Still Causes Big Talk
By Bonnie S. Ball
The strange story of the lost silver mine in Dickenson co. brought visions of
wealth to many, but so far has remained only a tantalizing mystery to haunt the minds of
men, although the search has continued through the years. It all started away back about 1765
when three men named Swift, Jefferson and Mundy supposedly discovered a rich deposit of
silver in the Cumberlands. After concealing all signs of a mine as the story goes, they set out for the nearest settlement, which at that time would have been Castlewood on the Clinch River.
The men carried away their treasure on horseback. However, on the way the men became involved in a heated quarrel over the distribution of their silver.
Mundy reportedly was killed. Later the two remaining men encountered a band of
Indians, who captured and robbed them of their wealth. Years later, Swift lost his vision, but
managed to return to the Cumberlands, where he tried desperately to direct friends to the spot
where the silver mine was concealed. He wept bitterly when he failed to find it.
A map of the mine was said to have existed. Copies of it were circulated for years afterward among potential prospectors. In fact, each generation for the next century and a half produced a few such prospectors. A few yeas before the Civil War a man named Hamon found some ore on the McClure River and took it to a forge where it was determined to be silver. He searched over
and over, finally digging a huge pit 102 feet deep on the south side of the McClure below
the mouth of Roaring Fork.
Finally he became discouraged, returned to his old home in the West. The old pit is said to be still in existence. Jasper Sutherland, who died in 1936, related the story. He told a Dickenson Co.
historian of hunting a wildcat near the same place in the snow. He saw a spot where the snow had melted. It seemed to be covered with corn cobs.Later he remembered that Hamon had found
his silver deposit in apiece of rock that resembled corn cobs. A search for the spot
later was fruitless. Joseph Kelly and John Ervin, pioneers along the McClure River, also did some prospecting for the mine but were unsuccessful. But it was Dr. Elijah Rasnick who told
the most fantastic story of the lost silver mine. Rasnick became acquainted with a man named
James Simmons, who lived near Milligan College, TN, and who claimed he owned a Swift map made of deer skin.
Map From Chief
He further asserted that his brother had taught school among the Indians in Oklahoma. A wealthy chief, with whom he had stayed, gave him the map. Simmons said the map showed the silver to be in the fourth ridge from the Blue Ridge, which was the Sandy Ridge. He described the land in the locality of the mine as thin and nearly level, with big timber on the north side, and little scrubby trees on the south side. A hundred miles as the crow flies form the Guyandotte River was a stone monument with six notches in the northwest corner. Rasnick found the notches!
Then he made three trips to see Simmons in Tennessee. On the first trip Simmons told him about the stone, which was near a waterfall.
Later he described a forked oak tree in the center of the prospecting area, where the discoverers had placed a pineknot, with one end pointing to the mine, and the other to where silver was hidden.
Rasnick found the pine knot! It wasclaimed that the men had built a furnace under
a rock house, and Rasnick found a furnace.
Then the Shawnees directed him to godue south from the rock house, where he would
find Swift s name cut on a beech tree with ahatchet, as a pointed, and the dates: 1761,
1762, 1763. He also found those! On his last trip to Simmons he was told to go a half mile north and on the south side of the hill he would find a bench with a wild turkey carved on it. Then he was to go down the creek from the rock house on the east side of the creek until he found a big stone with the letters, M., J., and S. on it, standing for Munday, Jefferson and Swift. Then he would
know he was right. These Rasnick never found, and he gave up the quest, concluding that the whole thing was a hoax, since Simmons had never allowed him to see the
Afterwards Rasnick reached the conclusion that there was no silver deposits there, but there was possibly small amounts of gold, which he himself had found, "but too weak to pay." It was his belief that unscrupulous men had found this out, and had sold their so-called Swift maps to wealthy prospectors for fabulous prices.
Nevertheless, the search has continued. Many old timers have been fascinated by the idea of a lost silver mine. Persistent rumors have had the lost mine located in remote, almost inaccessible areas of the Breaks of the Cumberlands, on the Virginia-Kentucky border, which is now an
Sunday, March 26, 1961, page 5B.
Reprinted by permission of the Managing
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