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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


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