Swift’s Silver Mine – lost or merely invented?

Posted by | August 18, 2015

“I suppose there is no part of the mountains of Kentucky that has not had some experience in search for this silver mine. Last summer (1921) I was on the train going from Pineville to Harlan, when someone on the train pointed out to me a large cliff on the opposite side of the river that had recently been partly blown away in the search for the silver of this mine.

Photo caption: Swift's silver mine - Jonathan Swift's deed to Peter Hope, England, for the mine. Collection Kentucky Historical Society/C. Frank Dunn Photographs Collection/KNU:1987ph2:0944

Photo caption: Swift’s silver mine – Jonathan Swift’s deed to Peter Hope, England, for the mine. Collection Kentucky Historical Society/C. Frank Dunn Photographs Collection/KNU:1987ph2:0944

“It came out in the conversation that some man had come here, probably from the west, and with maps in his possession had located the mine here. He spent much money, time and labor in the futile attempt to disclose it in the cliff.

“James Renfro lived at Cumberland Ford in the early days, 1821 to 1832, and it has been said that the Journal of Swift was left with Mrs. Renfro after the death of her husband.

“The Renfros came from Virginia, but it may be that another Renfro family figured in the possession of the Journal. I think it probable that Swift never left any money here as he claimed, but evidently he came here searching for silver.

“Mr. William Low, of Pineville, in his letter of October 29, 1921, has this to say of Swift’s journal: ‘I asked Mr. Gibson (Frank Gibson, son of J. J. Gibson) about Swift’s journal. Someone told him that there was such a document, but I doubt the fact myself. I never heard of such a document (in fairness to Mr. Low, I might say here that he was not reared in this section but came here as a young man) and I have heard a great deal about Swift’s Silver Mine.

‘This mine has been searched for in every county in eastern Kentucky and personally I very much doubt whether there ever was such a mine, or that any silver was ever obtained from a mine in Kentucky. Years ago it was supposed that this mine, or at any rate a silver mine, had been found on Clear Creek, and a company of native citizens, John I. Partin and others, and some others whose names I have forgotten, secured patents and organized what they called a mining company, but nothing was ever discovered, in the way of silver ore, on this land.

‘I have understood that about Ferndale years ago some persons thought that silver existed and some work was done towards opening a mine at that place, but no silver existed. Since I have been in Bell County, there have been a number of persons here from other places searching for Swift’s Silver Mine because every place where it was thought silver existed was at once claimed to be the place where Swift claimed he found the mine.

The location of one of Jonathan Swift's lost silver mines is given as being on Swift's Camp Creek, in Wolfe County, KY by historian Lyman Draper in manuscripts from the 1830s.  Directions are: "Seven miles above the mouth of the creek (Swift's Creek) is a natural rock bridge.  On the northwest side of the creek, a short distance below the bridge, is a branch.  Follow the branch to its head, thence ascend the ridge, leaving the highest part of the ridge on your right.  Go along the ridge to a point that is higher than the others, where a large rock seems to have fallen from above.  Go in between them.  This is where we obtained our best ore."   Lyman Copeland Draper (1815-1891) was a lifelong student of early American history. Although he was born and raised in upstate New York, Draper made it his life's work to rescue from oblivion the history of the "heroes of the Revolution" in the South.  He made repeated research trips to what he called the "Trans-Allegheny West," generating interviews, research notes, and correspondence. To these he added hand written reproductions of unpublished journals, extracts from newspapers and other published sources, muster rolls, and transcripts of official documents. Draper was the first corresponding secretary for the State Historical Society of Wisconsin and lived much of his life in Madison. His manuscript collection was bequeathed to the Wisconsin Historical Society.  Photo by William Fultz II (fultzfotos.com)/Flickr   Rock Bridge on Swift Camp Creek in the Clifty Wilderness of the Red River Gorge Geological Area at Daniel Boone National Forest.

The location of one of Jonathan Swift’s lost silver mines is given as being on Swift’s Camp Creek, in Wolfe County, KY by historian Lyman Draper in manuscripts from the 1830s. Directions are: “Seven miles above the mouth of the creek (Swift’s Creek) is a natural rock bridge. On the northwest side of the creek, a short distance below the bridge, is a branch. Follow the branch to its head, thence ascend the ridge, leaving the highest part of the ridge on your right. Go along the ridge to a point that is higher than the others, where a large rock seems to have fallen from above. Go in between them. This is where we obtained our best ore.”

Lyman Copeland Draper (1815-1891) was a lifelong student of early American history. Although he was born and raised in upstate New York, Draper made it his life’s work to rescue from oblivion the history of the “heroes of the Revolution” in the South.

He made repeated research trips to what he called the “Trans-Allegheny West,” generating interviews, research notes, and correspondence. To these he added hand written reproductions of unpublished journals, extracts from newspapers and other published sources, muster rolls, and transcripts of official documents.

Draper was the first corresponding secretary for the State Historical Society of Wisconsin and lived much of his life in Madison. His manuscript collection was bequeathed to the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Photo by William Fultz II (fultzfotos.com)/Flickr Rock Bridge on Swift Camp Creek in the Clifty Wilderness of the Red River Gorge Geological Area at Daniel Boone National Forest.

 

‘I doubt if ever Swift was in Bell County. There is an old survey located in Letcher County which calls for a survey made by Swift, but so far as I know no silver was ever discovered on Swift’s survey.’

“The mountain people in the past have been good subjects for the creation of this folk-tale, since no mines have been found that we can trace to Swift. They lived for a century far from railroads in a wilderness of mountain country. They made a living, a bare living in many instances, by the hardest of work. People in this condition dream of wealth and luxury.

“The story of Swift fell into fertile soil of their dreaming minds and became fixed there as a fact. After it became fixed, and no mines could be found, then reasons were invented to account for not finding the silver. Hence, dark caves with heaped-up silver guarded by demons, great kettles of silver deep down in the ground protected by a league of devils, and many other stories grew up around this tradition. What better modern folk-tale could we have?”

 

sources: HISTORY OF BELL COUNTY KENTUCKY VOL 1, by Henry Harvey Fuson, Hobson Book Press, 1947
Draper Manuscript Collection/Wisconsin Historical Society

4 Responses

  • Joey Mullins says:

    I found the mine. I’ve been into it; it is on the hill above my grandpa in a place called River Bend below Crum, WV.

    You can see the old rocky underwater bridge they made to cross the river. In the mines you can go into the big opening and it crosses over to the other mines that only have an entrance as big around as a small barrel. You used to be able to squeeze into a little opening, but it has been buried over time by fallen leaves.

    I traveled a short way into the other mines and was afraid it would fall in. It also has a 3rd mine that i never entered. Go to River Bend, WV. It’s on the west side of the hill but i think it connects all the way through to the mines on the south side of the hill.

    As you go up the hollow you turn left; you will see a moon-shaped rock that comes out enough to look like it’s a rock house. As you look around the rock you will find big flat rocks on the north side. I think that is the place the coins are hid.

    In the mines you will find all types of old bottles that came from other countries. And in the mines is a small set of rails that they used to cart out the ore.

    This was not a coal mine because there is no coal in or around the mines.

    Go look at this place! It has markings in the stones set in with metal of some sort.
    It’s a must see.

  • Joey Mullins says:

    You can go up the hill from here — http://goo.gl/maps/I3x7y I have found old silver.

  • keith says:

    I believe that Swift’s mentioned mines were caches of silver stolen from Spaniards & such by the Shawnee Indians. Swift was melting it down & making counterfeit coins to take back to his native country.

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