Best known for his nonfiction work “Night Comes to the Cumberlands,” Harry M. Caudill also wrote fiction, including “Dark Hills to Westward: The Saga of Jenny Wiley,” first published in 1969 and recently reprinted in a new softback edition by the Jesse Stuart Foundation.
When Jenny was an old woman, a preacher had sat down with her and wrote out her captivity story. Although Jenny may have embellished it many times, it is the only first-hand account we have, and it’s the primary source for Caudill’s novel.
Briefly, here is her story. Thomas and Jenny Wiley had pioneered land on Walker’s Creek in Bland County, Virginia. On October 1, 1789, while Thomas was away, a small band of Indians, seeking revenge for a recent defeat at the hands of white settlers, attacked the Wiley cabin and killed and scalped Jenny’s three older children and her brother. Jenny, seven months pregnant, was taken captive along with her baby son, Adam.
By Harry M. Caudill