By Stephen D. Bowling
The pages of the Breathitt County court records are filled with some strange and unusual requests and events. One deed for several acres of property on Quicksand Creek called for the corner of a tract of land to be “near the spot where William Clemons and I observed a flock of pigeons.” Some deeds exclude family members, as a deed for a piece of land near Little left out a daughter “who has taken enough from me in life.”
History does not record exactly what happened between Miles Terry and his neighbor, John “Dried Apple” Caudill. We do not know at what point their relationship became toxic to the point that they could no longer be neighborly. The court proceedings indicate that the two men had a disagreement over the boundary of a tract of land located near the mouth of Turkey Creek. Apparently, that dispute led to an altercation and irreconcilable differences.
Those hard feelings, at least in the mountain culture, were often hard to forgive, but they were often even harder to forget. Perhaps the ability to hold and perpetrate a long-standing grudge could be traced back to the Scottish traditions of clan rivalries and never-ending feuds. That seemed to be the case for the Terry and Caudill dispute. In fact, Miles Terry took the disagreement to the grave with him but required his family to continue the fight.
He wrote and filed his will in the Breathitt County Courthouse to make sure that his descendants knew and followed his explicit wishes in regard to any land dealing with John Caudill. He forbid any of his descendants to sell the disputed tract of land to the Caudill, or all of their inheritance would revert back to the estate.
I, Miles Terry of Guerrant, Breathitt County, Kentucky, being of sound mind and disposing memory, do hereby make, publish and declare this codicil to my last will and testament, dated September 10, 1910. It is my desire that the provisions of my will for the disposition of my personal property remain as set out therein, and as I have made deeds to my real estate and divided the same among my children and grand-children, and made certain reservations, as set out in some of their deeds with exception Manerva Jett & Niece Griffith has received pay in cash for interest in my real estate, I give and desire each of their portions to them with the reservations and conditions as set out in my said deeds, except that I make this further provision in regard to the deed made by me to my grand-son, Morton Jett, which provision is that the said Morton Jett nor his assigns shall either directly or indirectly sell the land described in said deed to John Caudill, and that the said John Caudill shall not become the owner of same during his lifetime, and if my will is disregarded in this respect the said property shall at once revert to my estate and descend to my heirs according to law, except the said Morton Jett. I hereby confirm all of my said deeds and all the conditions of my said will. It appears from my said will that there is an error in the time that I subscribed my name to it, and the time the attesting witnesses subscribed their names, but I subscribed my name and they subscribed their names all at the time, and I desire the same to stand as set out therein. IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF, witness my signature this June 12 1928. Miles Terry
The family held true to his wishes, and John Caudill never got the property. Miles Terry, the old Confederate soldier, continued to farm the open field near the mouth of Turkey Creek until he was well into his early 80s. He died of heart disease and cerebral hemorrhage on February 2, 1934, after a short two-day stay in the hospital. His son, Charles Terry, buried him on February 4, 1934, in the family cemetery on a small point overlooking the farm. The cemetery, known as the Miles Terry Cemetery, contains the remains of many of the Terry family and several members of the Caudill clan, including John Caudill’s father and mother.
John Caudill continued to live on the Middle Fork of the Kentucky River for many years. Caudill entered the hospital on May 23, suffering from what was diagnosed as a pulmonary embolism. He died four days later at the Homeplace Hospital at Ary in Perry County, Kentucky, on May 27, 1963, at the age of 76. He was buried on May 29, 1963, in the Nick Combs Cemetery near the mouth of Old Buck Creek. His wife, Elizabeth “Lizzie” (Terry) Caudill, lived until 1978. She is buried beside her husband.
The Terry-Caudill feud remains a shining example of the clannish nature of the people of the mountain and especially Breathitt County. There are examples of children being legally “disowned” on file at the Breathitt County Courthouse. Hundreds of property deeds exclude children and members of the family from inheriting property and possession because of some disagreement that arose while all parties were living.
The old adage remains true in many parts of the mountains: “We may forgive you for what you have done, but we will never forget.”
© 2022 Stephen D. Bowling