John Swift's Silver Mine
One of the most famous legends in Kentucky is the story of a lost fortune buried somewhere in the hills near the Red River Gorge. In the 18th Century, an Englishman named John Swift is supposed to have travelled across the Appalachian Frontier and discovered a silver mine. The location of Swift's mine has been lost, and despite treasure hunters scouring the hills of Kentucky for over 200 years, has yet to be rediscovered. Some people say that Swift himself still walks the hills of Kentucky, searching for his lost fortune.
In the 1760s, an Englishman named Jonathan Swift claims to have travelled through Kentucky into the Ohio River Valley, trading with members of the Shawnee nation and searching for evidence of mineral wealth. Swift claimed that on one of these trips, while pursuing a wounded bear int a cave, he stumbled upon a rich vein of silver running through the cave. Swift concealed the mine, then returned a few months later with the equipment to set up a mining and refining operation.
Over the next nine years, Swift returned time and time again to the mine. During that time, he is said to have left large amounts of silver buried around the area.
There are several different accounts of Swift's final years at the mine. Some say that he faced an insurrection from his work crew and had to flee the mine. Others say that Swift himself murdered his own crew in cold blood while they were sleeping on his last trip out to Kentucky. Whatever happened, the stories agree that Swift went to great lengths to conceal the entrance to the mine when he left for what would be the final time. Swift went blind soon after his last visit to the mine and spent his final years living with a Mrs. Renfro in Bean's Station, Tennessee. Unable to return to the mine himself, upon his death Swift left Mrs. Renfro his journal, which contained a map of where to find the mine and its hidden wealth.
Despite the details supplied in the journal, for over 200 years treasure hunters have been unable to locate the lost mine. Countless expeditions have been made throughout Eastern Kentucky in search of the lost treasure.
Perhaps the area with the best claim to be holding the lost mine is in Wolfe County, in the area around what's known as Swift's Creek. Not only does the area seem to match the descriptions in Swift's journal but the presence of the lost mine may be attested to by some spectral evidence as well.
For nearly two centuries, hunters and hikers in the back woods of Wolfe County have reported seeing a strange, ghostly figure wandering the hills. The figure appears to be a man dressed in buckskins and a tricorn hat, appearing every bit the 18th Century woodsman and explorer.
But what's most strange about the ghost is that it appears to be blind. Those that have seen it say that it moves at a stumbling pace, with its hands extended in front of it, as if it has to feel its way through the wilderness
There are those that say that this is the spirit of John Swift himself, returned from the grave in an attempt to find his lost mine. There are others who think that this may be Swift's eternal punishment for murdering his crew, that he is condemned to be forever searching fir and forever unable to locate the treasure that drove him to murder.
If you're inclined to go out to Wolfe County to see if you can find the ghost, or if you want to try your luck at finding the lost mine, a good time to go would be during the annual Wolfe County Silver Mine Festival, held every year in celebration of the legend.
And anyone locating the mine after reading this story is encouraged to make a donation to the upkeep of this web site.