Fireside Story Turns to Legend
By Dan Graybeal
       Daniel S. Graybeal, a resident of Wise Co., VA, began his search for the lost silver mine and his research of the legend some 24 years ago. This article explores Swift s Journal, the history of the area from 1750-1790, the geology of the area, local legend and a possible
  connection between Swift and the lost ancestry of the Melungeons, a group of people living
  near High Knob, VA, and Black Water, TN.
       Time, though, has a way of eroding  even the most fascinating of legends and, while
  the old timers have told and retold the story, many newcomers to Southwest Virginia may
  not be aware of the possible existence of the  mine and the very real geological possibility of
  precious metals in the Cumberland and Clinch Mountain ranges.
       A few local residents and some not so  local, have spent many, many hours
  researching the subject and searching for the mines. In the earlier years some would-be
  prospectors, driven by visions of instant wealth, set out into the hills on a one day to
  several weeks search. The major thrust of the search centered around a copy of a treasure map that
  was so ambiguous even the map maker may have been confused. Their equipment consisted
  of meager provisions, a pick and shovel, canteen, and tremendous quantities of blind
       Many "treasure maps," supposedly pinpointing the site of the mine, have existed
  but in all likelihood most were counterfeit or ambiguous derivations of an original. Most
  prospectors expected to find a very shiny streak of metal embedded in a rock formation.
  Silver generally exists as a sulfide and exists with other metals such as lead, zinc, or copper.
       It will appear as a gray or charcoal colored material. If near pure silver should
  exist, it tarnishes to a gray color within a few days after exposure. This may be a reason why
  few finds have occurred.
       The fact that no one has reported a valuable find of treasure is not a guarantee that
  this treasure does not exist. Many people have viewed the subject with much skepticism,
  attributable in a large part to the lack of knowledge of the subject. According to Swift s
  Journals, large sums of treasure were buried in a cave near the mine and along the routes back
  to civilization. Some of the caches may have been found and never reported, whether they
  were found through diligent search or by accident.
       Court records shows that some counterfeiting of silver coins occurred around
  the beginning of the 20th century. In some cases the coins contained more silver than that
  issued by the U. S. Treasury. A question may arise as to the origin of the silver that was used
  for the coining.
       Most geologists feel that it is only remotely possible that silver ore or other
  precious metals could occur in the two aforementioned mountain ranges. Many finds
  of metals ranging from zinc to manganese have been reported throughout the area and a
  number of faults occur in the rock strata. One report of silver being found is
  recorded in the history of Tazewell Co., VA. Hopefully the portion of this article dealing
  with geology will provide the reader with layman s overview of the geological possibility
  of the existence of precious metals in the area. When dealing with a legend, all
  information must be considered, evaluated and placed in its proper perspective. Nothing can
  be totally ignored. Most of the printed materials have been very ambiguous and
  therefore useless to the novice. Based on 16 years of research, and
  actual searching, it appears that much of the acquired materials can be placed in an order
  that will be harmonious with the subject. Why hasn t the mine been found? The
  odds against it are tremendous. When dealingwith maps that may have been made 200 years
  ago, and area covering parts of four states and limited finances, the task can become
  monumental to an individual. It s very much like searching for the proverbial needle in the
  proverbial haystack when one doesn t know in which haystack to search.
       From The Dickenson Star. First in a
  series of articles published in 1989.

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