Legend of Silver Lingers
By Dan Graybeal
The author has three maps in his possession that are supposed to be copies of
one of Swift s maps. The markings on one map fit the confluence s of the several
tributaries of Clear Creek, a branch of Guest River in Wise Co.
Another map shows two streams with a ridge between them. One stream has a mine
located beside it. The other stream shows a rockhouse with buried treasure. The stream
adjacent to the mine contains a notable waterfall. Many streams in the area have notable waterfalls.
On this map a beaded spring is shown. A spring of Indian beans is referred to many
times in the legends. Indian beads consist of petrified prehistoric reed that grew in the ocean
floor. During upheavals, these plants were brought up, died, petrified and accumulated in
pools. Often they will be found in water springs. The plants resemble a number of
buttons growing one on top of the other., These plants are called cryonoids. The
petrified unit contains a hole which is about a quarter of an inch in diameter. The Indians
colored them and used them for beads. Many crynoid fossils have been found in the
mountains of Southwest Virginia. Another story tells of the mine being
located in a mountain on the south side of a long valley four or five miles long running east
and west with a large mountain about three miles north of the mine. The mine was bounded
by a quadril (a four-sided figure), on the west by a creek and spring of Indian beads, on the
north by the large mountain, on the east by a creek and on the south by the rockhouse and a river.
The angle in relation to north is 16 degrees east a distance of 1590 poles from the
beaded springs. Was this distance relative to the mine or the quadril? He listed other
information but it is too lengthy for this article. Some of the above information is
rather ambiguous and confusing. However, ifone could find at least one definite landmark,
the local information could be very helpful. In the High Knob section of Wise Co.,
and the Blackwater section of Hancock Co., TN, two groups of people live quiet and rather
secluded lives. These groups of people have been given the name of Melungeons. The word
Melungeon is taken from the French word "melance" meaning mixture. This is probably
a gross misapplication of a specific word since nearly every U. S. citizen has mixed blood and
could easily be called a Melungeon. This shy, industrious, self-sufficient
people, like many of us, have long since lost the origin of their ancestry. One theory is that
they originated from a group of Peruvian miners that Swift brought into the area to work
his silver mines. He could have brought in the miners families and abandoned them when he
departed the mines with the promise that he would return later to open up a larger operation.
One historian stated that they were originally Portuguese or of Portuguese
ancestry. Others have tried to associate them with the "Croatan Indians" of the Lost Colony
of Roanoke Island. We do not know where they came from but we do know that they are
neither Negro nor Indian. Swift may have unknowingly written a few pages in our local
To give a summary would require almost as much space as has been used thus
far. the author is convinced that silver mines did and still do exist in the region. The only
recorded document is allegedly recorded in thecounty courthouse in Frankfort, KY. John
Filson and Robert Breckenridge petitioned the governor of Virginia in 1787 for a treasure
warrant of 1,000 acres of land centering upon a silver mine which was improved upon by one
John Swift 17 years earlier. This mine was supposed to be located
about 65 miles northeast of Martin s Cabin,now Rose Hill, VA. No record was left
regarding the consummation of the warrant. At that time, Frankfort was the county seat of
Lincoln, a county of VA. The author feels that he has only
scratched the surface regarding the informationthat could be gathered on this subject. But to
publication limits, many, many details have been deleted from the story.
Some day the truth of the legend maybe confirmed. However, until such time the
stories shall continue and they shall only be legends.
The Dickenson Star, Thursday,
April 27, 1989.
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