Ancient Swift Mines
By Elihu Sutherland

       From a manuscript by Elihu Sutherland, of Clintwood, Dickenson Co., VA given to Emory L. Hamilton on October 5,  1940.  It was told to him September 20, 1930 by Dr. Elijah Rasnick, at the home of John T.  Powers in Clintwood, VA. From the WPA Project, The Alderman Library, The University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA

       My father was named James Harvey Rasnick, a son of Jonas and Rachel (Laforce) Rasnick. I believe my father, Aunt Katy Counts and Uncle Lige Rasnick were born at the Tilda Anderson Bottom at Old Sand Lick.
My grandfather, Jonas Rasnick, was born in Glade Hollow. I ve understood my great- grandfather, Jacob Rasnick married Mary Counts in Shenandoah Co., VA, and immediately moved to Glade Hollow. I don t
know the reason for his coming to Russell Co. He had served in the British army in the Revolutionary War, was captured, and after  the war closed, he decided to stay in this country. I don t know of any Rasnicks, other than his descendants, in this country.
       My father s two oldest children - Bill and me - were born on Dumps Creek at the Aunt Aggie Bottom, just below the school house at South Clinchfield. Aunt Aggie Sutherland, widow of Henry Sutherland, had
lived there. I reckon I was about 12 months old when we moved out on Breeding Branch of Frying Pan. Father built a little round log cabin where Uncle William Grizzle later lived, and where E. J. (Tige) Rasnick now lives, and cleared a field up right at the head of Breeding Branch, where Joe Rasnick now has a field.
Brother Bill was born in 1855, and I was born in 1857. Grandfather Rasnick had patented a lot of land on Breeding Branch and left hand Fork of Lick Creek, and about a year after we moved there, Dad and Uncle Lige Rasnick drew lots for two farms and father got the one lower down on Lefthand Fork and then moved
there. Uncle Lige traded tracts with Uncle William Grizzle and settled in the head of Lefthand Fork above us. I have heard that Frying Pan Creek was so named because early hunters found an old Frying Pan under a rock- house near the mouth of Priest Fork. Breeding Branch was named for an old hunter named
Breeding - first name unknown - who camped at the mouth of the branch. Father moved to the Frank Smith place at Nora while they were  holding court there. I had married before that time and was living on Coon Branch. He lived there 8 or 10 years and then moved to Brushy Ridge where Brother Newt now lives.

       I can remember when Dickenson Co. was formed. I don t know much about how it got started, but Capt. James Colley had a lot to do with starting the new county. I was present when the first court was held at Jeems Fleming s house near the mouth of Caney - just about where Ritter has his saw-logpond.
 Later the county seat was moved to Nora - they called it the mouth of Open Fork, or Ervinton then. Jim Venters suggested the location and Dave Smith agreed. But Jim Colley the other commissioner, wouldn t
agree, saying: "If I do anything it will be here where we were ordered to fix the courthouse." The first court held at Nora was under the shade of two big beeches and a sugar tree. I was there at that court, but I
wasn't there at the last court held there. I remember a petition was sent around some time before the county seat was changed to Clintwood. It had several names of places on it for the people to vote for
as the new county seat, among them being: Caney, Ervinton, Nealy Ridge, John Counts Place, Sand Lick and Holly Creek.

       I have given some time and thought to the Swift Silver Mine. There is now a beech standing on Coon Branch, near my old home, with this inscription on it: "H. Swift, 1813." It is supposed to be on the route to the Swift mines. Some years ago I got acquainted with a man named James Simmons, who lived 9 miles
the other side of Johnson City, TN and three miles from Milligan College, and who claimed to have a Swift map made of deer-skin. He said his brother had taught an Indian school in Oklahoma in 1912, and when the school was over, an old Indian chief, who was wealthy, and with whom the school teacher boarded,
gave him the Swift map. He said the map showed the silver mines were on the 4th ridge from the Blue Ridge, which is Sandy Ridge. It described the land in the locality of the mines as being thin and nearly level, with big timber on the north side of the mountain and little scrubby timber on the south side. 100 miles as the eagle flies south from Guyandotte River, was placed a stone monument with 6 notches
in the north-east corner. I found this stone with the notches apparently cut about a fourth-inch deep. I made three trips to see about this matter. He claimed that this stone was set at the mouth of a southeast hollow on which the waters came down over some falls. This tallied with what I found. He said you could go to the mines without crossing the branch. Swift and his crowd had prospected all over this section
and it was rich in ore - so rich it ran $12 to the pound. In the center of this prospected section, they had placed a pine-knot in a forked oak, one end pointing to the mines and the other to where they had hid the silver. I found the pine- knot with about one inch sticking out. I cut the oak down and chopped the pine knot out. It had been hewed out and was about 18 inches in the wood. Looking in a northeast course, you can see two mountains running off a little northeast and about 5 or 6 miles long. They claimed they had built a furnace in a rock- house and run out the metal there. I found an old furnace under a rock-house, but of course I couldn t tell who had built it. I told Simmons what I had found and he told me to go three miles due south from the rock-house and I would find Swift s name cut in a beech tree with a pointer, hatchet and the dates 1761, 1762 and 1763. I found them. I made another trip to Simmons and he told me to go 1/2 mile
north and on the south side of a hill I would find a beech with the picture of a wild turkey cut on it, and if I found it I could be sure I was on the right track. He said for me to go down the creek from the rock-house on the east side of the creek and find a big rock with the letters, M, T, and G cut on it, standing for Munday,
Jefferson and Gass, and you will know you are right. I never found them nor never will. Simmons would never let me see the map - he was afraid to. He came up here several times to see about the matter, and stayed with me one night.

       I have heard it said that Munday got mad about dividing the money and left the rest of the company saying he would go and tell the indians about their stealing their silver. Swift ordered the others to follow Munday and kill him. They did this, but just then the Indians come up and captured the other whites and
 took them to their camp. They robbed them of all they had.

       I don t think there is anything to the Swift Mines. I believe they found some gold here, for I have found a little myself, but too weak to pay. After they found this out they drew up several maps and sold them out to rich people who wanted to get richer at a Thousand dollars a piece. The old man Morgan Lipps
bought one and his son Dave Lipps had it the ast time I heard about it. It is said that Swift went blind and he tried to find the mines afterwards, but couldn t travel in the woods. So he got the grandfathers of Morgan Lipps, Covey Holbrook, Ely Hill and old man Castle (of Castlewood) to go with him. He took them
to Nancy s Gap in Sandy Ridge, and told them to find a certain forked dogwood on the ridge. They started out down a ridge but it came out in a hollow; they tried all the ridges, but they always got lost and could never find the main ridge, as Swift directed them to do. They at ast gave up and the old man Swift cried like
his heart would break.

       About 1914 a Clinchfield engineer named Davidson was surveying in my section and I was helping him. Davidson got me to tell him about the mines and he went down to Johnson City to see Simmons. In a short time, about Christmas, I got a letter from him enclosing Ten Dollars and asking for me to come to Johnson City. I did so and found Davidson and Simmons there. We went into a hotel room there and I told them what I knew and Simmons said I knew more about it than anybody else. So they said they would come up and let me show them all about it. They came in March, and asked me to go with them. I asked Simmons to let me see the map. He said he left it at home, and besides it was written in Latin and I couldn t read it. I thought he was trying to get the advantage of me, so I told him that I would not show him what I found until he had shown me the map and I had it put down in English so I could read it and check up on directions and distances and I was entitled to my part of he money, if we found any. They went away and I have heard nothing from them since.
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