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Wednesday, January 31, 2024

The Legend of Swift's Silver Mine

Swift's Silver Mine is an enigma that has captivated the imagination of adventurers and historians for centuries. This alleged silver mine, supposedly discovered in 1760 by an Englishman named Jonathan Swift, is deeply ingrained in the folklore of the Appalachian Mountains. Over the years the tale has taken many twists and turns with new discoveries and clues.

Let us dig a little more about the legend.

Discovery and Operation

According to his journal, Swift followed a wounded bear into a cave where he discovered a vein of silver ore. For the next nine years, he made annual treks back to the site of the mine, extracting "silver bars and minted coins". He and his companions mined the silver for several years, smelting it into bars and coins, and hiding some of it in various locations. However, they faced many difficulties, such as Indian attacks, mutinies, and blindness. Swift supposedly buried a significant amount of the treasure at various locations. According to the tale, Swift eventually lost the location of the mine and never returned to it.

The Lost Mine

However, amid numerous obstacles, including the Indian attacks and even a mutiny by his own crew, Swift walled up the cave and discontinued his mining operation. Before he could return to the mine, he was stricken blind and was unable to locate it again or so the legend goes. 

The Mystery Continues

The uncertainty of its location is part of the folklore surrounding its existence, with locations ascribed to eastern Kentucky, southwest Virginia, or eastern Tennessee. Despite extensive searches and numerous claims of discovery, the exact location of Swift's Silver Mine remains a mystery.
The possible location of the Swift silver mine is a matter of debate and speculation. There are many different versions and clues about where the mine could be, but none have been proven conclusively. Here are some of the most common or interesting theories:

* Some people believe that the mine was located on or around Stone Mountain in Wise County, Virginia. They claim that local Indians knew the location of the mine and that a settler named Hans G. Frenchman was taken to the mine by the Indians and later revealed it to Swift.

* Others think that the mine was near Swift Creek in Wolfe County, Kentucky. The residents of this county celebrate the Swift Silver Legend every year in Campton, Kentucky.

* Another possibility is that the mine was near the confluence of the Russell Fork and Levisa rivers near Pikeville, Kentucky. This theory is based on some markings on a rock that resemble a map of the area.

* Some also suggest that the mine was in eastern Tennessee and that Swift was assisted by a Frenchman named Monday or Monde. In this version, Swift killed Monde to keep the secret of the mine but later lost his way back to it.

There are even some stories that place the mine here in my area of Bell County, Ky. The truth may never be known, but the legend continues to inspire and intrigue many treasure hunters, historians, and researchers like me. 

Books About the Mine

There are many books written about the Swift silver mine, Here are a few to check out:

* Swift’s Silver Mines and Related Appalachian Treasures by Michael Steely. This book explores the legend of Jonathan Swift and his enigmatic character, his journal, his treasure, and his possible connections to the American Revolution. It also draws upon treasure lore from various sources and regions.

John Swift’s Lost Silver Mines, 1760-1769 by Michael Paul Henson. This book is based on the original journal of Swift and provides clues and directions to the locations of his hidden caches of silver. It also includes maps, illustrations, and photographs of the area.

* The Legend of Jonathon Swift’s Silver Mine and the Revolutionary War by John R. Musick. This book is a historical fiction that imagines the life and adventures of Swift and his companions, as they mine the silver and use it to finance the war against the British. It also incorporates elements of folklore and romance. (This book is hard to find)

These are just some of the many books about the Swift Silver Mine. You can find more by searching online or visiting your local library.

The Geology Perspective

From a geological perspective, it is very unlikely that there is any natural occurrence of silver in the Paleozoic rocks of eastern Kentucky. The Kentucky Geological Survey has investigated hundreds of claims about the Swift Silver Mines from every county in eastern Kentucky but found nothing to substantiate this legend.

The surface rocks in eastern Kentucky, southwest Virginia, and eastern Tennessee are not favorable for silver exploration, as they are mostly sedimentary rocks that form in marine environments.

Silver is usually found in association with igneous rocks that formed from volcanic or magmatic activity, or in hydrothermal veins that formed from hot fluids circulating in the crust. These types of rocks are rare or absent in the Appalachian region, and there is no evidence of any significant silver deposits or occurrences in the area.

The geology perspective is that the Swift silver mine is a myth, but is it?


The legend of Swift's Silver Mine continues to be a source of fascination and speculation. Whether it is a tale spun by an imaginative mind or a lost treasure waiting to be discovered, the story of Swift's Silver Mine is an enduring piece of Appalachian folklore.

The legend is well worth studying and exploring. 


This post by Thomas Marcum, Thomas is the founder/leader of the cryptozoology and paranormal research organization known as The Crypto Crew. Over 25 years of experience with research and investigation of unexplained activity, working with video and websites. A trained wild land firefighter, a published photographer, and a poet.

Source: Wikipedia, Academic Accelerator, University of Kentucky, Wikiwand

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