Skip to main content

James Harrod disappeared while visiting Swift's mine

           Perhaps one of the oldest known references to the Swift legend occurred in 1793.  And it came from the widow of James Harrod, founder of the first permanent white settlement in the Kentucky wilderness, Fort Harrod.  Also, comes with it one of strangest twists on the treasure story. This was reported by Dr. Christopher Graham  in in 1871 from conversations he had with Ann Harrod years before.  Dr. Graham was the family physician to Mrs. Harrod during the early part of the 19th century. Dr. Graham related the information to Louis Collins who recorded in his  History of Kentucky, published in 1882 by his son Richard H. Collins.
Present day Ft. Harrod replica is located very near  the original fort site

     Mrs. Harrod told Dr Graham her husband was murdered.  Mrs. Harrod claimed a man named Bridges had been searching for the Swift's silver mine. This was in 1793! Mrs. Harrod stated that many had hunted for the mines. This man Bridges,  Mrs.Harrod informed Dr. Graham, told James Harrod that he had found the Swift's mine and invited Harrod in as a partner because he had the means to work the mine. According to Mrs. Harrod, James  Harrod accompanied this Bridges fellow along with a third man to the Three Forks of the Kentucky River, the place Bridges claimed to have found the mine.
Early Filson map of Kentucky clearly shows the three forks of the Kentucky River
     James Harrod never returned from this trip.  Bridges returned claiming that Harrod had been killed by Indians.  The other man on the trip did not hunt or witness, but knew that Harrod and Bridges were on the same side of the river when he heard a shot.  Later a party of men went to the the Three Forks area and recovered bones they thought to be James Harrod.   The bones had been picked clean but the hunting shirt was supposed to be that of James Harrod.
     Widow Harrod was absolutely convinced  Bridges murdered James Harrod because the two men had previously been engaged in a law-suit about property.  Before the ill fated trip, the two men had not spoken to each other in some time. This event likely occurred in July of 1793 because records indicate that Harrod's seat on the Harrodsburg Board of Trustees was declared vacant in August of 1793, due to Harrod's recent death.
     This adds another layer of mystery to the whole Swift legend as well as credible evidence that people were actively searching for the legendary mines along the Kentucky river as early as 1793. The Three Forks of the Kentucky River would be in the Beattyville, Kentucky area of Lee County.
Numerous rock shelters or "houses" over Eastern Kentucky exhibit mine workings
     Numerous rock houses or shelters located all along the sandstone conglomerate outcrop of the Pennsylvanian formation which forms the coal fields of Eastern Kentucky. Some of the many rock houses show the signs of developed workings to extract some type of material.  Historically, salt peter was mined and processed in many cliff shelters.  Through a leaching process the broken rock and sand contained the mineral, an essential ingredient in pioneer gun powder. Another mineral extracted from the rocky areas was iron ore, found abundant over the same region.  The ore was removed and taken to one of the many "pig iron" furnaces of the region where the ore was smelted into iron used to make cannon balls as well as a host of items.  The largest of these types of furnaces still stands today in rural Estill County Kentucky.  The Fitchburg Furnace is the largest iron furnace of this type known to exist in the world according to information provided at the site.  The site is owned and maintained by the US Forest Service and is worth a trip for anyone exploring neat places in Kentucky.
Fitchburg furnance
     Though I digress from my original intent, pondering the fact James Harrod disappeared and was presumed murdered while searching for the famous John Swift Silver Mine.
     Finally, I discovered another great site relating many special places around state.  You can read a lot more about Kentucky's unique places at kaintuckeean.com.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Broke Leg Falls

For sure one old landmark in eastern Menifee County Kentucky is Broke Leg Falls. The Falls has been a tourist stop along US Hwy 460 since the 1940's and before. It was a place for picnics and adventures into the rough rocky terrain the likes of the Red River Gorge. It's location on once a major highway along with the pristine beauty of the box canyon that the stream formed no doubt contributed to the popularity of the Falls.
    The Falls is about 80 feet in height but much of the year has a small water flow. But over eons of time the Falls and stream have carved out a magnificent canyon retreating nearly to the crest of the ridge.
    Located in Menifee County Kentucky, Broke Leg Falls has been a popular tourist spot for travelers of the US Highway which is located only a few yards from the falls. A popular landmark since the 1940's, the Falls was privately owned. Visitors could pay a dime and get to hike the short distance down into the box canyon to view the Falls…

Swift Interview

It was a very interesting day April, 26. A production crew from KET (Kentucky Educational Television) taped a segment of yours truly discussing the background and lore around the famous legend of John Swift and his mysterious silver mines and treasure. I met up with the crew at Sky Bridge in the Red River Gorge and after a short hike down beneath the rock arch they video taped me discussing what I have come to know about the search and treasure.
    Basically, the short segment will focus more on the legends background and how long the story has been around rather than giving clues on searching for the supposedly hidden treasure. I hope that viewers will take away the importance of the history of the legend and not the debate whether silver and the mines ever existed. As I note in the interview, the beauty of the whole legend is just how long the search has been going on and how the legend originated at least as early as the first famous pioneers entered the wilderness that was to…

The High Rock Petroglyph

What do you think the strange symbols carved on this sandstone boulder represent? The High Rock Carving is certainly one of the most mysterious antiquity found in the Red River Gorge country.  We did a previous post  about this strange rock in August, 2012. Discovered underneath a small rock shelter near the High Rock fire tower, the carvings were discovered on one loose boulder in the shelter. In the late 70's the boulder was removed from the rock shelter by the Red River Museum and Historical Society placed at the museum in Clay City, Kentucky. It was felt that vandals and artifact collectors would soon end up destroying the unusual carved stone. In fact some of the surface appears to have been chipped away, perhaps portions already removed by vandals.    The carvings have many varied, curved shapes including concentric circles and shapes that may represent animals. Additionally, there are numerous holes and other features. Some of the rock has been lost likely by the weathering …