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John Filson and James Harrod

John Filson
     In a previous post I noted that perhaps one of the oldest known references to the Swift legend was in 1793 involving the famous Kentucky pioneer, James Harrod.  Those who follow the legend or search for the treasure, are aware of an earlier reference.  John Filson, who wrote the first book about Kentucky and published one of the first maps of the territory, mentioned the Swift mine in 1784.   Filson never mentions the existence of silver in Kentucky, instead he says there are no reports of any silver or gold on page 25 of his writings.
First book published about Kentucky
     To be clear, I noted the Harrod episode to be one of the oldest references because he specifically searched for what obviously was an established legend in 1793.  He went to search or visit the mines possibly as a future investor in working mines if such existed.  Now John Filson's connection comes about in a land claim.  Robert Breckenridge and John Filson filed a land claim for approximately 1000 acres of land in the Kentucky country.  That deed  clearly states the claim is supposed to contain the mines of John Swift!

     The land grant reads "Robert Breckenridge and John Filson, as tenants in common, entered 1000 acres of land upon the balance of a treasure warrant No. 10117, about sixty or seventy miles northeasterly from Martins Cabins in Powell Valley to include a silver mine which was improved about seventeen years ago by a certain man named Swift at said mine.  Where-in Swift reports he has extracted from the ore a considerable quantity of silver, some of which he made into dollars, and left at or near the mine, together with apparatus for making the same.  The land to be in a square and the lines to run at the cardinal points of the compass including the mine in the center as near as may be.  This is Lincoln Countrie No.10117, issued on May 17, 1788, and filed in the land office at Richmond, Virginia."

Land grant to Filson that claims to contain Swift mine from state archives



     So consider, Mr. Filson published clearly on page 25 of his book "iron ore and lead are found in abundance, but we do not hear of any silver or gold mines as yet discovered."  Within two years Filson is filing a land claim that supposedly had the working mine of John Swift.
     Daniel Boone, Levi Todd and James Harrod, all reviewed Filson's book manuscript and approved it for publication.  Within four years Filson acquired land supposedly to have the silver mine, in one part of Kentucky and a few years later James Harrod disappeared in another region of the state supposedly visiting the mines.  A very interesting connection I always thought.
     I should mention that Filson himself was thought to be killed in an attack by the Shawnee  October 1, 1788  while surveying lands in what is now Ohio.  He was never seen again and he never was known to mine any silver on the Kentucky land claim he had filed just four months earlier.
     Anyway, I used the story about Harrod and stated it to be one of the earliest stories because of his unusual disappearance and that he actually was searching for the mine.  However, to be more accurate I would have to say the acquistion of the land by John Filson was an earlier reference.  And there may be other even earlier references yet to be identified.  All this boils down to what I've said for many years and why I do like this Swift story so much.  It is without a doubt the oldest legend known in Kentucky and has been passed down generation to generation since it began from these early reports and that makes it worth remembering.

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