The Legend of the John Swift Silver Mine, Wolfe Co Kentucky
For Hundreds of years there has been the legend that John Swift left a large quantity of silver somewhere in the Appalachian Mountains. Whether or not there is even a buried treasure is unknown and will probably will remain that way as people have been looking for The Swift Silver Mine for hundreds of years and still are hunting for it today. Regardless, every year around Labor Day there is a festival in Wolfe County. The Swift Silver Mine Festival each year offers a parade, floats, games, and plenty of good eats! I have been to a couple of these and always have a great time! Now.. on to the story and legend of the Swift Silver Mine.
Somewhere, beneath some brooding cliff. Somewhere, beside a swift stream lies untold wealth. Somewhere, is the key to John Swift’s lost silver mines. According to the legend, these mines were worked by the Shawnee and the Cherokee, long before the white man came. They were known to the French woodsmen, and Spanish explorers, but they are known to us as John Swift’s silver mines because Swift kept a journal and he left a map. Now there are numerous versions of this journal, but they all agree on some common points. They tell us that John Swift was a seafaring man and in his home port of Alexandria, Virginia around 1757 or 1758 he met and befriended one George Mundy, who had been held captive by the Shawnee and the Cherokee. Mundy, in gratitude, told Swift of accompanying his captors to rich loads of silver in the land beyond the mountains. In 1761, Swift, Mundy and a small party including two experienced miners set out into the trackless wilderness. An entry from Swift’s journal:
“June 6, 1761, led by Mundy we penetrated the western country after crossing big Sandy Creek near its headwaters, and continuing west for a considerable distance we located three of the mines. We located the other mines by traveling southwest along a great ridge until we came to a large river thence north to a very large and rocky creek. Thence to the mines.”
For the next eight years Swift and his company crossed and recrossed the mountains, mining and transporting the precious silver. But there were problems. Internal dissension, difficult terrain, hostile Indians and rival traders caused him to rebury much of his find along the way.
“On September 1, 1769 we left between 22 and 30 thousand dollars in English crowns on a large creek running near a south course. Close by we marked our names: Swift, Jefferson, Mundy and other names on a large beech tree.”
While on a trip to England, John Swift spoke strongly of his view of the growing troubles between England and the colonies. He was clapped into prison where he languished until after the revolution. When he returned he was old and blind. Nevertheless he began to organize expeditions, and relying on the maps of memory he set out to try to find his lost treasure, but in vain. John Swift died penniless, leaving behind his map, his journal and a dying admonition,
“It’s near peculiar rock, don’t ever quit looking fer it, it’ll make Kentucky rich.”
The names Silvermine Branch, Silvermine Arch, and Swift Camp Creek are reminders that one of the mines is supposed to be somewhere in present day Wolfe County, Kentucky. Through all the years since Swift’s death many have searched, some for a lifetime, but no one has ever found the mines or the buried silver. Maybe it is just a legend, or maybe it’s true. Maybe sometime we will know more about The Swift Silver Mine!