Nov 14, 2011, 09:07 PM
.... Never Ever Give Up ....
Swifts Silver Mine
In 1854-1855, while making geological investigations in the southeast part of Kentucky, as part of the official survey, ordered by the state, Prof. David Dale Owen examined the supposed location of the notorious Swift mine, on the northwest side of the Log mountain, only a few miles from Cumberland ford, then in Knox, now Bell county.
"The Indians are said, in former times, to have made a reservation of 30 miles square, on a branch of the Laurel fork of Clear creek. Benjamin Herndon, an old explorer and a man well acquainted with the country, guided him to the spot where the ore was supposed to be obtained by the Indians, and afterwards by Swift and his party. It proved to be a kidney-shaped mass of dark, bituminous argillaceous iron-stone, containing some accidental minerals sparingly disseminated, such as sulphuret of zinc and lead - which proved on examination, to be a hydrated silicate of alumina. This ore originated in a thick mass of dark, bituminous argillaceous shale, with some thin coal interstratified, that occurs about 500 to 600 feet up in the Log mountain."
Judge John Haywood, who emigrated from North Carolina at an early day to Tennessee, and years after, in 1823, wrote its civil and political history from its earliest settlements up to the year 1796, says of this locality: "Cumberland mountain bears north 46 degrees east; and between the Laurel mountain and the Cumberland mountain, Cumberland river breaks through the latter. At the point where it breaks through, and about ten miles north of the state line, in Clear creek, which discharges itself into the Cumberland, bearing northeast till it reaches the river. It rises between the great Laurel hill and Cumberland mountain; its length is 15 miles. Not far from its head rises the south fork of the Cumberland, in the state of Kentucky, and runs westwardly.
On Clear creek are two old furnaces - first discovered by hunters in the time of the first settlements made in this country. These furnaces then exhibited very ancient appearance; about them were coals and cinders - very unlike iron cinders, as they have no marks of the rust which iron cinders are said uniformly to have in a few years. There are also a number of the like furnaces on the south fork, bearing similar marks, and seemingly of a very ancient date.
One Swift came to east Tennessee in 1790 to 1791, and was at Bean's station, on his way to part of the country near which these furnaces are. He had with him a journal of his former transactions - by which it appeared that in 1761, 1762 and 1763, and afterwards in 1767, he, two Frenchmen and some few others, had a furnace somewhere about the Red Bird fork of Kentucky river - which runs towards Cumberland river and mountain, northeast of the mouth of Clear creek.
He and his associates made silver in large quantities, at the last-mentioned furnaces; they got the ore from a cave about three miles from the place where his furnace stood. The Indians became troublesome, so he went off, and the Frenchmen went toward the place now called Nashville. Swift was deterred from the prosection of his last journey by the reports he heard of Indian hostility, and returned home - leaving his journal in the possession of Mrs. Renfro.
The Furnaces of Clear creek, and those on the south fork of the Cumberland, were made either before or since the time when Swift worked his. The walls of these furnaces, and horn buttons of European manufacture found in a rock house, proved that Europeans erected them. It is probable, therefore, that the French - when they claimed the country to the Alleghenies, in 1754 and prior to that time, and afterwards up to 1758 - erected these works.
A rock house is a cavity beneath a rock, jutted out from the side of a mountain, affording a cover from the weather to those who are below it. In one of these were found a furnace and human bones and horn buttons, supposed to have been part of the dress which had been buried with the body to which the bones belonged. It is probable that the French who were with Swift, showed him the place where the ore was.
This silver mine of Swift's has been located by tradition in different counties in Eastern Kentucky, from Bell in the south to Carter in the north. The most recent claim is that of the Greenup Independent, in February, 1873, of which the following is an extract:
"When Swift was driven from the silver mines in Kentucky by the approach of hostile Indians, he returned to his home in North Carolina. The money which he had with him created suspicion among his neighbors, and he was arrested as a counterfeiter. In those days there existed no mint in the United States, and the only test of the circulating money was the purity of the metal. Upon the trial of the case against Swift, it was proven that the coins in his possession were pure silver, and the charges were dismissed.
"The ancient tools and instruments used for coining money, which fell from a cliff in Carter county were seen and examined by men now living. These men are highly respectable and entitled to full credit, and they vouch for the truth of the settlement. One of the first settlers of the county found near his cabin a quantity of cinder of such unusual color and weight as to induce him to have it tested by an expert. This was done, and the result was a considerable amount of pure silver, which at his instance was converted into spoons; these spoons are still in the possession of the family.
"Several years ago, a couple of Indians from the far west visited Carter county, and acted in such a manner as to excite the attention of the citizens. They remained for a considerable time, and were continually wandering over the mountains and making minute examinations of the country along the small streams. When about to leave, they told an old gentleman with whom they stayed that they were in search of a silver mine which the traditions of their tribe located in that section of Kentuck; but they were unable to find it, owing to the changed condition of the country.
"At an early day, silver money was in circulation in the settlements of what is now West Virginia, said to have been made by Swift. It was free from alloy and of such a description as to indicate that it never passed through an established mint.
"A bar of pure silver was found many years ago near a small mill in Carter county, which was thought to have been smeltered from ore obtained from the silver mines said to exist in that county. And, within the past few days, a piece of ore which has every appearance of silver ore, and a small quantity of metal which is said to be silver, was shown by a gentleman of undoubted veracity, who testifies that he got the ore in the mountains of Kentucky, and with his own hands smelted the metal from ore obtained in these mountains."
Nov 14, 2011 09:07 PM
Nov 14, 2011, 09:10 PM
.... Never Ever Give Up ....
Re: Swifts Silver Mine
Life Among the Hills and Mountains of Kentucky
William Roscoe Thomas
Nov 26, 2011, 06:59 PM
Re: Swifts Silver Mine
great article i live in bell county and would love to investigate those old furnaces anybody have any idea where they are located.
Dec 06, 2011, 07:56 PM
Having the time of my life!
Re: Swifts Silver Mine
I agree, they are not Swift's, but often thought (while reading the french info) that they may have been the mines Swift mentions that were South of him and who were jealous of his mines. They may have been several miles away. The area doesn't fit too well either as they divided near Louisa and went west a considerable distance..I am still thinking Lewis, Elliot, Carter counties..have some info on old Indian trials that leads me to a new area to explore.
Yea, though I walk through the Valley of Death I will fear no evil for thou art with me.
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