A Lost Mine
By James Taylor Adams

       According to tradition extensive silver
  mining was carried on somewhere in the
  Cumberland s between the years 1752 and
  1775. And to support this tradition we have a
  few fragmentary records left us by John
  (Jonathan) Swift and others. From the Swift
  papers we learn that John (Jonathan) and
  William Swift, with a man named Jefferson,
  visited the Pound River country sometime in
  the fall of 1753. They made a map of the
  stream, a very crude affair it is true, but nearly
  perfect as to directions and tributaries. This
  map, together with others made by John Swift,
  are preserved to the present day. In his journal
  he says that they hid some silver on a low ridge
  between the forks of a lick creek flowing
  eastward into the Sandy River. This very
  correctly describes The Pound, and if the silver
  which they cached there was ever recovered we
  can find no record of it. Many searchers for the
  lost mine have visited the Pound in the past,
  but the only thing of any value ever found and
  which could be considered a clue to a cache,
  were the few silver pieces, of English coinage,
  plowed up by a farmer at the foot of Pine
  Mountain a few years before the Civil War
  (The Bentley Family) 
       Nobody knows who discovered the
  vein of silver; nobody knows why the mine was
  abandoned; and, of course, nobody knows
  anything of its exact location, though men have
  searched for it in Virginia, West Virginia,
  Kentucky, and Tennessee for over a hundred
  years. Some believe that the whole story is
  tradition; that the mine is a myth, created by
  the Swifts at the time they were in this country;
  to hide their counterfeiting operations. But be
  that as it may, it is a known fact that the
  Indians believed in its existence and that during
  the last seventy-five years several descendants
  of the red men, who once hunted in the
  Cumberlands, have returned here with maps
  and drawings, made on deer skin, and tried to
  locate the mine. But they all failed and
  returned to the west, wiser perhaps, but no
  richer, than when they had come. It is
  remembered that, about fifty years ago, one old
  fellow, giving up the quest for the lost mine, of
  which he had a very reliable looking map left
  him by his grandfather, remarked that his
  people had used bullets cast from silver and
  that the white people of the Cumberlands could
  shoe their horses with the same metal cheaper
  than they did with iron.
       Of course such a wild statement as
  this, even it if did come from a decrepit old
  Indian, fired the imaginative and adventurous
  with fresh ambition to find the hidden wealth.
  The result was that one man lost his life and
  two others lost their reason. Still the search
  went on - goes on to this day - and will, no
  doubt, continued to the end of time.
       One tradition says that the Indians had
  known of, and worked this mine, for untold
  ages before the coming of the white men, and
  that about 1752 they led a roving Frenchman,
  named Monde, to it. Monde, the tradition goes
  on to say, knew the Swift brothers; John
  (Jonathan) and William, felons from England,
  living then at Alexandria, VA, and that he
  immediately got into communication with
  them, asking that they join him in the
  wilderness. The Swifts were expert
  silversmiths, and Monde s proposition seems
  to have appealed to them, for accompanied by
  the man Jefferson, another described in the
  Journal kept by John Swift, as "Augustus",
  and probably others, they set out for the far
  away western mountains.
       Still going along with tradition we find
  that during a dozen years of almost continuous
  operation much silver had been mined and
  smelted. The mine is described by John
  (Jonathan) Swift, in his Journal, as being in a
  country so rough that horses could not be
  brought nearer than six miles of the place. and
  that the soil was very "pore" producing only
  scrub timber with plenty of holly along the
  creeks. To reach either the mine or the furnace,
  he says, one must pass between two large
  standing rocks, forming a natural gateway.
  The furnace was a little north of the mine and
  under a cliff. The mine was on the east side,
  and near the top of a small hill, shaped like a
  giant saddle, with the pommel turned to the
  east. On his last visit to the furnace he covered
  the mine with two large stones which together
  formed a perfect cross. Standing on this cross,
  he tells us, one can see the first rising of the
  sun from over the high mountain nearby.
       John Swift may, or may not have been
  a counterfeiter, but that he was a murderer
  there is no doubt; and, according to all
  accounts, he was one of the most cruel and
  blood-thirsty villains of all time. By nature he
  belonged to the 3rd rather than to the 18th
  century. The number of murders that could be
  fastened on him, nobody knows. We know,
  however, that, by his own admission, he slew
  his brother, William, the Frenchman, Monde,
  and  a small boy whose name is not known. A
  little mount on the side of Stone Mountain,
  overlooking the town of Norton is said to be
  the grave of Monde; and there are old people
  still living, who claim to know the location of
  the grave of the nameless youth, who he killed
  with an ax, after considering the wisdom of
  leaving the boy to guard a cache of silver. And
  it is also significant that the fellow,
  "Augustus", carved his name on a beech in
  Kentucky in 1762, and that Jefferson did
  likewise the year following, after which they
  both mysteriously disappeared. But for all his
  wicked deeds, Swift reaped retribution in due
  season. While on a visit to Alexandria, VA, he
  suddenly and without warning, lost his sight
  and was never able to see again. Many years
  after, he returned to the Cumberlands and for
  several months was led about the country in an
  effort to locate the mine and some of the
  caches. But all in vain. He never found either
  the mine or the hidden wealth, and he died a
  few years later, a blind and poverty stricken
  old man, the secret of the location of the lost
  mine and the hidden silver was buried with him
  - and it seems forever - in an unknown grave.
       James Taylor Adams was a well-
  known historian, genealogist and folklorist
  of Southwest Virginia. This article appeared
  in the August 1930 issue of The Vagabond
  Gazette, published by James Taylor Adams
  in Wise Co., VA.


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