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.
All files on this site are copyrighted by their creator. They may not be reproduced on another site without specific permission from Vickie Sturgill Stevens . Although public information is not in and of itself copyrightable, the format in which they are presented, the notes and comments, etc., are.