following:
shuckie beans,
two uses for Sears Roebuck catalogues,
hoeing corn in a rocky new ground,
the taste of that first picking of sweet corn,
churning butter and how it tasted on ma’s hot biscuits,
butchering hogs when hard frost came,
the flavor of that smoked ham, bacon etc.,
Dad’s dinner bucket that contained fresh water and dinner,
a pie supper,
baptizings in the river,
dinner on the ground after going to meetings,
a coal fire in a grate and banking the fire at night,
the luxury of crawling into a feather bed on a cold winter’s night,
keeping the wood box filled and rising early to light the fire in a coal
cook stove,
moonshine and revenue men,
taking food and staying on when a neighbor died,
getting your butt whipped with a willow switch at school (this was your
reward when you got home too),
The humiliation of cutting that switch yourself,
plowing with a mule,
helping neighbors hoe corn and then they came to help you,
melons from your grandma’s patch, cooling them in a spring,
milking cows, gathering eggs, feeding chickens before breakfast (which
always included hot biscuits and gravy and freshest eggs, if the hens were
ENOUGH, from me.  Hope this has brought back a fond memory for someone.
–Carol Jean Caudill

“He added fresh buttermilk to your list also.  Yes, two uses for a Sears catalong–outhouse use and wall paper!  I can recall lying in bed and either reading the newspaper or the catalog prior to falling asleep.”
–Norma Tyree

“Although I never lived in KY we visited from MI many times. I have fond
memories of KY. My grandmother, Martha Johnson Caudill, couldn’t read
therefore she always got up at the crack of dawn and turned on the radio!
Wasn’t much sleeping in there! Many of my relatives lived in the old coal
company houses in and around Drift KY.  Outhouses, Sears Catalog, Beans
hanging, tobacco twists, going to the well to get water with pails, cutting
kindling for the fires, heating water on the stove for a bath, layers of
heavy home made quilts (I am still privileged to have several that my
grandmother made) in order to stay warm at night, sinking down into a
feather bed, the deep mountain darkest (no street lights) and running to the
outhouse so I could get back inside. I also remember my Dad driving the car
“up the creek” and then walking the rest of the way up in the creek bed
because it was hard rock and there wasn’t any other way to get to an Aunt’s
house. Wallpaper was the old newspaper/comics. Also all of the cousins that
were around every where. Every time you stopped to visit you were expected
to eat! You were always welcome (unless you happened upon a still! LOL).
There seemed to always be a sense of family.
I could go on and on. But these mountain folks lived in an area that was
difficult to say the least and had very little. Yet they persevered. Some
left KY in an effort to improve their conditions and formed the dependable
workforce of many northern locations. Others remained. I am not sure that
many of today’s society could do the same. Of course there were some “bad
apples” but that is true everywhere. But were they a result of their
environment? Harry Caudill seems to think so in his books. I may not have
been born in KY/NC but I feel a part of it and am proud of all my cousins
and ancestors! Sorry for the long discourse but it certainly brought back
–LeRoy Caudill

“How about baking sweet potatoes (or plain) in the
ashes of the fireplace; or popping corn (that we raised) in a long
handle corn popper held over the fireplace and having your grandmother
Caudill say watch out for that churn (that was set by the hearth in a
warm place to “turn”).   Some of my best memories are of visiting my
Grandmother Rebecca “Becky” Caudill.  She always had gingerbread/
molasses cookies, and baked sweet potatoes in the warming oven of her
wood burning cook stove.  Grandmother was a tiny, dynamo of a  woman who
still wore long dresses, high-top shoes, long aprons and a bonnet.  She
also told the time by the shadows on the side of the porch.  Although I
didn’t know it at the time (seemed normal to me) ,  visiting her was
like opening a time capsule from the early 1800’s.”
–Rose Lewis

“I don’t know about shuckie beans, but I’m sure we did the same think by a
different name.
I know that after Mom canned all the green beans she wanted, she let therest
of them dry on the vines.  Then my brother and I picked the dry beans in
gunny sacks.  We tied the ends of the sacks, then tromped on them  We didn’t
have shoes, and those dry bean pods sometimes were pretty sharp pointed.
When Mom thought we had busted all the pods loose, she would open the sack
and, holding it up high, pour the beans very slowly onto a sheet of tin.  The
wind blew the chaff and pods away.  Then, we had dry beans for the rest of
the year.”
–Bud Caudill

“Shuckie beans were sometimes referred to as “Leather jackets” also.  To make
shuckie beans you picked the beans while still green but you would string
them onto a thread and hang them to dry.  At our home the strings of beans
were usually hung on the front porch.  Once they dried well, my mother would
take them down and store them in “feed sacks” which were usually hung on the
walls inside our house.  They were cooked very much the way green beans would
be cooked–usually with a piece of fatback and potatoes.  That with cornbread
,which was made found dried corn which we took to our neighbor who had a
mill, constituted many of our meals–dinner and supper as we called them back
–Norma Tyree

“My Granny has 13 grandchildren. Out of them, I am the only
one interested in quilting, sewing or anything like that. I’ve learned
quilting from her. I still haven’t learned to crochet. I’ve also started
making her sourdough bread from her starter. There are traditions worth
keeping around for another generation.”
–Lynn Caudill Roberts

“My granny was the youngest of 13 children. She was a Maggard, who are very
intertwined with the Caudill’s.
Have any of you ever heard of the 7th child from the top and the 7th child
from the bottom being able to cure certain things? I can’t remember exactly
how she told me it worked. I ‘ll have to ask again. Seems like they could
blow into a child’s mouth and cure “thrash”, the gunky white coating some
babies get on their tongue. Just one of the many things out of the “Hills” LOL”
–Lynn Caudill Roberts

“In my opinion, I must have been born in the best state in America  and in
the best generation of all time.  I grew up in Letcher County, Kentucky
with two loving parents who had grown up in coal mining communities.  They
taught us five children first to love and honor God and secondly to be
thrifty and appreciate all that you get.  I have heard their stories of
what it was like growing up and in spite of times being tough they both
seem to relish the retelling and acted like they would love to go through
it all again.

In my mothers case, I can understand why because my grandmother Caudill
lived long enough for me to be well acquainted with her.  She stands in
as one of my top ten memories of childhood.  My first memory of her is
the time when she “got happy” in church (Primitive Baptist) and stepped
on my foot on her way down from a jump up. She had 12 children and they
were all welcome at her house for dinner after church along with their
children.  So every Sunday I could look forward to a delicious meal and a
great time playing with my cousins.  There was always at least 10 there
to play with besides my own brothers and sisters.  We roamed the hills,
making playhouses, swinging on grapevines, eating beechnuts and walnuts,
riding the horse, playing with the baby “diddles” (chicks), when we could
sneak them away from the mother hen, playing with kittens, eating
strawberries from the strawberry patch, playing in the creek, (She lived
in the head of a hollow and the water was clean.), catching crawdads and
salamanders, playing in fodder stacks, climbing up in the hayloft and
playing there.  I got to enjoy all the elements of a country farm without
ever having to do any of the work.  We had a small (by comparison)
garden at home that I had to help plant, weed, and hoe; so I do know the
work involved.

My grandmother, Dora Caudill, made the best biscuits and brewed the best
coffee on the face of the earth.  Her well water was the sweetest and
purest that I have ever tasted.   Her fried chicken was the best partly
because she killed the chickens by wringing their neck when she saw the
company arriving.  And yes, my first memories of getting to her house
were by walking up the creek bed.  By the time I was in school,  there
was a “real” road to her house.  My grandmother Caudill would always tell
you exactly what she thought without beating around the bush.  It was a
good thing that what she thought were positive things most of the time.
Everybody seemed to love and respect her.  She had such a warm smile that
lit up her eyes and crinkled her face.  Her hair was long and black even
into old age which she kept braided and wound around her head pinned on
with tortoise shell combs.  I loved to watch her take her hair down and
comb it with the combs.  She smoked Pell Mell cigarettes with no filter.
Before those were around I think she rolled her own with Prince Albert

She didn’t own a cow but the Pet milk truck delivered fresh milk in
bottles to her door at least once a week.  If we were lucky enough to be
there when he came he would usually give us a pint of chocolate milk.
(Whether he charged my grandmothers account for this I was to innocent to
know.  I thought it was his kind heart that inspired the gift.)  I could
go on and on, but I’ll give others a chance to share their memories.”
–Lucy Graves

“I remember My Grandma telling stories (our tradition for oral story
telling must also be recognized) about riding up Smoot Creek “on a fine bay
mare”.  She was Mahalia Isom Caudill and their home place was on Smoot Creek.
She was the daughter of Dock Ison and married Wesley Caudill.  She rode
“side saddle” as did all proper young ladies in those days.  She was a member
of “The Old Regular Baptist Church” and was proud of her record of doing the
“Foot Washing” ceremony, which she did for 45 years “hand goin’ ” as she put
it.  Never in her life cut her hair,  bore 9 children at home, and raised all
the veggie she and the rest of the family ate.  She canned it on a wood
stove, made lye soap in her black ‘biling cauldron’, which she used for
biling clothes, also.  She would walk to town while in her 90’s (in those
days you ALWAYS gave anyone on the road a ride, without fear.  It’s so great
to hear from my kin and friend who’ve lived our way and understand that life
was not always a bed of roses AND that there was a time when people trusted
one another.”
–Carol Jean Caudill

“More Memories:
Visiting my kin in Laurel Co. and sleeping on a schuck bed or in the hay loft
Being sent out with a lard bucket  to pick berries (and don”t return ’til
it’s full) and watch out for snakes
Listening to the elders sing Barbrie Allen &other old ballads on the front
My father picking the 5 string banjer
Hearing my Great Uncle tell of walking all the way to Texas with his milk
cow (When they returned to Ky. the cows hooves were worn down to the quick)
— He didn’t like the taste of the water in Texas (he was dodging the draft
during civil war times)
My plan to become a millionaire by digging sang (gensing) and may apple
In spring hunting and picking wild greens and ramps for “wilted salad”
Catching litenin’ bugs in a jar and putting them by the bed at nite
Tying strings around the legs of June Bugs and flying them like a kite
Searching for settin” hens in the tall grass
Tasting ‘simmons before the frost hit ’em
Pawpaw trees (the best ones)
Election day at the one room school house where there was always a
goodly supply of white lightenin’
Hoping one of the sisters would get the spirit and “shout ” at church
(no disrespect intended) it made us happy
Putting cardboard in the bottom of my once a year pair of shoes
Remembering how good corn bread, greens and buttermilk tasted because
there was company for dinner
Offering and taking a drink of cool, well water – you always offer and
always stopped long enough to have one–from a dipper
Poppin’ caps (popcorn) in the grate, in a wire basket
Hearing my gmother , in the garden, singing Precious Memories and
Amazing Grace while she hoed
Coal oil lamps and cleaning the globes
Getting head lice and being debugged with a fine tooth comb and
Any recollections from you all?”
–Carol Jean Caudill

” I grew up with 1960’s parent’s in a new subdivision…with Elvis on the
Hi-Fi and ever new gadget that was on the market at that time….
I was born in Dayton,Ohio and the oldest of three….Both my parent’s were
born and raised in Scioto Co,Ohio..My father the youngest of four boys and
my mother the youngest of fifthteen…
Portsmouth was Grandpa’s town….John Henry Valentine…
John was the son of Joseph Valentine and Mittie Ellen Caudill….
Mittie pasted away when I was three and I have a litttle memory of
her…..my greatgrandparent’s lived in Franklin Furnance,Ohio…. Mittie was
very short about 4’11” and had to stand on a wooden box to cook.. ..and was
almost blind by the time I came along….and My Dad says it’s a wonder that
she didn’t cut her nose off, she held everything very close to her face to
see when cooking…and baked a orange cake
that people came from miles around to get a piece…..I guess she would tie
a dish towel around me and sit me in the floor with a huge piece of cake and
let me have at it….to my mothers horror…
My Grandfather John always told us kids that somehow mom got to much starch
in Drawer’s… she was and is very picky about what we ate….Papa would
call us in the kitchen and stuff us with orange slices and circus peanuts
before we would get ready to go home….I was always the first one on the
way home on Rt 104 to Dayton to be car sick….Grandpa was know for his
little ditties he sang about hunting dogs ,big fish,and picking up pawpaws
what ever those were….I hate to say it…I was 20 before I seen my first
outhouse…or ate anything that was home canned…”
–Denise Miller

I was born and raised in Michigan. My dad dropped out of school and moved here from Whitesburg to provide for his family back home. My mom is also from KY (Pike County-Dorton but was born in Knott Cty). So even though I was raised in Mich I had a good ole fashioned southern upbringing. My favorite food of all time is shuckie beans with corn bread and fresh onion! My husband hates them so more for me. My dad brings me a bushel everytime he visits. I was reading the postings and it brought back floods of memories. The cutting your own switch was the hardest. Boy do I remember those! We took many many trips south to visit relatives all over the state pretty often. I loved being at my Grandma Caudill’s (grandpa Delzie died in 1979 when I was 10). My dad has 7 brothers and sisters so the place was always full. June meetin’ in the holler was the family reunion time, not just for us but all of the Caudill relatives in the holler. Even in Michigan we were brought up Old Regular Baptist (until late 80’s when we “converted” to Nazarene) and had many feet washings and dinners on the ground after services. We ate southern cookin’ from fried chicken, soup beans, collard greens, fried tomatoes, you name it. We tied string to June bugs legs and caught lightening bugs. I remember visiting my mamaw Tackett (mom’s mom) and using the outhouse, and stoking the coal stove, drinking water with a dipper (the best, coldest water), sleeping all together with the big quilts to stay warm, getting dirty feet from the coal dust on the floor.  Running down the store and getting Dr. Pepper’s (in glass bottles) and waving to everyone on their porches. Times were so wonderful back then but we didn’t appreciate the way we do now. I try to teach my 11 yr old son the same things I was taught but it’s not the same. He’s more city-fied than I was because my parents were actually from Kentucky. I’m not. He loves going down to visit my dad for 2 weeks during the summer, and just gets dirty and hangs out in the creeks with his cousins and goes fishin’ and to “get togethers” on the mountain. I’m so proud of my heritage and I hope my son grows up with that same pride and the great memories that I have!
–Cindy (Caudill) Homant
5 comments on “Oral Stories and Traditions
  1. Rob Caudill says:

    I still eat them shucky beans at the Caudill reunions and at Grandma Ruby Caudill’s Birthday Bashs at the Carcassonne Comunity Center up on Bull Creek. Her and Papaw Clifton Caudill square danced a bunch,and were in the movie Coal Miners Daughter. Wonderful Folks up there in them Mountains. Especially Caudill Kin! – Rob Caudill

  2. James King says:

    My name is James King and my g-grandfather is James Caudill and his parents are William Jackson Caudill and Rebecca Harris. James Caudill lived to be 102 years old and I got to know him very well. He told me stories of going into the woods in Kentucky hunting herbs and roots for medicine with his mother and grand-mother. Rebecca Harris is supposed to be Choctaw/Cherokee and registered on the Dawes Roll and the Cherokee Nation.If anyone has any information regaurding this please let me know. I have been doing research for years. My phone number is 859-404-2359 or e-mail me at jking1851@yahoo.com. I would like to meet some other caudill cousins and maybe get a reunion together.

    • Sally Marie Taylor says:

      I am a very distant caudill causin my great great great grandmother was Cynthia caudill from north Carolina! hi!

  3. Denise Wilson says:

    Any connections to the Halifax County Virginia Caudle Family? Richard Caudle, Ann F, Carrie Lee Caudle (born 18740, Robert Caudle.

  4. Margie A. Warmack says:

    I am looking for family information on my great grandmother Minda Caudill Warren. She was married to Robert James Warren and they lived in Morehead, Rowan County, Kentucky. My great grandfather eventually moved to Dalton, Whitfield County, Georgia with his 4th wife, Lucy DeHart Warren. I have searched for her grave in Rowan County but have come up empty and since I have no idea who her parents are, I have hit a brick wall. She was born in the year 1874. Hoping someone can help me with this. Thank you.

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