John Swift Built Furnace "In Remote Place"
By Dan Graybeal
       John Swift built a furnace on a long rocky branch "in a remote place in the west."
       According to Swift s journal, the furnace was built in a rockhouse and a second
  rockhouse facing the east was located 100 yards above the furnace. A rockhouse is
  nothing more than an overhanging cliff of rock which can be walled in on one or more sides.
  Furnace Creek (as Swift called it) flowed generally northeast and had two forks.
       Swift described the area as being very rough, rocky and so dense with laurel thickets
  that their horses were never taken more than five or six miles from the mines. A salt lick
  was located above the furnace and a larger salt lick about two miles north on another creek
  called Lick Creek. Furnace Creek had several smaller forks.
       The mountains around the mines had but very little timber. A large mountain seven
  miles long located three miles north of the furnace had large timber, where they burned
  wood and made charcoal for smelting. Swift wrote that the richest ore was
  located at latitude 37" 56  north and a lesser vein was found at 38" 2  latitude. By
  astrological observations and calculations, both veins were found near the longitude of 83
  degrees. As stated earlier the margin of error was such that these coordinates could not be
  relied upon for accurate location of the mines. The land was very cliffy and rocky.
  The banks of the streams were full of laurel,underbrush and vines which greatly restricted travel.
       Near the mines, Swift spoke of two monument rocks, one 15 feet and the other 25
  feet high. these could be seen by looking east from the upper rock house. He wrote of a
  haystack rock, a chestnut burr rock, a buffalo rock, a table top rock, a sky rock (one with a
  hole through which the sky could be seen), a turtle back rock and a rock resembling a grave
  stone called lookout rock. These rocks were named due to Swift s interpretation of their shapes.
       Swift spoke of haystack-like hills. He said that they passed through gaps full of
  Indians called Meccas. The Indians used certain gaps (apparently called Meccas) as
  ceremonial gathering places. Apparently Swift passed through these areas which were sacred
  to the Indians. This may have provoked some of the Indian attacks, since he may have
  traveled over forbidden ground. Swift said that the French mined silver
  to the south of their mines. The French were jealous of Swift s company and were
  unfriendly to them because they were more successful and the majority were English.
       The west mine can be located by traveling due south poles (833 feet) from the
  west side of the furnace rockhouse. This will lead to a small drain or hollow. At the head of
  this drain on the right the mine can be found. The ore can be located by searching the grey
  sandstone in a ridge running to the right. A large rock called Balanced rock was located in
  the center of the ridge.
       The middle mine can be located by traveling up over the furnace rock house
  southeast to a hanging rock. On the east side, a line of rocks can be found about 100 yards
  from the hanging rock. Careful searching can reveal the mine opening in this line of rocks.
       The richest mine was located about three miles from the furnace. It can be located
  by climbing the rocks at the left side of the furnace in a due south course striking a small
  branch. By traveling up the branch to the head without crossing over, one may find Swift s
  name on three beech trees. A due east course will bring one out of
  the cliff country. Turning right along the ridge will reveal a knob that is higher than the rest of
  the ridge. Going right from the knob to a low gap, a descending trail will lead to a hanging
  rock and one that has fallen from the other. An opening between the two rocks will
  lead to an opening between a red sandstone ledge and the top of the cliff. Swift covered all
  traces of the mines and covered the opening before his final departure. He goes into much
  detail in his journal regarding different locations of ore and the burying of coins near
  the furnace. The restriction upon a publication of an article of this type will not allow a word
  by word description. Swift s mines consist of two groups
  called the upper and lower mines. Swift mostly worked the upper mines west of the headwaters
  of the Great Sandy Creek. He seldom visited the lower mines which was located several
  miles southwest of Sandy Creek along the great ridge.
       From The Dickenson Star, 1989

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