Skip to main content

Was John Swift a Pirate?


     According to the legend of John Swift, in his own words, claimed he was a captain of a ship and owned a company of sailing ships. He says he was a successful business man transporting merchandise from both England and the seas around Cuba. Though he never claimed to be a pirate there are some modern day Swift researches that believe he may well have been a one.
    In one version of the supposed journal Swift wrote down himself he gives a brief description that he and some others in his company sailed to Cuba. Now Swift worked off the Virginia and North Carolina coasts and though the so called golden age of pirates was several decades before this time, piracy on the high seas has never stopped even until this day. Swift never actually states under which flag he sailed but it would likely have been the British or Colonial flag. His venture to Cuba also meant that he was comfortable sailing into Spanish waters. The British and Spanish, though hostilities had been resolved between the two nations, still moved in their separate domains. The Spanish having taken control of South America and the British moving to take North America. Britain by Swift's time had become enemies with France. This resulted in the French and Indian alliances trying to hold back the westward expansion of the British via colonial expansion.
    Though this is a much simplified description of the times, Swift claims to have lived actually during these times. These were also the beginning times of the American revolution. In fact, John Swift says by his account to have found out about the rich silver mines from befriending a French prisoner captured by the troops under the command of British General Braddock. Daniel Boone and John Finley both were in this army as wagon team masters. At this moment of our history colonist and British troops fought a common enemy, the French and Indians.
    It has always been an amazing concept that one day a French man is a POW to the British and in a few years this same man is leading the American born British citizen to silver mines. And beyond that, instead of smelting the silver into ingots and moving the silver out, Swift devises a scheme to counterfeit the newly smelted silver into coins. He says the coins were English Crowns created under the skillful hands of former mint worker Seth Montgomery who joined Swift on his adventure. The idea, of course, was that British money was the money for the colonies. 
    Strangely enough, most of the larger treasure discoveries of the Appalachia country actually turn out to be Spanish silver coins, the ones like found on so many ship wrecks of the Spanish ships that ferried the riches from Columbia and Peru. Some of the finds have be quite impressive. These coins were the type most commonly captured by pirate ships marauding the American coastline all the way to the Florida Keys.
    Bill Gibson of Elkhorn City, Kentucky made an astonishing discovery several years ago. While searching, following clues and by pure chance Bill stumbled upon a cache of buried coins somewhere on the Pine Mountain in that region of the state. The coins are not British counterfeits. They are Spanish pieces of eight and some think they are counterfeit. Whether they are or not, the fact that real coins of silver were discovered hidden in a rock shelter/cave somewhere in the very region that Swift says he was during the mid 1700's is truly amazing. 
    One thing we all seem to forget about in the drama and excitement in following the Swift legend is that Swift and his party of men were certainly committing a high crime. So one can logically conclude that perhaps Swift, if he really existed, was not a very truthful person and capable of other crimes beside this obvious one. Perhaps Swift and his company of men acquired their silver from Spanish ships and simply escaped into the mountains to hide their plunder and not be hanged. Of course, we will probably never know about this and perhaps I and others are simply over extending our imagination regarding the Swift lore. One thing is for sure, Bill Gibson found buried treasure and those silver coins never got there by themselves!
    If you are new to this blog site, I invite you to take a look around in the archives of previous posts located over here on the right side this page. You will find lots of great information and photographs. The subjects are varied and not all Swift related but are uniquely  Kentucky. 

    And if you would like to read my novel based on the Swift legend you can get your copy here. It's a fun and adventurous romp through history and modern day Kentucky. 

    

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…

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 …

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…